The Mosque of Muhammad Ali, Cairo, Egypt

facade 2 mosque Muhammad Ali Cairo
The construction of the Mosque of Muhammad Ali was modeled after mosques in Turkey. Like the Aya Sofia, for example.

The Mosque of Muhammad Ali (no relation to the boxer) in Cairo was built in the first half of the 19th Century by the then ruler of Egypt Muhummad Ali Pasha.

chandelier mosque Muhammad Ali Cairo
I'll never understand why many of the mosques I've been in insist on installing garish undistinguished chandeliers that hang low and obscure the vision of the domed ceilings they've gone to such trouble to design and construct. I suspect, unfortunately, it's more about the vanity of the people who preach in the mosques today than about the true artists who made them in the first place. Unfortunately, the Mosque of Muhammad Ali is yet another example of this.

According to the abbreviated history given us by our guide, Muhammad Ali, an Ottoman Army commander in Egypt, assumed power in the early part of the 19th century, and the dynasty he founded held onto Egypt until the revolution of 1952. He is regarded as the father of modern Egypt because he modernized its bureaucracy and army structures and, most important, instituted an industrial, rather than agriculture, based economy.

Muhammad Ali also instituted educational reforms, including sending Egyptian students to top European universities.

His state mosque was built in the style of his former lords, the Ottomans of Turkey.

clock tower Muhammad Ali mosque Cairo

There is scaffolding all around the French clock tower at the Muhammad Ali mosque. Maybe they'll eventually get the clock working.

Another interesting bit of history is in the courtyard of the mosque. The French presented a clock to Muhammad Ali, which was reciprocated by giving the French the obelisk of the Temple of Luxor, which now stands in Paris in the Place de la Concorde. As our guide pointed out, Egypt gave up one of its more spectacular treasures in return for a French clock that has never worked.

ceiling 2 mosque Muhammad Ali Cairo
Not as subtle or as beautiful as the Blue Mosque of Istanbul, but lovely in its own more modern way.

By the way, here's the ceiling of the Blue Mosque of Istanbul.

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6 thoughts on “The Mosque of Muhammad Ali, Cairo, Egypt”

  1. I was told once that it/they represented the stars in constellation. The reasoning seemed on the lame side to me, but here I am years later passing it on. Make ofit what you will, Tom.

    (and yes, garish, spot-on word)

  2. Tom, I think the chandeliers are just so you can see…however, they do lend themselves to some nice shots…when they aren’t getting in the way. Were you required to take a tour to get in the mosque? Many Islamic countries just don’t allow non-Muslims to walk around without a guide.

    • Except you can’t see the ceiling. The chandeliers do nothing to illuminate the domes from the inside. If I didn’t have a fancy camera and a very steady hand, you’d never see those colors. It’s just all dark.


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