Al Hussein Mosque is located just a short distance from downtown Cairo, in an area of the city known as Old Cairo or Islamic Cairo. The area is home to several very popular Cairo Tourist Attractions, including a number of historical mosques, as well as the famous Khan el-Khalili Bazaar where traders have been selling their wares ever since the 14th century.
Al Hussein Mosque is perhaps best known for the fact that it is home to the world’s oldest complete manuscript of the Quran. It is also believed to house the head of Hussein, the grandson of the prophet Muhammad who was killed by the Umayyads in Iraq in 680. Today, Al Hussein Mosque is considered to be one of the holiest Islamic places in all of Egypt.
Because of its religious significance and its ancient heritage, the mosque is often visited by foreign dignitaries and other Muslim pilgrims from around the world. Another fascinating feature of this mosque is the fact that one can see huge ornately decorated umbrellas at the front of the building. These were installed for two reasons: to provide much needed shade for people praying outside the mosque, and to provide some shelter from the rain during heavy downpours. Interestingly, the umbrellas are operated electronically, and are only opened when required.
A Look at the Heritage of Al Hussein Mosque
The original Al Hussein Mosque was actually built on top of a cemetery in which the Fatimid Caliphs were buried, although this only came to light once excavations got underway. Based on Fatimid beliefs, the 15th Fatimid Caliph who was the great grandfather of Hussein, traced the burial site of his head to a place in Syria were it had remained buried for approximately two and a half centuries.
Later, in 1153, Al-Zafir, a Majidi-monarch, gave the orders for Hussein’s head to be moved, and on the 31st of August that same here, the casket containing Hussein’s head was transported to Egypt. According to one old manuscript, when Hussein’s head was taken out of the casket, there were fresh drops of blood visible, and a musk-like smell filled the air.
Hussein’s head was then placed back in the casket, and it was buried at a place which is today known as al-Mashhad al-Hussaini. Thirteen other Fatimid Imams were also buried at the same site. According to Mohiyuddin Abd al Zahir, a very famous Mamluk historian, Hussein’s casket also had/has divine powers.
When Salahuddin rose to power in Egypt, he immediately seized and looted all the palaces which belonged to the Aimmat Fatemiyeen. Later, one of Salahuddin’s intelligence officers reported that many of the people living in the city had great respect a one of the custodians of Raas al Imam al Husain. On hearing this, Salahuddin thought that this nobleman might in fact know where some of the Aimmat Fatemiyeen treasures were hidden.
When the nobleman refused to provide the answers Salahuddin wanted, he ordered his guards to use torture, and when that also didn’t work, he ordered his guards to place a cap full of centipedes on the nobleman’s head. He even ordered that his head be shaved first so that it would be easier for the centipedes to begin eating into the flesh on his skull.
It is said that no man was capable of withstanding or surviving this form of torture, but the nobleman never even flinched or showed any sign of pain. When it became clear that the torture was not working, Salahuddin told his guards to remove the cap full of centipedes, and much to his bewilderment, they were all dead, while the nobleman was unscathed.
Later, the nobleman would reveal that he had received divine protection because when he had transported Hussein’s head to Egypt, he had carried the casket on his head.
Today, many Shia Muslims from around the world visit the Al Hussein Mosque so that they can pray at the same site where Raas al Imam al Husain’s is buried.
Good to Know
Al Hussein Mosque might not be the most splendid or most magnificent mosque in Egypt, but it is still a fascinating mosque to visit, and it is also visitor-friendly, meaning that even non-Muslims are welcome to enter the mosque, except during prayer times on Fridays.
As with all mosques, those who wish to visit the Al Hussein Mosque should dress appropriately/conservatively, and as a sign of respect, women should also cover their hair with a head scarf.
Visiting the Mosque of Al Hussein
While many of our Cairo Tour Packages and our Egypt Tour Packages include a visit to the city’s Islamic Quarter where the Al Hussein Mosque is located, not all tours include a visit to the mosque itself.
However, even if your preferred tour itinerary does not include a visit to this mosque, we can easily add it to your tour itinerary if you ask us to.
At Egypt Tours Plus, we believe in flexible travel, and for this reason, all of our tours can be customized and tailored to meet the exact needs of our clients.