Aqmar Mosque – The Oldest Surviving Example of Small Mosques

Aqmar Mosque, is also known as Al-Jam`e Al-ِAqmar, or simply the Grey Mosque. It is located on the northern end of Muizz Street, in an area of Cairo known as Old Cairo. The mosque dates back to Egypt’s Fatimid era, during the time of the 10th Fatimid caliph, Al-Amir bi-Ahkami l-Lah. Built in 1125 AD, construction of the mosques was personally supervised by Abu ‘Abdallah Muhammad ibn Fatik who was vizier at the time. Both the Caliph’s name and the Vizier’s name appear in inscriptions on the mosque’s façade as part of the foundation text.

Aqmar Mosque

Carvings of the outside wall of the 1000 years old Aqmar Mosque, Cairo.

One of Aqmar Mosque’s most endearing features is its façade which was extensively decorated with inscriptions and numerous intricate carvings. It was the first mosque ever built in Egypt to be decorated in such a manner, and it was also the first mosque built that actually aligns with the street. Because of this, the main walls of the mosque are at an angle to the rectangular hypostyle hall which always has to be aligned with the qibla; the direction which all Muslims face when they pray.

Aqmar Mosque is Egypt’s oldest remaining example of small mosques, and it is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful Fatimid mosques ever built. Anyone who is interested in Islamic history or historical Islamic architecture should definitely put the Aqmar Mosque on their list of must-see Cairo Tourist Attractions.

Aqmar Mosque – A Brief History

Built in 1125 AD, Aqmar Mosque was originally located just to the north of the city’s eastern Fatimid palace, although this palace no longer exists. In 1121, Abu ‘Abdallah Muhammad ibn Fatik became vizier and he ordered the mosque to be built, a project which he himself would supervise.

Interestingly, while the Aqmar Mosque was being built, the vizier ordered all the people of Cairo who were living in rundown homes to repair their homes, and they were told that non-compliance would result in their homes being confiscated.

Unfortunately for the vizier, and fortunately for the people living in rundown homes, he never lived long enough to follow through with his threat. Financial insecurity in Egypt at the time, along with range of complex religious and political challenges, resulted in Caliph Al-Amir bi-Ahkami l-Lah giving the order for the vizier to be arrested, and he was subsequently executed in 1125 without ever having the chance to see the completed mosque.

Sadly, Aqmar Mosque suffered from encroachment at some point during the 19th century but fortunately only the western façade’s right-hand side was lost as a result. The building which had encroached on the mosque was later demolished in the 20th century, and it was duly restored to its original state, based the features on the left-hand side of the western façade since the two sides would almost certainly have been identical anyway.

Visiting Aqmar Mosque with Egypt Tours Plus

Aqmar Mosque, most often referred to as the Grey Mosque in travel guides, as a real gem of a place for anyone who is interested in historical Islamic architecture, and particularly architecture from the Fatimid era. After all, there must surely be a reason why so many people consider this mosque to be one of the most beautiful Fatimid mosques in Egypt.

Despite its beauty and its popularity, you will not see Aqmar Mosque featured in all our Cairo tour packages, although it is very likely that you will find this mosque featured in some tours which focus entirely or almost entirely on Cairo’s many religious sites.

It is also worth noting that at Egypt Tours Plus, of all our Egypt travel packages can be customized and tailored to meet the exact needs of our clients; essentially meaning that a visit to the Aqmar Mosque is always possible, regardless of which tour package you choose.