Mosque Of Ibn Tulun – Unexpected Survivor Of Ancient Egypt

The Mosque of Ibn Tulun is by no means Cairo’s most splendid mosque, but it certainly is worth a visit if you have an interest in historical religious sites.

Courtyard of the Mosque of Ibn Tulun, Cairo

Courtyard of the Mosque of Ibn Tulun, Cairo.

The Mosque of Ibn Tulun might not be the most splendid looking mosque in Cairo, but if you are passionate about visiting historical religious buildings, then this is certainly one mosque which should be on your agenda. In fact, when the different mosques of the world are the topic of conversation, it is always difficult to find examples that can match what the Mosque of Ibn Tulun has to offer visitors.

A Brief History Of The Ibn Tulun Mosque

In terms of age and size, the Mosque of Ibn Tulun takes first prize. It is the oldest mosque to exist in its original form in all of Cairo, and it also has the largest amount of land beneath it as well.

The mosque was commissioned by Ahmad ibn Tulun and construction was completed in 879 AD. Ahmad Ibn Tulun, who was the governor of Egypt at the time, wanted the mosque to be built on the top of the “Hill of Thanksgiving” or Gebel Yashkur. His vision was to turn the area into a very grand and impressive region of Egypt’s capital city.

Interestingly enough, the mosque somehow managed to survive unscathed when the entire city was burned during the 10th century. This has always intrigued historians since the mosque was located right in true heart of the ancient capital, and yet it sustained virtually no damage.

The Ongoing Debate

While everyone seems to be in agreement that the Mosque of Ibn Tulun is the oldest original mosque in Cairo, there are however some questions about the dates relating to when some of the most mosque’s most unique features were constructed.

According to legend Ahmad ibn Tulun himself designed the innovative minaret with its wide and winding stairs. Nonetheless, there are a number of historians who doubt this is true. They argue that the way in which the tower connects to the original structure is questionable, and the design itself was far too ahead of its time.

A few such discrepancies have surfaced during the few renovations which have been carried in order to keep the mosque sound and in good condition. The first was in 1177, and again in the late 1200s. During the 1920s, a “cleanup” was done to the premises and many houses built against the walls were removed, and one was converted into a modern museum.

Visiting The Mosque of Ibn Tulun

As already indicated the grounds of the mosque are enormous and cover more than six full acres of land. Given the sheer size of this site, visitors should really plan their tour in advance in order to avoid fatigue or missing the more impressive sites.

A brief list of recommended stops on a visit to the Tulun Mosque would include a look at the minaret which is the only one of its kind in all of Egypt – it’s the only minaret with an exterior spiral staircase. A close examination of the courtyard’s galleries which are beautifully decorated with carved stucco figures is also recommended, together with a look at some of the painted prayer niches.

There are no formal guided tours of this particular site, but the mosque is open to visitors. As with all tourist friendly mosques, visitors are not allowed inside the prayer hall when no prayers are occurring. Women must also remember that this is a Muslim religious building, and that means that they are expected to cover their heads, shoulders, arms, and legs when on the premises.

Experience Egypt Your Way

If you would like to experience a first class Egyptian holiday then look no further. Our Egypt tour packages have been meticulously planned to ensure our customers get to see the very best Egypt has to offer.

We also offer custom Egypt tours which can be tailored to your individual needs, meaning that you can have any attraction added to your holiday itinerary, including places like the Mosque of Ibn Tulun.