Egypt : Citadel

Mohammed Ali Mosque at Cairo

Mohammed Ali Mosque, Citadel, Cairo

The Citadel in Cairo is one of the city's biggest attractions. Both the Mohammed Ali's mosque and his palace are situated here. The Mosque of Mohammed Ali, built in 1830s, is a scaled down version of the blue mosque in Istanbul. Once inside, the mosque impresses everyone by its stunning beauty. The mosque is built mainly using the alabaster stone from Aswan and is also known as the alabaster mosque.

The inside of the mosque contains one huge central dome flanked by four half domes supported by four big pillars, each one representing one of the four Caliphs. There are four other smaller domes behind each pillar. In the centre of the ceiling hangs a huge chandelier presented to Egypt by king Louis Philippe V of France. Including the chandelier, the mosque has 365 electric lamps which used to be all oil lamps in the 19th century.

Prayer Area Non-working clock: gift from France The tomb of Mohammed Ali built from the finest Italian marble is also present inside the main hall of the mosque. The top of the tomb is covered by a Turkish turban symbolising the Ottoman connection. The tomb is now surrounded by a fence built by king Farouq. King Farouq also added a new Cedar wood pulpit which has now replaced the older pulpit of Mohammed Ali in the daily ceremonies.

The open prayer ground at the back of the mosque contains an alabaster fountain supported by pillars plundered from the temples built during the Greek times. The famous clock tower presented by France along with the chandelier is present at the back of the mosque. The France in return to its favours took the Obelisk of Ramesis II from the Luxor temple. The exchange looks even more unfair when you consider the fact that the clock in the tower never worked even for a minute!

The palace of Mohammed Ali present next to the mosque is the site where the host treacherously murdered 40 Mameluke chiefs after inviting them to a dinner party and thereby putting an end to their rule. The main hall of the palace still contains the trap chairs where the host had hid his weapons. The palace also contains king Farouq's marriage furniture and sacred clothing which used to be sent to Mecca every year during Ramadan to cover the central structure.

The highlight of the palace is the guest room present upstairs which contains the original throne of Mohammed Ali along with some wonderful paintings. The painting of king Fauad I is particularly interesting as the entire body of the king seems to turn towards the viewer as one walks in front of it!1

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