Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A Desert Place


In Old Cairo there is a very old mosque, the mosque of Ibn Tulun which was built in the 9th century, before the city of Cairo even existed technically. At this time the city was known as Fustat and was ruled by the Fatimid dynasty who were Shiites from western north Africa who claimed descent from Mohamed's daughter Fatima. The mosque is unusual and lovely in an austere fashion. Rather than being an indoor gathering place, the main space is under the sky. There is a fountain/well in the center of the open courtyard where the ritual washing of hands, arms, face, ears, nose, mouth, and feet would be done before prayer. Surrounding the courtyard is an arcade whose only decoration is quotes from the Quran carved in a simple script. The minaret, the tower from which the muezzin would make the call to prayer five times a day, is also unusual in that the stairway climbs the outside of the minaret rather than the inside. This is one of the oldest mosques in Cairo and has been renovated since I first saw it in 1976, bringing it back to its desert simplicity and peace.

4 comments:

Ravenchase Junkie said...

Nice! I like the detail work around the top.

This is a place with which I have no traveling experience. It's so nice of you to let me see it.

santy said...

That is very pretty! And love the sky as well.

Abraham Lincoln said...

I like the atmosphere about the place you captured in the picture. To me it just looks like it would be extremely hot in the sunshine and those arched shadows offers cool shade. That contrast is what this picture is all about to me. I suppose each person will have a different view.

Maryanne Stroud Gabbani said...

Mosques are all about contrast. Contrast between the sun and shade. Contrast between the noise and peace.