Mosque of Amr Ibn Al-As

The mosque of Amr Ibn Al-As has the honor of the first mosque to be built in Egypt after it was conquered by Amr Ibn Al-As on the command of Umar Ibn Khattab. The location of the mosque was decided by a bird in what is now called the “old cairo”. The story goes like a bird laid an egg on the tent of Amr and he later decided that it should be the place for the location of the mosque.

Once of enter the premises of the mosque you find it pretty big in comparison to buildings of its times . It’s because of continuous reconstructions over the ages. The original mosque was constructed in 641–642 AD but now nothing of the original structure remains because of reconstructions over time. The oldest structure that can still be seen today dates back to 900 in the southern part of the building. The present structure of the mosque is the construction that was carried out in 1800s.

1920px-Mosque_of_Amr_(panorama)

The original layout ( 641-642 AD ) was a simple rectangle, 29 meters in length by 17 meters wide. It was a low shed with columns made from split palm trunks, stones and mud bricks, covered by a roof of wood and palm leaves. The floor was made up of gravel.  It was large enough to provide prayer space for Amr’s army, but had no other adornments, and no minarets.

It was completely rebuilt in 673 by the governor Maslama ibn Mukhallad al-Ansari, who added four minarets, one at each of the mosque’s corners, and doubled its area in size. The addition of these minarets allowed the call to prayer to be heard from every corner, and taken up by other nearby mosques. Governor Abd al-Aziz ibn Marwan  added an extension to the mosque in 698 and once again doubled the mosque’s area. In 827, it had seven new aisles built, Each aisle had an arcade of columns, with the last column in each row attached to the wall.

In 827, governor Abd Allah ibn Tahir made more additions to the mosque. It was enlarged to its present size, and the southern wall of the present day mosque was built. In the 9th century, the mosque was extended by the Abbasid Caliph Al-Mamun , who added a new area on the southwest side, increasing the mosque’s dimensions to 120m x 112m . Once during the Fatimid era the mosque had five minarets. There were four, with one at each corner, and one at the entrance. However, all five are now gone. The current Minarets were built by Mourad Bey in 1800. In 1169, the city of Fustat and the mosque were destroyed by a fire that was ordered by Egypt’s own vizier Shawar , who had ordered its destruction to prevent the city from being captured by the crusaders . After the Crusaders were expelled, and the area had been conquered by Nur al-Din’s  army, Saladin took power, and had the mosque rebuilt in 1179.

In the 14th century  Burhan al-Din Ibrahim paid the costs of restoring the mosque. In 1303, Amir Salar restored the mosque after an earth quake. He also added a prayer niche for the outer wall of the mosque, which is now gone.

In the 18th century one of the Mamluk leaders , Mourad Bey, destroyed the mosque because of it’s poor condition  and rebuilt it in 1796, before the arrival of Napolean.  Mourad decreased the number of rows of columns from seven to six, and changed the orientation of the aisles to make them perpendicular to the qibla wall. It was also probably at this time that the current remaining minarets were added. In 1875, the mosque was again rebuilt. In the 20th century, during the reign of Abbas II, the mosque underwent another restoration. Parts of the entrance were reconstructed in the 1980s.

Now the mosque is in a great condition with prayers and sermons taking place and is open to visitors and tourists when prayers are not taking place.