The Definitive Guide to Living in the Capital , Cairo , Egypt

El Hakim Mosque: One of Cairo’s Oldest Mosques

El Hakim Mosque: One of Cairo’s Oldest Mosques

A visit to El Hakim
Mosque is often overlooked in favour of Cairo’s countless other architecture
gems. Though it lacks the intricate, elaborate detailing of other more famous
mosques in Cairo, El Hakim Mosque is stunning in its simplicity. It is
definitely worth seeing, especially if you’re already exploring everything else
that El Muezz El Din Allah Street has to offer. Heading north on this
pedestrian street, El Hakim Mosque is on the right, just before Bab El Fotouh.

Upon entering the
mosque, you will immediately be struck by how bright and expansive it is. El
Hakim Mosque is one of the largest mosques in Cairo and the floor’s shiny, off-white
marble extends far in every direction. The maroon-coloured ablution fountain
stands out in stark contrast to the rest of the mosque.

The minarets on
either side of the façade are one of the mosque’s most distinctive features.
They are Cairo’s earliest constructed minarets and have been restored many
times since their original construction. The bases that protrude onto the
street were added to strengthen the structure. The tops of the minarets were
completely replaced after a massive earthquake in 1303. Now the tops of the
minarets are encased and, for a little tip to the janitors, it is possible to
climb up the northern minaret and observe the decoration up close.

This mosque
experienced massive renovations in the early 1980s and, as a result, looks
little like it originally did. Now, the archways are outfitted with dark blue
curtains pleasing to the visitor’s eyes though the beautiful marble was not originally
part of the mosque.

Despite being one of
Cairo’s oldest mosques, El Hakim Mosque only seldom functioned as a place of
worship. Throughout its history, the structure served as a prison for Crusader
captives, a stable, a school, a warehouse, and occasionally a mosque.

The mosque’s
construction began in 990AD under El Hakim’s father, El Aziz, and was completed
in 1013AD. El Hakim succeeded his father at the ripe age of eleven, becoming
the sixth Fatimid ruler. According to many historical narratives, he was known
as a sadistic ruler infamous for his brutality towards women, merchants and religious
minorities.

During one of his
solo night journeys in the Muqattam Hills, El Hakim disappeared, presumably
murdered, and his body was never recovered. Interestingly, after his death, one
of his followers and an early leader of the Druze, El Darizy, proclaimed El
Hakim to be divine and to this day, El Hakim remains a central figure in the
Druze sect.

El Hakim Mosque is
both calming and captivating, and an ideal place to visit to escape the crowds
and hassle of nearby Khan El Khalili. Keep in mind that it is an active
mosque; so be sure to cover up and dress modestly before you enter.

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