Activity Level: Easy to Moderate
The first Fatimid monument in Egypt, the Azhar was both a meeting place for Shi'a students and a focal point of the famous university which has grown up around it. The Al-Azhar Mosque, established in 972 in a porticoed style shortly after the founding of Cairo itself, was originally designed by the Fatimid general Jawhar El-Sequili and built on the orders of Caliph Muezz Li-Din Allah. Located in the center of an area teeming with the most beautiful Islamic monuments from the 10th century, it was called "Al-Azhar" after Fatama al-Zahraa, daughter of the Prophet Mohamed.
Architecturally, the mosque is a palimpsest of all styles and influences that have passed through Egypt, with a large part of it having been renovated by Abdarrahman Khesheda. There are five very fine minarets with small balconies and intricately carved columns. It has six entrances, with the main entrance being the 18th Century Bab el-Muzayini (barber's gate), where students were once shaved. This gate leads into a small courtyard and then into the Aqbaughawiya Medersa to the left, which was built in 1340 and serves as a library.
Courtesy of Egypt Tourism Board