The Mosque of Amr ibn al-As (Arabic: جامع عمرو بن العاص), Egypt’s first Islamic structure, built by Amr ibn al-As, the leader of an invading Arab army, in 641. It is also known as Taj al-Jawame’ (Arabic: تاج الجوامِع, lit. ‘Crown of Mosques‘), or Masjid Ahl ar-Rayah (Arabic: مسجد اهل الرّاية, lit. ‘Mosque of the Banner Bearers‘), or Jame’ al-Ateeq (Arabic: جامِع العتِيق, lit. ‘The Old Mosque‘). The mosque was built on the site of present-day Cairo in Al-Fusibilā, a city that developed out of an Arab army encampment. The mosque, having undergone numerous additions and restorations over the 20th century, does not remain in its original form. The original structure was Egypt’s first mosque ever constructed, and Africa as a whole. For 600 years, the mosque was also a very important center of Islamic learning until Al-Muizz’s Al-Azhar Mosque in Islamic Cairo replaced it. Through the 20th century, it absolutely was the fourth largest mosque within the Islamic world. The position for the mosque was the site of the Muslim Army commander’s tent, General Amr ibn al-As. Little of the original structure remains due to massive rebuilding over the years, but the restored mosque is a prominent landmark and can be seen in what is today known as Old Cairo. It is an energetic mosque with a devout congregation, and when prayers don’t seem to be going down, it’s also hospitable to visitors and tourists. Though originally a modest structure, it had been destroyed and restored so often that it’s impossible to grasp the looks of the primary building. In 698, the Umayyad Abd al-Azīz ibn Marwan demolished the mosque and restored it, possibly closer to the original scale.
Inside View at Mosque of Amr ibn al-As
The original layout was a plain rectangle, with a length of 29 meters by 17 meters. It was a low hut with columns made of broken palm tree trunks, stones, and mud bricks, covered with a wooden roof and palm leaves. The ground consisted of dirt. Within the building, a concave niche did not find the orientation towards Mecca as it would be in all later mosques. Instead, four columns were wont to entail the direction of Mecca and were inserted on the qibla wall. it had been large enough to supply prayer space for Amr’s army but had no other adornments and no minarets. In 827 the ʿAbbāsids rebuilt this mosque, doubling its size. Saladin rebuilt the mosque in 1172 after the crusaders burned the town of al-Fusā. Following intermittent periods of ruin and reconstruction, with the arrival of Napoleon Bonaparte’s troops to Cairo in 1798, the mosque was left to decay. The mosque was expanded in the 9th century by the Abbasid Caliph al-Mamun who added a new area on the southwest side, expanding the dimensions of the mosque to 120 m x 112 m. With seven aisles constructed parallel to the qibla wall and formed by arcades on columns; a wooden architrave carved with a frieze of a late Hellenistic sort attached the last column in each row to the wall. Both these architraves and traces of springing arches can still be seen along the mosque’s southern wall. Unfortunately, much of the interior furniture decoration was taken by the French Army for firewood during the French occupation. The mosque was restored again in 1875. The present mosque is a reconstruction of the 19th century which still retains design elements and ornamental work from different periods in the history of the building. The only part of the mosque’s older structure which may still be seen are a number of the architraves, which may be viewed along the southern wall of the Mosque. The tomb of ‘Abdullah, son of ‘Amr ibn al-‘As, within the far left-hand corner of the mosque, the initial site of his house and tomb, which was incorporated into the mosque in 827. Church columns have been reused for the qibla arcade. The rearrangement of the aisles to make them perpendicular to the qibla wall is 18th c.; the 20th century are the columns in the entrance and side arcades, courtyard, and fountain.