The Mosque of Ibn Tulun (Arabic: مسجد إبن طولون, romanized: Masjid Ibn Ṭūlūn) is considered to be the second oldest active mosque in Egypt. This mosque was built for Ahmad ibn Tulun, son of the Abbasid caliph al-Mamun, a Turkish slave. It is the oldest mosque in Egypt and is the largest mosque in Cairo in terms of land area, as well as the whole of Africa remaining in its complete original form. Since Ibn Tulun Mosque has a lot of open space, it boasts both shadows and sunlight. Established on the site of present-day Cairo, this mosque includes a mosque surrounded by three outer ziyādahs or courtyards.
Minaret and ablution fountain (sabil) of the Ibn Tulun Mosque
The town founded by Ahmad ibn Tulun was called al-Qata’i, ‘the wards,’ which describes the allotments in which each community of his followers settled. In 905, the city was demolished and plowed under when the Abbasids reestablished control. Of its magnificence and scale, all that survives is that the mosque that formed its center. The mosque served because of the new congregational mosque, replacing the Mosque of ‘Amr, which was too small to accommodate the troops of Ibn Tulun. Ibn Tulun Mosque features Samarra style its decorations being created from carved stucco and wood. This mosque is perhaps a popular attraction for tourists.
The mosque’s floor plan assumes the shape of a rectangle, measuring about 26,318 sq m. Its architectural arrangement adheres to the region’s conventional plan for congregational mosques consisting of an open, square central courtyard measuring about 92 m sq. In the middle of the courtyard is an ablutions fountain, an innovation of the Mamluk sultan, Hosam al-Din Lajin (r. AH 696–8 / AD 1297–9) in AH 696 / AD 1296. Most of the furniture and style is reminiscent of Iraq’s Abbāsid architecture. The crenelated walls outside have merlons shaped and perforated in a decorative pattern. The courtyards are lined with wide arched arcades and large pillars. The arches in the mosque and the courtyard are painted in carved stucco with intricate designs. The mosque’s roofed oratory is divided by pillars into five long aisles or naves which were originally ornamented with carved wood panels.
Inscription at main entrance having mention of Fatimid
The historian al-Maqrizi lists the building commencement date of the mosque as 876 AD, and the initial inscription slab of the mosque describes the completion date as 265 AH (878/879). The mosque was used for a variety of uses. This mosque was used during the Ramadan month for Fatimid ceremonies. It was damaged when used as a shelter for pilgrims from geographical area to the Hijaz within the 12th c. but restored and refounded with madrasa-type functions by ‘Alam al-Din Sanjar al-Dawadar at the behest of Mamluk Sultan Lajin in 1296. The building was reconstructed several times, especially between 1296 and 1299, when the wall facing Mecca and the three-story minaret were rebuilt, each in a different form (square, spiral, and octagonal).
The arched interior of the mosque windows gives natural light against the hollow dome. Each pointed arch has a window and has a plain geometric design. The courtyard is surrounded by four porticoes, the largest being the eastern portico (that of the qibla), consisting of five arcades. As for the opposite three porticoes, each of them consists of two arcades. The Congregational Mosque of Ibn Tulun is taken into account to be one among the most important mosques in Egypt whose entire extent including the ziyada exceeds 26,318 sq m, and which is created of fired brick.
The spiral minaret
On the site of the fawwara or fountain designed by Ibn Tulun and destroyed by fire in 986, the ablution fountain and dome were established. A pavilion consisting of a dome carried on gilded marble columns housed the fawwara, whose purpose was purely decorative. For hygienic purposes, the initial ablution facilities and a clinic had been housed in the ziyada. The minaret shows influences from both the Lighthouse of Alexandria and also the famous minaret in Samarra. It’s built entirely of well-fired red brick, plaster, and carved stucco. Stucco is cement-based, on-site mixed and wet applied plaster that hardens to a very dense solid. The mosque is constructed from this material, too. The staircase rises to the 170-foot-high tower.
The architectural elements inside of the mosque contain a prayer niche (mihrab) and a wooden minbar.
The innovations and additions to the mosque by Sultan Hosam al-Din Lajin in AH 696 / AD 1297 are considered the foremost important and extensive to be disbursed within the mosque. The mosque was also used as a belt factory within the 18th century and was divided into shops in 1814. Classified in 1890 as a historic landmark, the mosque has since been completely restored. People may see outside the mosque that many houses were constructed against the mosque’s external walls. A very busy city surrounds the topography of the mosque. The courtyard has been paved and the fountain refaced in black marble after its restoration in 1999 nothing remains of the original plasterwork.