Alabaster Mosque

This mosque is one of the best known in Cairo, and dominates the skyline. The pencil-thin minarets and silvered domes glow in the sunset. The Mohammad Ali Mosque is built of alabaster (hence the common name, Alabaster Mosque). It was built between 1824 and 1848, although the current domes are reconstructions in the 1930s.

Up close, it is an impressive monuments, even if the domes are not silver, but tin, and the walls and arches are dimmed by the hands of hundreds of tourists and years of Cairo smog. When Mark visited 20years ago, their guide held a lighter to the walls to show how translucent they were — there is a dark ring around the mosque where I’m sure thousands of guides have done the same thing. Now, the mosque is lit with graceful spirals of chandeliers and globe lamps. It was dark and gloomy — Mark kept repeating that it looked nothing like what he remembered.


THe red carpets on the floor are original, and fit exactly to the floor o fthis enormous mosque. According to our guide, they were recently removed, cleaned, and relaid, which is why they aren’t quite so tight anymore.

The domes are stunning from the inside — decorated in bright colors and lit by the shafts of sunlight through stained-glass windows.

Behind a bronze grille is the mausoleum of Mohammed Ali himself. The mosque is unusual, since it has two minbars (for sermons). The larger, more elaborate one was put in by Mohammed Ali, but it is in the center of the mosque and because of the acoustics, the sermons cannot be heard well from the minbar.


In the courtyard is floored in marble and surrounded by arches. In the center is an ornate ablutions fountain (Muslims must ritually wash before prayers) and the stupendously ugly clock tower. The clock was given to Egypt by the French as a trade for the obelisk that stans in teh Place d’Concorde. The clock has never worked.





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