CAIRO – The Mosque El Rifaiyeh
Publisher: Lehnert & Landrock (1904+)
Al-Rifa’i Mosque is located in Midan al-Qal’a adjacent to the Cairo Citadel. Now, it is also the royal mausoleum of Muhammad Ali’s family. The building is located opposite the Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Hassan, which dates from around 1361, and was architecturally conceived as a complement to the older structure. This was part of a vast campaign by the 19th century rulers of Egypt to both associate themselves with the perceived glory of earlier periods in Egypt’s Islamic history and modernize the city. The mosque was constructed next to two large public squares and off of several European style boulevards constructed around the same time. The Al-Rifa’i Mosque was constructed in two phases over the period between 1869 and 1912 when it was finally completed.
The original structure was a Fatimid mosque, which was then transformed into a shrine for Ali abu Sheibak. Finally, Ottoman queen Kosheir Hanim commissioned the current design of the mosque and put in charge of the construction the architect Hussein Pasha Fahmi. Part of the plan was to have a mausoleum for the royal family as part of the extension, which was made by imported building materials from Europe, such as Italian marble. In addition to traditional raw materials, cement has also been employed in the construction of the mosque—a first for any Islamic monument in Egypt—signaling the transition into modern times.
Ministry of Tourism & Antiquities: Egypt’s Monuments
This monument represents a turning point in the cultural and political history of Egypt. It looks onto straight boulevards and open squares, two aspects of European city planning introduced during the reign of Muhammad ‘Ali and his successors, who sought to transform Egypt’s traditional society into a cosmopolitan one. Designed as a free-standing monument, the Mosque of al-Rifa’i responds to its site by presenting four fully articulated facades in addition to a highly decorated, Mamluk-style dome and minaret.