mosque of ahmed ibn tulun

mosque of ahmed ibn tulun



It’s located in the street of Saliba, the first right after the Madrassa of Sarghatmish.

The Founder Ahmed Ibn Tulun was son of a Turkish slave of the Abbasid caliph Al Ma’mun, he was sent to Egypt in 868 A.D. as a governor of Al fustat.

mosque of ahmed ibn tulun
mosque of ahmed ibn tulun

Within 2 years, he became the governor of the whole country, shortly he refused to send the tribute to the Abbasid court & he established himself as an independent ruler of the province.


He founded his new royal city around the hill of Yashkur to the northeast of AlFustat, he destroyed the Christian and the Jewish cemetery which were located on the hill to build his city.

The name of the city is al Qatai which means the allotments in which each group of his followers settled.



The Mosque was built in between 876-879 A.D. / 263-265 A.H, Manu historians confirmed that it was completed in May 879AD.


According to the inscription found in the mosque; A foundation plaque fixed to one of the piers of the qibla area, which was carved in simple Kufic script with the name of Ibn Tulun of and the date of its construction.


Legends attached to the site of the mosque


– It was believed that Noah’s ark had landed here after the flood

– It was also believed that God had spoken to Moses here.

– Moses had faced the pharaoh’s magicians here.

– Nearby, on Qal’at Al Kabsh Abraham had been ready to sacrifice his son.


The Importance of the Mosque


It’s the oldest intact Islamic monument in Cairo.


It also survives as a rarer example of the art & architecture of the classical period of Islam (when the influence of the Abbasid court was dominant).


The architectural elements

Following the tradition of Muslim Caliphs, first work of Ibn Tulun was to establish a new capital known as Qataia (869AD) between Cairo and Fustat as mentioned above.


In its center, he built a palace complex, a hippodrome, and a large mosque which became known by his name.

It is well known that Ibn Tulun lived in Samarra all his youth and he clearly was influenced by its prestige, especially its Great Mosque of Al-Mutawwakil (848AD).


This can be seen in the numerous common features of the two mosques;


– The first of these is the use of piers constructed of bricks, instead of columns, to carry the arcades and the roof.


– The second is the use of the same materials of construction such as brick and plaster.


– The third one is the spiral shape of the minaret and its location outside the perimeter of the mosque


The mosque has a square shape 162 meters long, making it one of the largest mosques of Cairo, and contains the following elements:-


The entrance of the mosque of ahmed ibn tulun


The mosque has many entrances in all facades, except the qibla façade. The main entrance leads to an open courtyard.


The courtyard of the mosque of ahmed ibn tulun


The original courtyard was intended for prayer, nowadays it’s paved.

The courtyard “Sahn” is a square extending south of the prayer hall. It is surrounded by covered porticoes, each consisting of two aisles of pointed arcades raised on strong piers and overlooking its open center where a fountain and an ablution basin stand.


The arcades surrounded the courtyard

The open courtyard is surrounded from the 4 sides by arcades. The deeper one is the qibla which contains 5 aisles. The arcades are formed by arches carried on pillars 160 in number.



They are pointed, decorated by Rosettes & windows to decorate the pressure. They are also outlined with an edge of carved stucco.

The use of red brick covered with stucco is a feature from Samarra. The carved stucco can be seen around and under arches, as well on the capitals of the pilasters and on the wooden panels over the entrance.



Windows of the mosque of ahmed ibn tulun


The mosque has 128 windows, 42 doors, 160 pillars each one containing 4 engaged columns.

The Mosque enjoys with a collection of stucco windows is considered one of the most exquisite characteristics of the whole structure, since each window differs from the other in the layout of its decorative motifs.

The upper part of the mosque walls has 128 pierced-stucco arched windows with geometric and interwoven vegetal decorations which resemble those found in the Umayyad Great Mosque in Damascus.

Windows of the mosque of ahmed ibn tulun
Windows of the mosque of ahmed ibn tulun

It’s known between archeologists that only four of the arched windows date back to the period of Ibn Tulun for their decorative motifs that are related to that period with intersecting circles. Rest of the windows are contributed to the Fatimid and Mamluk periods.


The ceiling of the mosque of ahmed ibn tulun


It’s composed of palm logs boxed in wooden panels. The long band of inscription on sycamore wood, runs below the ceiling & around the whole mosque contains verses from the Quraan.

The inscription is 2 km in length, calculated 1/5 of the whole Quraan. It was mistakenly believed that one of these boards is left over from Noah’s ark.

The ceiling of the mosque of ahmed ibn tulun
The ceiling of the mosque of ahmed ibn tulun


Qibla arcade in the mosque of ahmed ibn tulun


It contains 6mihrabs, foundation panel, Dikka,…etc. the qibla arcade is 5 aisles deep. On the center of the Qibla wall, there is the main Mihrab which is a niche of pointed arch flanked on both sides by two attached columns. Four other smaller Mihrabs which were added later appear on the sides of the main Mihrab, two on each side.

Ahmed Ibn Tulun Mosque
Ahmed Ibn Tulun Mosque

The main Mihrab


Located in the middle of the qibla wall, it’s simple in form. It’s only concave Mihrab while the others are flat.

Above it there is an inscription of Kufic script of the shahada, the Mihrab flanked by 4 columns, dates back to Tulun’s reign & was restored by Lagin.


There was a door to the right of the main mihrab through which Tulun was entering the mosque from this place.


The 2nd Mihrab


This is called Mihrab El sayda Nafissa, it was made by Sultan Lagin during Mamluk period, and it’s located to the right of the main mihrab & the door. It’s flat and decorated with niches, kufic & cuisine scripts.


The 3rd & 4th Mihrabs


They are located in the 3rd arcade; they are the piers which flanked the dikka, dating back to the 9th century “probably Abbasid period”.


The 5th & 6th Mihrabs


They are located in the first arcade, they are flat. The right one belongs to El Afdal Shahnshah, the son of Badr El Gemali (the great Fatimid vizier who placed a Shii mark on the mosque), while the other one is a copy from the Fatimid Mihrab made by sultan Lagin.


The foundation panel


It’s dedicatory inscription made by Ahmed ibn Tulun, located on one of the piers of the 2nd arcade. Its inscription was written with plain kufic script.


The Dikka of mosque of ahmed ibn tulun


It’s made of sycamore wood supported by 4 marble columns. And it was used to enable the respondents to repeat the ritual postures of the imam to other Riwaqs.


The Minbar of mosque of ahmed ibn tulun


It’s located to the left of the main Mihrab, and made by sultan Lagin. The colours of the minbar are all different shades of brown with various textures and patterns. A representation of a Crescent appears at the top of the minbar.


The fountain of mosque of ahmed ibn tulun


It’s located in the middle of the open court. The domed building over it belongs to lagin’s restoration, decorated from inside by a kufic inscription containing verses from Quraan.

The fountain of mosque of ahmed ibn tulun
The fountain of mosque of ahmed ibn tulun

The Minaret of mosque of ahmed ibn tulun


It’s located to the north side of the courtyard; the original minaret was a copy from that which belongs to the great mosque of Samarra. The only original element of the minaret that remains is the square base.

The second story of the minaret is cylindrical which is surmounted by later restorations made by the Mamluks The influence of the great Mosque of Samarra is manifest is seen most obviously in the fact that the staircase winds itself around the outside body of the minaret and not within the interior in a spiral form like the one of Samaraa. It’s a spiral with a staircase from outside.
Lagin added the square base which was decorated with horse-shoe arches. The Mabkhara which crowned it, was decorated with stalactites.

The Minaret of mosque of ahmed ibn tulun
The Minaret of mosque of ahmed ibn tulun

The presence of double-arched windows on the shaft of the minaret and in the entrance to the minaret’s staircase indicates Andalusian influence. Andalusian influence had reached Egypt because of the resettlement of Andalusian Muslim refugees who were forced out of their homeland during the Christian Reconquista from 1212 to 1260.


The addition “Zyada”


Additions were added to all sides of the mosque except that of the qibla, because of Tulun Palace.

This zyada was made to separate the mosque from the bazaars & buildings. Those extensions enlarge 11 meters each, along the northern, eastern and western sides of the mosque.

These open extensions which ring the mosque on three sides work as buffers between the streets’ bustle and the religious space inside.

The walls of the ziyadas are surmounted by a unique and special crenellation, and are surmounted as well by fortified parapets as an indication of Samarra influence on the mosque.

The addition “Zyada” of mosque of ahmed ibn tulun
The addition “Zyada” of mosque of ahmed ibn tulun

The crenellations of mosque of ahmed ibn tulun


Above the mosque of the wall, there is a crenellation take the shape of human figures with linked arms, belong to sultan Lagin


Decorative elements of mosque of ahmed ibn tulun


-The internal decorative works are found mainly in the frames and crowns of the piers, arches and windows. These are in the form of a band consisting of a series of curved lines, flower buds and diamond shapes.

-On the architrave of arcades and windows, is found a delicate combination of floral and geometrical patterns which show a great similarity to the one developed in Samarra.

-Calligraphy works took the form of decorative strips covering the wooden rail of higher sections of the walls. They also decorate the internal frames of windows and the area above the Mihrab.


-The external walls of the Mosque were crowned with curious ornamental battlements in the form of a chain of little human figures (pigmies) defending the roof


Sultan Lagin Restorations to mosque of ahmed ibn tulun


During the period of unrest which followed the murder of Elashraf Khalil Ibn Qala’un in which Lagin was involved, while he was hidden in this mosque he decided to restore the mosque if he would be save & he did his vow.


So he restored the following:

-The main mihrab & the dome over it

-The minbar

-The domed building over the fountain

-He rebuilt the original minaret & mabkhara over it decorated with.

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