Mohamed Ali mosque Cairo or alabaster mosque in Cairo. It is the most popular mosque among travelers to Egypt, for its greatness and its location in the Citadel of Cairo makes it the most visible of the Islamic monuments in Cairo. It was built during the first half of the 19th century by Muhammad Ali Pasha, viceroy and de facto king of Egypt, who is buried there.
Muhammad Ali chose to build his state mosque entirely in the architectural style of his previous overlords, Ottomans, unlike Mamluks who, despite their political submission to the Ottomans, stuck to the architectural styles of the previous Mamluk dynasties. The mosque was built with a central vault surrounded by four small and four semi-circular vaults. It was built in a square plan and measured 41×41 meters. The central vault is 21 meters in diameter and the height of the building is 52 meters. Two elegant cylindrical Turkish type minarets with two balconies and conical shells are located on the western side of the mosque, rising to 82 meters.
The use of this style, combined with the presence of two minarets and multiple half-vaults surrounding the central vault features reserved for mosques built on the authority of Sultan was a challenging declaration of de facto Egyptian independence. The main material is limestone but the lower story and forecourt is tiled with alabaster up to 11.3 meters. The outer facades are severe and angular and rise about four stories to the level of the lead-covered vaults. Mihrab on the southeast wall are three tall tales and covered with a semi-circular vault. There are two arcades in the second story, rising in columns and covered with the vaults. Although there are three entrances on each side of the forecourt, the entrance is usually through the northeast door. The forecourt measures 50×50 meters. It is enclosed by arched riwaks rising on pillars and covered by vaults.
There is a brass clock tower in the middle of the northwest riwak, which was presented to Muhammad Ali by King Louis Philippe of France in 1845. The clock was exchanged with the obelisk of Luxor now standing in Place de la Concorde in Paris. The interior measures 41×41 meters and gives a great feeling of space. The use of two levels of vaults gives a much greater sense of space than there really is. The central vault is raised on four arches that stand on the colossal piers. There are four semi-circular vaults around the central vault. There are four smaller vaults in the corners as well. The vaults are painted and embellished with ornaments in the relief. The walls and pillars are covered with alabaster up to 11 meters high.
The mosque was built on the site of old Mamluk buildings in Cairo’s Citadel in the mid-1830s and 1848s, although it was not completed until Pasha’s reign said in 1857. The architect was Yusuf Bushnak from Istanbul and his model was Yeni Mosque in that city. The land on which the mosque was erected was built with ruins of the previous buildings of the citadel.
Before the completion of the mosque, alabaster panels on the upper walls were removed and used for the palaces of Abbas I. The bare walls were covered with painted wood to look like marble. In 1899 the mosque showed signs of cracking and some improper repairs were undertaken. But the condition of the mosque became so dangerous that a complete restoration scheme was ordered by King Fuad in 1931 and was finally completed under King Farouk in 1939.
Muhammad Ali Pasha was buried in a carved Carrara marble tomb in the courtyard of the mosque. His body was transferred here from al-Basha of Hawsh in 1857.