On a walk through the Darb al-Ahmar neighbourhood, I visited the Al-Maridani mosque, one of the many mosques in this vast city. The courtyard was almost empty, and perhaps therefore looked big. On the right was a beautifully decorated wooden panel wth Quranic texts in calligraphy; a door led to the Qibla riwaq, the prayer hall with the qibla wall and mihrab, directly pointing towards the Ka'bah in Mecca and thus giving the direction of prayer. The late afternoon light fell into the prayer hall, and the first impression was one of decay. Apparently, the 1992 earthquake hit the mosque hard, and restoration has not yet benefited most of the mosque.
Walls are crumbling, wooden panels with fading Arabic calligraphy are cracking, holy books and other items are just deposited on the floor or in cupboards put in alcoves. Having a second look and taking some time to discover more, makes you realize soon that Al Maridani mosque is actually very beautiful, but unfortunately apparently neglected. Wooden panels on the walls and the ceiling betray intricate decorations and colours, and in one restored part, you can see how it could look: bright colours and elegant calligraphy depicting Quranic inscriptions on a band running on stone all around the top of the wall. The stained glass windows, with geometrical design, light up with the late afternoon sunlight falling in, giving a warm light inside the mosque. This gem, not frequented by visitors, was finished in 1340 by Altunbugha al Maridani, with the architect Mu'allim bin al-Suyufi.
Next to the main entrance, a wooden door leads to a staircase leading to the roof - the caretaker of Al Maridani mosque will open this door. The roof gives great views of the surrounding area, and much of Cairo. Minarets everywhere, but also the skyline of modern Cairo and the Citadel. It is shocking to see how the houses just next to the mosque have apparently been neglected after the 1992 earthquake and are just in ruins, while the ground floor is still being used. From the roof, you can climb further up in the minaret; the last part is a shaky metallic flight of steps which took me to a narrow hole through which I could squeeze myself and enjoy a majestic view over the city.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Al Maridani mosque (). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Al Maridani mosque.
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