Tuesday,21 May, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1442, (9 - 15 May 2019)
Tuesday,21 May, 2019
Issue 1442, (9 - 15 May 2019)

Ahram Weekly

Mosques reopen

The Fatma Al-Shaqraa Mosque in Cairo has reopened after four years of restoration work along with two other mosques in Assiut, reports Nevine El-Aref

Mosques reopen

Three days before the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan, the Ministry of Antiquities reopened three mosques in Cairo and Assiut to worshippers after restoration.

The first was the Fatma Al-Shaqraa Mosque in the Bab Al-Khalk district of Cairo. The mosque was in a good condition as it had previously been restored, but the minaret was leaning by some 12cm.

Restoration work on the minaret started two years ago in order to consolidate and straighten it.

“It is the first time we have dismantled and reconstructed an historic minaret without missing any of the original stone blocks,” Mohamed Abdel-Aziz, supervisor of the Historic Cairo Department at the ministry, told Al-Ahram Weekly.

He added that the minaret had been reconstructed according to its original form and construction techniques after being hidden under wooden scaffolding for 23 years as a result of the earthquake that hit the country in 1992.

Studies had been carried out to analyse the foundations and to document the minaret’s condition, he said.

Mosques reopen

These had revealed an unstable level of water in the ground that had been responsible for the leaning of the minaret. The area’s drainage system had been repaired in order to guarantee the stability of the minaret in the future, Abdel-Aziz said.

The foundations of the minaret have now been consolidated. A new external lighting system has been installed as part of the restoration project.

Gamal Mustafa, head of Islamic, Coptic and Jewish Monuments at the ministry, said that the restoration work on the mosque was completed before the beginning of the minaret’s restoration and had included the floors, walls and ablution area.

The mosque was built in 1477 CE by Rashideddin Al-Bahaai for Fatma Al-Shaqraa, the wife of the Mameluke sultan Qaitbey. During the Ottoman period, the mosque was renovated and renamed the Maraa Mosque, or “Women’s Mosque”, instead.

The mosque contains two tombs, one dedicated to Al-Shaqraa and the other to an unknown person.

Time has taken its toll on the mosque since its last restoration, and before its present rehabilitation cracks had spread in its walls, its masonry had been broken and water had leaked over its floors.

Mosques reopen

When the mosque’s minaret started to lean some 12 cm in 1992, the ministry stepped in to consolidate it with wooden and iron scaffolding. The restoration work then stopped until 2014 when work resumed on the mosque, without, however, treating the problem of the leaning minaret. But the masonry was repaired, the walls consolidated, and the cracks restored.

The mosque’s minaret remained in a dangerous condition, and in 2014 the ministry appointed an archaeological committee to inspect its condition in order to undertake the restoration.

The only remaining Mameluke elements of the Mosque that survive are the portal and the mihrab. The rest of the Mosque, including the minaret, are Ottoman additions.

Mosques reopen

In the Upper Egyptian city of Assiut, the Al-Mujahideen and Al-Kashef mosques were also reopened after restoration.

Both were in a bad condition as their walls had cracked, masonry was damaged, and the condition of the ceilings and the floors was critical. The mosques had been closed to prayers and visitors.

The foundations of both mosques were strengthened and protected against future damage through a micro-pile system involving the installation of sharp pointed columns beneath the mosques to reinforce their foundations.

The walls were reinforced, cracks removed, missing and decayed stones replaced, and the masonry cleaned and desalinated. The mosques now stand as proudly as they did in the past.

Mosques reopen

Mustafa said that all the restoration work had been carried out according to the latest methods. “Every effort was made to ensure that all the original architectural features were retained,” he said, adding that the restoration of the mosques should now preserve them for future generations.

The Al-Mujahideen Mosque was built in the Ottoman architectural style by emir Mohamed Bek. It is the oldest mosque in Assiut and was originally built on a hill. However, over time the level of the street has been raised, and now the mosque is only a few cm above street level.

The Al-Kashef Mosque was built by emir Mohamed Al-Kashef who ruled Assiut in 1811. It observes the Ottoman architectural style of roofed mosques.

It is a rectangular-shaped mosque with two large marble columns that divide it into three sections that run in parallel with the qibla iwan (prayer hall). The mosque has a dikket al-mubalegh (reciting bench), an ablution area, and a kuttab (Quranic school) attached.

Although it is a small building, it houses decorative elements such as a minbar (pulpit), Quranic chair, mihrab (niche), shoghshekha (wooden decorative dome) and windows decorated with foliage motifs and arabesque decoration.

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