The Anatomy of a Mosque

Explore the ins and outs of a Mamluk-era mosque.

Southwest facade of Aslam al Silahdar (2008-10) by Matjaz KacicnikAmerican Research Center In Egypt (ARCE)

The Mosque of Aslam al Silahdar

Located in historic Cairo, the mosque was built in 1344 by Baha al-Din Aslam as part of a larger complex. This mosque is an excellent example of Mamluk period architecture (1250–1517 AD).

Ground floor plan (2006-06) by Arab Consulting EngineersAmerican Research Center In Egypt (ARCE)

The mosque itself is a "four-iwan type," which consists iwans surrounding a courtyard. Iwans are vaulted spaces that open onto the courtyard on one side.

This style of mosque became popular in the 12th century and continues to be used today.

Among the new variations that this mosque introduced on the four-iwan theme is an entrance from the street that opens directly onto one of the iwans. 

The mausoleum, or burial place, actually predates the mosque and was integrated into the cross-shaped plan. The nearby Mausoleum of Ahmad al-Mihmandar served as a prototype.  

The east iwan houses the mihrab, a niche in the wall which indicates the direction of Mecca, where Muslims pray towards. This is also where the prayer-leader gives his sermons from the minbar, or pulpit.  

Call to Prayer

A staircase in the southwest corner leads to the minaret, a tall tower where the muezzin, or crier, calls Muslim to prayer.

The ablution area at the north end of the mosque includes fountains where Muslims can perform their ritualistic washing before prayer.  

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Credits: Story

The conservation and documentation of the Aslam al-Silahdar mosque was implemented by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) in collaboration with the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities and was co-funded by AKTC and the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE) under the Egyptian Antiquities Project (EAP) made possible through funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).  Click here to learn more about ARCE's conservation work.  

 Created by Andreas Kostopoulos, Tessa Litecky, and Beth Wang, ARCE 
 Visit ARCE at 

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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