Alabaster Mosque (Mosque of Muhammad Ali)
Perhaps the most evocative description of the Alabaster Mosque is in Olivia Manning's The Levant Trilogy: “Above them Mohammed Ali's alabaster mosque, uniquely white in this sand-colored city, sat with minarets pricked, like a fat, white, watchful cat." Although the landmark has not received much praise from writers, who have criticized it for being unimaginative, lacking in grace, and resembling a great toad, the Alabaster Mosque is one of the most visited mosques in Cairo. From inside its high minarets, visitors can see almost the entire city, including the Giza Plateau. The mosque is also known for its more than 136 stained-glass windows and a solid marble pulpit. The clock in the central courtyard was a gift from King Louis-Philippe of France as a thank you for the Pharaonic obelisk that adorns the Place de la Concorde in Paris; the clock was damaged on delivery and has yet to be repaired. Guided tours of the citadel and the mosque are available and offer an explanatory look at this interesting attraction.
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Things to know before you go
- The site combines military and government history, making it a must-see for history buffs and architecture lovers.
- Because this is a Muslim site, visitors should be mindful of their dress and behavior while visiting the grounds.
- The site is well paved, so it is accessible for wheelchair users.
- If you choose a private car to get around Cairo, be sure to stress that you do not want to visit the perfume and carpet shops, unless shopping is on your agenda.
How to get there
Located in Islamic Cairo near other popular attractions, the Alabaster Mosque can only be reached by taxi or on an organized tour or by hiring a private car and guide. There are no public transportation stops nearby. Some hotels do offer shuttle service to the citadel or can help arrange a car.
When to get there
During Ramadan, the citadel closes early, and as the Alabaster Mosque is still an active place of worship, it’s closed to tourists during midday prayers on Fridays. Plan to visit in the morning hours, if possible, to avoid the afternoon heat, especially in summer. Travelers recommend visiting on weekdays, when it’s less crowded.
Khan el-Khalili Bazaar
Guided tours of Islamic Cairo typically include a stop through the Khan el-Khalili Bazaar, a major souk that is filled with shops selling souvenirs, antiques, carpets, and jewelry, as well as coffeehouses, restaurants, and food vendors. There is also a spice market where you can buy fresh spices. The colorful marketplace is a must-see when in Cairo.
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- Islamic Cairo
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- Gayer-Anderson Museum
- Ibn Tulun Mosque
- Cairo Citadel (Citadel of Saladin)
- Mosque of Sultan Al-Mu'ayyad
- Al-Azhar Mosque
- Al-Hakim Mosque
- Tahrir Square
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