The Egyptian world has always been fascinated by its history and culture, both enclosed in the mysterious and fascinating monuments that dominate the Egyptian capital: Cairo. The Al-Rifa'i mosque is one of the largest in Cairo. It took 43 years to build this magnificent sanctuary, showing different Islamic architectural styles. Located in Al-Qalaa Square.
It was built in two different periods, which is between 1869 and 1912, therefore it is characterized by different artistic and architectural styles. Next to it stands the much better known Sultan Hassan Mosque, dating back to the 14th century, which has remained intact despite the troubled centuries of history.
The colossal size of the mosque is most striking. It is counted as one of the major things to do in Cairo and is located in Midan El Qala’a, right below the Citadel of Salah El -Din in the most central part of Islamic Cairo. You can reach the Mosque of Al Rifa’i through a mutual entrance shared by the two mosques this one and the mosque of Sultan Hassan.
Many famous people are buried here in Al Rifai Mosque, a lot of them belong to Mohammed Ali family-like Kushyar Hanim, who ordered its construction in 1869, and her son the famous Khedive Ismail, who has refurbished Cairo and most of Egypt as well as Sudan which used to be part of the Egyptian kingdom. The mosque also hosted the deceased body of Mohammed Reza Pahlavi Shah Pahlavi, renowned for being the final Shah of Iran before the Islamic Revolution, which brought about the Khomeini rule. In the same burial room lies the Shah’s son, Mohamed Reza Pahlavi, who died in 1980 while in exile in Cairo. Another notable figure buried here was Yehya Al Ansari, a guide of the Prophet Mohamed ( peace be upon him) and local saint Ali Abu-Shubbak. Although not technically buried in the mosque Sheikh Ali Al Rifai, who was a leading figure in Islamic Cairo during medieval times, has a shrine where many locals come until this day to pray and receive some of his blessings. Before the massive reconstruction, Al Rifai Mosque was located at the site of a small mosque named Rifai Zawiya and was believed to bring about many of the renowned scholar’s followers and students, you can visit the mosque during any of the regular Cairo Day Tours
Perhaps you will choose to walk to the mosque from the castle of Salah El-Din Street, and there is an interesting view of the ancient Egyptian houses awaiting appreciation. You can also get close to the mosque via Sayeda Aisha Street, which will also lead you to the main gate. It is a double gate shared by both Al-Rifai and Sultan Hassan, you will need to pass it through the security scanner or detector. The two mosques are separated by a relatively narrow pedestrian street, and the massive structure of the Al-Rifai Mosque should not be surprising if its size and ability to compete with the neighboring Sultan Hassan Mosque, had been of utmost importance.
When you walk shortly towards the entrance of the Al Rifai mosque, a high staircase takes you to a huge portal. As a kind of respect and in order to avoid confusion, visitors to the mosque should be ready to remove the shoes before you enter, and the ladies are kindly requested to wear unrevealing clothes and they can bring along a headscarf.
The mosque has a great similarity in many of the modern structures. Once inside, one can only notice the beautiful ceiling. Gold was specially imported from Turkey for gilding. Visitors should feel free to wander around inside this architectural marvel. We suggest you visit the burial places of Khedive Ismail and Reza Shah Pahlavi.
Once you are done with the viewing of these Islamic patterns, feel free to run your hands across the shrine of Al Rifai marked by green lights in the room right in the middle of the mosque. You can even read your prayers or make a wish that will be surely fulfilled! If you are visiting the mosque on a Friday morning it will be most of the time quite and empty.
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Visiting Al Rifai Mosque will familiarize you with the era of Egypt’s once long-lasting monarchy, and its rich Islamic background. By viewing the tombs of King Farouk, the last king of Egypt, and Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran, it helps form a better understanding of both the Iranian and Egyptian conclusions to their monarchies. Perhaps in these times, it’s best to look back; to analyze and learn past leaders to get a tiny glimpse of the possible future.
See the mosques of Islamic Egypt including Al - Refae Mosque during a variety of Cairo Day tours like :
- Tour to Giza Pyramids and Islamic Cairo.
Ibn Tulun Mosque and El Refae mosque, as well as many other mosques and sites, can be briefly visited during Cairo layover tours like: