Muhammad Ali Mosque

Muhammad Ali Mosque

Muhammad Ali Pasha commissioned the great mosque of Muhammad Ali Pasha or Alabaster Mosque between 1830 and 1848. Prominently, it stands between the summit of the Cairo Citadel, Egypt. The mosque honours the oldest son of Muhammad Ali, Tusun Pasha. Also, the structure is the largest in the first half of the 19th century.

The animated silhouette and twin minarets stand tall and grand in this beautiful mosque. A landmark structure and tourist attraction, this Ottoman-style building is a testament to the power of Muhammad Ali.

Location of Muhammad Ali Mosque

Muhammad Ali Mosque stands on the old site of Mamluk buildings in Cairo’s Citadel. It is present on a landmass of the Mokattam hills near the centre of Cairo.

History of Muhammad Ali Mosque

Muhammed Ali couldn’t finish the construction of this mosque during his life. The structure of this grand mosque began in 1830. However, it lasted long that Muhammed Ali couldn’t finish it before his death. Instead, the royal family couldn’t complete it until the rule of Said Pasha in 1857. Noteworthy that Yusuf Boshnak from Istanbul is the architect of this remarkable structure.

Moreover, Muhammad Ali Mosque models come after the Sultan Ahmed Mosque. Muhammad Ali Mosque stands on a ground built from the debris of earlier buildings in the citadel.

The Alabaster Mosque

The name Alabaster mosque references the structure’s marble panelling on its interior and exterior walls. However, they took away the alabaster panels from the upper walls before the full completion of the construction. Accordingly, they became a part of the palaces of Abbas I. Therefore, instead of alabaster, they used wood to constitute the stripped panels. Finally, they painted it to look like marble.

However, in 1899 the mosque witnessed signs of cracking. Therefore, the ruler instructed some repair work. But, this work was inadequate. Later, the condition of the structure deteriorated rapidly.

When it became dangerous enough, they undertook a complete scheme of restoration. King Fuad, in 1931, ordered this restoration. However, the repair lasted until King Farouk in 1939.

Muhammad Ali Pasha found his last resting place in the courtyard of this mosque. His tomb consists of Carrara marble. One can see the mausoleum in the southwestern corner of the mosque, to the right-hand side of the entrance. Later, in 1857 the royal family transferred the pasha coffin from Hosh al-Barsha to his new tomb.

Muhammad Ali Of Egypt

Muhammad Ali Pasha al-Mas’ud ibn Agha was Egypt’s Ottoman governor and de facto ruler. He reigned from 1805 to 1848. Moreover, he is also the founder of modern Egypt. At the peak of his leadership, the sultan ruled lower Egypt, upper Egypt, Sudan, and Arabia.

Initially, the pasha had a command to recover Egypt from a french occupation. Later through political manoeuvres, the king became the Wali of Egypt. Eventually, he gained the rank of pasha. After that, he initiated a violent purge of the Mamluks. Thus, he consolidated his power and permanently ended the rule of the Mamluks. Moreover, he also controlled the entire Levant.

Architectural reference

The pasha built his state mosque entirely in the architectural style of the Ottomans. They were his former overlords. It was in strict contrast to the type of the Mamluk. Despite their political submission, Mamluks stuck to the architectural styles of their old Mamluk dynasties.

Style of the structure

The Muhammad Ali mosque has a central dome surrounded by four small semicircular domes. The central dome is 21 metres in diameter with a height of 52 metres. However, the overall crown has a square plan measuring forty-one into forty-one meters.

On the western side of the mosque, one can find two beautiful cylindrical minarets of Turkish type. Additionally, with two balconies and conical caps, they rise to 82 metres. The use of this style was the declaration of de facto Egyptian independence by the ruler.

Two minarets and multiple half domes surrounding the central dome are specific features. Mosques built on the authority of the sultan have these features.

Material of the building

The primary material, limestone, comes from the Great pyramids of Giza. It reaches a height of 11,3 metres. The exterior builts are severe and angular in shape. They rise to four storeys until the level of the lead-covered domes -however, the lower storey and forecourt compromises of tiles of alabaster.

The layout of the structure

On the southeastern wall, a mihrab is three storeys high. On the second storey, there are two arcades. These arcades rise on columns and have domes. The typical entry is through the northeastern gate. However, there are three other entrances on each side of the forecourt.

The forecourt of Muhammad Ali Mosque is 50 x 50 metres. Arched riwaks rise on pillars and form an enclosure around them.

The outer open court contains a copper clock tower. It was a gift to Muhammad Ali Pasha from Louis Philippe of France in 1845 AD (1262 AH). The pasha returned the gesture with an obelisk of Ramesses II‘s. This obelisk stands in the Palace de la Concorde Square, Paris. Earlier, it stood in front of the Luxor temple.

Interiors of the Muhammad Ali mosque

The interior structure measures 41 into 41 meters. The two levels of domes provide it with a much greater sense of space than reality. The central dome rises in four arches on colossal piers. It presents a person with an incredible feeling of open space.

Moreover, there are four semicircular domes around the central dome. The walls and pillars have alabaster covering up to 11 metres high. Additional four smaller crowns are present on the corners as well. The domes have beautiful paint, and builders embellished them with motifs in relief.

An ablution fountain made of marble is present in the middle of the courtyard. It is octagonal and covered by a marble dome. Additionally, an outer wooden dome supports eight marble columns. Also, it has a wooden awning.

The inner surface of the wooden dome has a landscape painting in the Baroque style. Pointed conical pinnacles crown the slender minarets in the Ottoman style.

An inscription panel over the glasses of the eastern colonnade compromises Quranic verses and the date 1262(1843). Moreover, the ablutions fountain has another inscription with Qur’anic verses.


Muhammad Ali Mosque presents as a sign of culture. It cemented the rule of this pasha. Also, its architecture reflects the state of society in the early 19th century. Moreover, to date, tourists visit the Cairo Citadel to witness the glory of this magnificent mosque.

1 thought on “Muhammad Ali Mosque

  1. Muhammad Ali Pasha has built this great mosque. It is also famous as the Alabaster Mosque. It stands between the summit of the Cairo Citadel. This is a landmark structure and was done in the Ottoman style and is a favorite spot for tourists. Mainly limestone from Giza was used to build this along with white marble, hence the name Alabaster mosque. The forecourt of the mosque was 50*50 meters and arched riwaks rise on them and form an enclosure. Even the ablution fountain was also made of marble. The inner surface of the wooden dome has a landscape painting in the baroque style. It even has Quranic verses engraved on its fountain and interiors as well. Another piece of attraction is the copper clock tower that the Pasha received from King Louis Phillipe of France. All these to date speak of the prosperity during the rule of the Pasha. Making it a must-see on the tourist’s list.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.