The Al Azhar Mosque (the most blooming), is situated in the El Hussein Square and was constructed in 972 CE on the order of Caliph Muezz Li-Din Allah, designed by Fatimid general Jawhar El-Sequili shortly after the founding of Cairo itself. Located in the center of an area presenting some of the most beautiful Islamic monuments from the 10th century, it was named “Al-Azhar” after Fatama al-Zahraa, daughter of the Prophet Mohamed (Peace and Prayers Be Upon Him). Al Azhar mosque reflects both the Amr Ibn El-As and Ibn Tulun mosques. The Al Azhar mosque was a meeting place for Shi’a students for centures and remains a focal point of the famous university which surrounds it and also the first Fatimid monument in Egypt. Yaqoub Ibn Cals is credited for transforming the mosque into a teaching institute. In 974 CE the first lecture was delivered here making it the oldest university in the world. Today the university built around the Mosque is the most prestigious of Muslim schools, and its students are kept in the highest regard for their traditional training. This university once housed upwards of 10,000 students, today however, classes are taught in adjacent buildings while the mosque is reserved for prayer. In addition to the religious studies, modern schools of medicine, science and foreign languages have also been added.
Architecturally, the mosque represents the many styles and influences that were once present in Egypt, with a large part of it having been renovated by Abdarrahman Khesheda. There are five minarets with small balconies and intricately carved columns. The mosque has six entrances, the main of which, is the 18th Century Bab el-Muzayini (barber’s gate), where students once received haircuts. This gate leads into a small courtyard and then into the Aqbaughawiya Medersa to the left, which was built in 1340 and serves as a library. On the right is the Taybarsiya Medersa built in 1310 which has a beautiful mihrab. The Qaitbay Entrance was built in 1469 and has a minaret on top of it. Inside is a large courtyard that is 275 by 112 feet which is supported by over three hundred marble columns. To the east is the prayer hall which is larger than the courtyard and has several rows of columns. The Kufic inscription on the interior of the mihrab is original, though the mihrab has been modified several times, and behind is a hall added in 1753 by Abd el-Rahman Katkhuda.