No part of this magnificent mosque is more striking than the grand portal by which it is entered from the sook El-Silah, at the right extremity of its north-eastern side; its impressive effect is due to its extraordinary elevation, and its noble arabesque decorations. The height of this stupendous entrance, from the street to the top of the arch, is one hundred feet, of which the flight of steps leading to the door is fifteen feet, and the portal itself eighty-five. Seen from the entrance to the narrow street whence the steps ascend, its grandeur is most imposing, though its beautiful proportion to the entire building requires that more should be seen than can be observed in this point of view. In size, this portal would be equal to the great opening of the arch of the Barrière de l'Étoile, at Paris; and if this, like the portal of the Mosque of the Sultan Hassan, sprang from a platform raised nearly fifteen feet above the road which it traverses, it would have the same entire elevation: to those who have not visited Cairo, yet know Paris, this will convey some idea of the immensity of this entrance to the Mosque of the Sultan Hassan.

The height of the wall through which the portal leads is one hundred and twenty-eight feet above the street. It has a great cornice, fifteen feet high, and which projects six feet. This surrounds the Mosque, and gives, from its great elevation and simple breadth, a vast addition to the grandeur of the building, and excites an emotion of sublimity in the contemplation of this arched portal, greater perhaps than than that produced by any other extant.

At the base and against the walls of the Mosque, wretched houses and shops are built, which, like those stuck into every corner and niche of the outside walls of the Cathedrals in France, are most unseemly, and form a striking contrast to the beautiful carving, rich compartments, and inscribed cornice of the magnificent entrance to the Mosque above them.