MOSQUE OF THE SULTAN HASSAN, FROM THE GREAT SQUARE OF THE RUMEYLEH


THIS is the finest mosque in Cairo, and though it is rapidly hastening to ruin, its dilapidation is unchecked by repair. It is one of the finest examples of Arab architecture of the fourteenth century, and in plan, solidity, and scale, is unrivalled in the city. It was constructed by Melec-el-Naser Abou-el-Maali Hasan ben Mohammed ben Kalaoun (Coste has pleasure, like Dr. Primrose, in giving all the names), in the quarter out of the gate of Zouaïla. It was begun in 757 of the Hegirah (A.D. 1365), and finished in three years. It stands in the highest part of the city, just below the citadel, on one side of the great square of Rumeyleh, and in every general view of Cairo is a striking feature from its magnitude and elevation. El Makreezee said, that "Islamism possessed no temple comparable to this in its architecture, its loftiness. and its grandeur."

The tomb of the Sultan is within the square part of the building, which formerly contained a valuable library. Its grand cornice has a noble projection, enriched with fretwork and honeysuckle ornaments.

According to M. Coste, the extreme length of the irregular exterior figure is about five hundred feet, which corresponds with the choir of our cathedrals, three hundred and fifty-eight feet; its length, without the tomb, extending to the niche of the Méhrab, in the direction of Mecca, about two hundred and fifty. The tomb is sixty-nine feet square, and the walls about one hundred and twenty-eight feet high; in some parts they are twenty-five feet thick, and generally exceed thirteen feet in thickness.

The general plan of this Mosque, the most perfect of his class, is a Greek cross. It is vaulted on every side of the court. Below that on the south-east is the sanctuary. Its construction is regular, in stone painted in alternate white and red bands. The cornice is bold and corbelled, and the parapet surmounted with ornaments formed like the fleur-de-lis. The principal entrance, a noble vestibule, instead of opening under the façade below the minarets, is placed in a narrow street; and the general plan has been controlled by the previous direction of the streets. It is extraordinary that these were not removed, for the regular structure of so grand a building; but perhaps a power, greater than that possessed by a tyrant ruler, forbade it.

It is said that three years exactly were occupied in its erection, and at a daily cost of 20,000 drachmas of silver; an amount so enormous, that it would have been abandoned, but that it might have been said that a sovereign of Egypt had not funds enough for such a work.

The difference in the height of the minarets offends the eye, but not so much in this point of view as when opposite the façade: one of them is also much larger than the other; each has three stages or galleries; the highest is about two hundred and eighty feet. The dome above the tomb of the founder is about one hundred and seventy feet high, and nearly seventy feet in diameter.

The mosques are open from daybreak to the last evening-prayer, two hours after sunset. The Mussulman does not consider a mosque , as some other religionists look upon their sacred edifices, as one wherein the presence of Divinity is supposed, but as a building only for the union of the faithful in prayer, or the accomplishment of a religious duty. The part of a mosque which is held in the greatest reverence is the Mehráb, from its position toward the Kaaba, and is alone considered sacred.



Coste's "Monumens du Kaire,", &c.

Roberts's Journal.