Mosque Monday – Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Hassan


Mosque Monday is a month-long series through Ramadan where I am sharing some of the beautiful mosques that I have visited.

It’s hard to believe that I am at my fourth and final week of this fun project. Each week it has been so challenging to choose just one mosque to feature, and when I set out into this, I decided that I would pick from a different country each week. Many of the amazing places that I have visited have also presented a huge struggle to choose which one of the gorgeous mosques from that country to share. This week, I am faced with the biggest challenge yet, as I have to choose just one from the several stunning mosques that I visited in Egypt.

My trips to each of these amazing countries deserve (and hopefully will get) many more posts devoted to all that I can share, but none more so than our wonderful trip to Egypt, with so much of that credit going to the most wonderful, knowledgeable, kind, beautiful and all around amazing guide – Marwa of Egypt Trip Guides (read some amazing, ALL FIVE STAR reviews of Marwa’s travel company on Trip Advisor). Marwa and I became fast friends, and though years are passing by faster than I’d like, we keep in touch and I know that I will see Marwa in person again when timing works out.


Marwa took me to several mosques in the historic quarter of Cairo and each of them were rife with details and beauty that begs to be shared, but because I HAD to choose, I am sharing tonight the gorgeous Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Hassan.


Per its name, the mosque was commissioned by Sultan an-Nasir Hasan, and was built between 1356 and 1363. Interesting in context of the pandemic raging across the globe right now, the mosque was built on the heels of one of Cairo’s most devastating times as the Black Death plague ravaged the country in the mid-14th century. Despite medieval Cairo being quite ahead of its time with a fully functioning hospital in place – the Mansuri Hospital  which was completed in 1248 and hailed as one of the largest hospitals ever built –  hundreds of thousands of Egyptians perished in Cairo during he plague, and the economy suffered greatly (our own economic woes right now pale in comparison to the economic devastation that the survivors faced).


But, by 1356, Cairo was bustling (though with a depleted work-force) and work on the mosque began.

The mosque sits next to the Citadel of Cairo, which was constructed nearly 200 years prior to the Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Hassan. It impressively spans over almost 8000 square meters, and was famed to be situated perfectly for the Sultan to view from his palace in the Citadel. The mosque complex housed both a school and a small hospital and served as a place to nourish the body, the mind and the spirit.


When I entered the mosque with my wonderful guide Marwa, we were greeted by a muezzin who demonstrated the acoustics of the mosque by singing into the wall – which then reverberated throughout the room. As his voice echoed across the stone walls around us, it had an almost transformative effect and I felt almost as if I was stepping back in time as we continued on through the halls of the mosque to the grand courtyard to the center of the mosque.


The courtyard is stunning and grand, with a large fountain in the center and surrounded by four monumental iwans, which are large vaulted chambers. The marble floor is inlaid with stunning designs.



Lamps hang from long strings of chain in each of these chambers, the length of which stands as a reminder of their vast size.



The largest and most ornate of these chambers is the mihrab, which indicates the “qibla” – the direction of Mecca. This main qibla iwan was world renowned in its time for both its size and its beauty.




The carvings along the qibla are stunning, and also share a secret. Generally architects were not able to claim their artistry as the fame of these great mosques would go to the Sultan that commissioned them. The chief architectural designed of the Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Hassan, Muhammad ibn Bailick al-Muhseini, carved his own name hidden among the stunning carvings (see the corner, running up the side, where the vine design breaks way for Arabic lettering).


Sitting just behind the main qibla iwan is the mausoleum. It is accessed from through a doorway to the left of the mihrab. The walls of the mausoleum are inlaid with gold and silver, with ornate Arabic designs.



And with this, I wrap up my Mosque Monday series! Writing about these gorgeous sites has been a true pleasure for me as I have had the opportunity to relive these experiences that seemed so fleeting. Sadly I don’t know when I will be able to travel again given the uncertainty of the public health situation around the globe, but until I am able to get to these stunning places again, I will enjoy reveling in the travels of days past.

More to come soon! Ciao Ciao, Darlings!



Mosque Monday – Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque


Mosque Monday is a month-long series through Ramadan where I am sharing some of the beautiful mosques that I have visited.

In 2017, my younger brother spent a year living and working in India. So naturally, despite having a new baby, my husband and I were certain to find a spare week to visit him. April (despite the crushing heat) presented an opportunity as my stepson was visiting with his mother and we would only have one child to bring in tow. So, we packed our bags, brought the necessities for our 13-month-old and hopped a flight to Delhi. Although nearly 85% of Indians are Hindu, there are significant Islamic roots in India, and Islam is the second most common religion.


While we did visit the Taj Mahal while in India (which is truly spectacular), my reason for not featuring it is not because I am trying to seem more offbeat or trendy, but rather because the Taj Mahal, is not a mosque. It is, of course, a stunning vision of Islamic art, but it is a mausoleum – a beautiful tomb from an emperor to his beloved wife.

Now, while there are any number of beautiful mosques in and around Delhi, we actually visited only one during our far-too-short week in India. And even that mosque you may not even realize is a mosque when you visit because it is in ruins. Despite its ruined state, however, the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque remains truly beautiful.

qtub minar

The Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque was built in 1198 and is one of the oldest mosques in India. It was built by Qutb-ud-din Aibak, a sultan that rose to great power, a far rise from his youth as a slave in Turkey.  Qutb-ud-din Aibak took power after the death of Muhammad of Ghor, the Persian sultan of the Ghurid Empire. While Muhammad of Ghor brought Muslim conquest to India, Qutb-ud-din Aibak solidified Islam’s place in the country. While his garrison occupied Delhi under Muhammad of Ghor, Qutb-ud-din Aibak ordered the destruction of 27 Hindu and Jain temples to obtain the materials needed to the  Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque and its complex. In many instances, the stucco used to cover the Hindu carvings has worn away with time, and they stand proudly amongst the Muslim art and architecture.


Among the earliest remaining features of the The Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque and its vast complex are the pillars that were repurposed from the destroyed temples.

Next to the ruins of Quwwat-ul-Islam is the Qutub Minar, a 239 ft high victory tower inspired by Minaret of Jam in Afghanistan. The Qutub Minar is the most famous feature of the complex that is commonly know as the Qutb Minar complex, after the tower’s fame. It’s construction took place in tandem with the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, though the Qutub Minar is believed to have been a stand-alone structure, which sets it apart from many of the more traditional minarets that are a common feature of mosques. There are 379 steps inside the tower, leading to the top, which offers views of the rest of the complex. Unfortunately, visitors are no longer allowed inside, so the view and the beautiful and intricate carvings inside the tower must go unviewed.

qtub minar 2

minar in the distance

As men of power are known to do, a little over a hundred years later, a new Sultan, Alauddin Khilji set out to make a tower bigger in every respect to the Qutub Minar. Unfortunately, like many men of power so focused on size, he was unable to finish.

failed tower 2

The complex also houses a number of additional arches, monuments and tombs, including the tomb of Imam Zamin, an Islamic cleric from the 16th century. Imam Zamin was a direct descendent of Muhammad. His mausoleum was built between 1537 and 1538, and he was laid to rest in it after his death in 1539. The tomb is breathtaking, with stunning carved marble around all sides. It is a site that is visited by Muslim pilgrims to this day, some of whom we were very pleased to get to meet (and whom we only have pictures of because they requested to have pictures with us on their own phones, so we did the same). Even though we did not speak the same language, we were able to share with each other our admiration for the beautiful architecture and details surrounding us.


Similarly stunning is the tomb of Iltutmish, a Sultan of Delhi that ruled from 1211 – 1236 AD. The central chamber is a square with squinches, which suggests that the structure originally included a dome, which has since collapsed. The most stunning aspect of the tomb of Iltutmish, however, is the intricate carvings along the walls.



Rife with history and beauty (but a bit lacking in shade), the complex surrounding the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque is a site that is not to be missed if visiting Delhi.

Sabrina stroller

qtub minar 2

Be sure to check back in next Monday for my final Mosque Monday post, where I will celebrate another stunning mosque from my travels.

failed tower 1



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