Introducing Muizz Street in Cairo and its importance is no easy feat, but I will try. Living in Cairo is like being surrounded by antiquity all the time. Ancient and medieval monuments dot every niche of this great city and thousands of minarets pierce the blue African sky. Most of these buildings are clustered within Cairo’s heart in the erstwhile walled city of Al Qahira (meaning ‘The Victorious’) and the most beautiful section is called Al Muizz street. A Muizz Street walking tour is like wandering around an open-air museum and it is one of the oldest and longest streets in Islamic Cairo. Named after the Fatimid ruler Al-Mu’izz li-Din Allah, who conquered Cairo in AD 969, Muizz Street, or Sharia Al Muizz as it is popularly known, stretches from Bab Al-Futuh in the north to Bab Zuweila in the south. The Fatimids were Shia Muslims, who sought to cement their interpretation of Islam over the lands of the Sunni Abbasid Caliphate by building a brand new Al-Qahira city. They wanted to rival the prestige of the Abbasid capital, Baghdad, and thus laid the foundations for modern Cairo. Muizz Street was Al Qahira’s grandest thoroughfare of that time and written historical anecdotes and paintings show that the busy street was chock-a-block filled with storytellers, entertainers, and food stalls. Today, though much of the Fatimid capital was destroyed by subsequent Sunni rulers, Muizz Street retained its importance. Many of the palaces, mosques and monuments that lie on the modern Muizz Street belong to the Ayyubid, Mamluk, and Ottoman rulers that controlled Egypt after the Fatimids.
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An open-air museum
Today, the Sharia Al Muizz or Muizz Street remains as busy and popular as it used to be in the days of old and offers one of the best walking tours in Cairo. This is owing to the 1997 decision of the Egyptian government to renovate the entire area and Muizz Street consists of one of Cairo’s most photogenic assemblies of minarets, domes, and striped-stone facades. Technically speaking, it is the Bein Al Qasreen section that has gained popularity as a walking tour destination and the entire length of the street has been renovated. During the daytime, it remains vehicle free from (9 am to 10 pm) and this pedestrian-friendly stretch helps the visitors enjoy the beauty of the monuments without the fear of crazy traffic, something that is otherwise impossible in Cairo.
The two sections of the Muizz Street
Muizz Street stretches about one kilometer and is divided into two sections. The northern part of the street extends from Al-Hakim Mosque in the north to the Spice Market at Al-Azhar Street. It includes the antique markets section, Al-Aqmar Mosque, the Qalawun complex, and several other well preserved medieval mansions and palaces. The southern section stretches from the Al Ghuriya complex to Bab Zuweila and includes the magnificent Tent Market or the Sharia al-
The everlasting importance
Running the length of Islamic Cairo’s central core, from Bab Al-Futuh in the north to Bab Zuweila in the south, Muizz Street is one of the most important places in Egypt’s Islamic history. Apart from the impressive monuments, it also hosts a bustling neighborhood and is home to thousands of Egyptian craftsmen creating wares to be sold in Khan Al-Khalili, which marks the midpoint of the two sections. A walk down this street is exploring the greatest density of significant Islamic monuments in today’s world. When coupled with a Khan al Khalili tour, a Muizz Street walk is an essential experience when visiting Cairo.
Ready to begin your Muizz Street walk?
Muizz Street today still contains two of the grand gates that once were entrances to the new city of Al Qahira. The gate of Bab El-Futuh is located to the north of Muizz street and consists of rounded towers containing shafts and arrow slits. The other and more well-known Bab Zweila gate lies to the south of the street. Bab Zweila is extremely photogenic and busy and has twin towers that can be accessed via a steep climb. Your walk can begin at any of the gates or from Al Azhar mosque, one of the most important mosques in the world, and end at Bab Zuweila, a medieval gate that is considered one of the most important landmarks of Cairo. Located nearby, Al-Hussein Mosque is one of the holiest Islamic sites in Cairo.
Some of the famous landmarks of Al-Muizz Street are:
- Al Aqmar Mosque – It is one of the oldest and most impressive monuments in Islamic Cairo. This is a small-sized monument in comparison to the other buildings on Muizz Street and features several unique architectural elements. For example, Al Aqmar was the first mosque in Cairo to use an offset façade, an architectural style that allows the facade to remain square to the street front, while the rest of the building sits at an angle, aligning with the qibla, the direction of prayer toward Mecca. ·
- Bayt Al Suhaymi – The Darb Al-Asfar (the Yellow Way) on which the Bayt Al-Suhaymi is located very close to Muizz Street. It was one of Al Qahira’s wealthiest streets, as well-heeled citizens of that time competed to buy property close to “the Palace Walk” or Muizz Street. Bayt Al-Suhaymi was built in the 17th century and it was one of the grandest homes in Cairo at that time. Over the years, it fell into disrepair and is at the moment under restoration.
- Qalawun Mosque – This is the most impressive complex on Muizz Street. The complex houses a mosque, a madrassa, a mausoleum, and a hospital within its walls. The exterior windows of the entire complex are inspired by the Gothic style, which Sultan Qalawun was familiar with from the Crusader church style of architecture. It is built at a place known as Bayn Al-Qasreen, or ‘Between the Two Palaces, thus named as two erstwhile Fatimid Palaces originally stood here. Like most of the Fatimid buildings in the city, these palaces were razed and built over by subsequent rulers who tried to erase the Shia dynasty influences. Qalawun complex is actually built on the foundation of one of these palaces.
- Al-Hakim Mosque – One of the largest and oldest mosques in Cairo, Al-Hakim mosque is located in the northern section just before Bab EL-Futuh. The mosque was built by the 6th Fatimid caliph Al-Hakim Bi-Amr Allah, in 990 AD and features examples of early Islamic architecture. It consists of a central open courtyard that has a maroon-coloured ablution fountain. The courtyard is surrounded by arches with a prayer hall. The northern wall of the mosque has three domes, the central one being marked as the qibla prayer hall. The mosque has two minarets standing at the outer walls of the mosque and are considered the oldest surviving minarets of all Cairo.
- Wikala of al-Ghuri – Wikala of Sultan al-Ghuri is one of the best-preserved and most impressive wakalas to be ever built in Egypt. A wikala was a commercial agency and was technically a building that housed merchants and their goods. It also served as a center for trade, storage, transactions, and other commercial activities. The Wikala of al-Ghuri was built by Sultan Qanuh al-Ghuri in 1504-1505 AD. It was a part of a larger complex that was built by the Sultan al-Ghuri. The complex consisted of his own mausoleum, a Khanqah, a sabil-Kuttab, and a mosque-Madrasa. The wikala of Al-Ghuri has a courtyard surrounded by a five-storied building. The first two stories are built in stone and distinguished by a portico of tall arches around the courtyard. The three upper floors are made of brick and marked by regular rows of windows and mashrabiyas.
- Mosque and Sabil of Soliman Agha EL-Silhedar -A landmark in Muizz Street, the mosque of Soliman Agha El-Silehdar was built in 1839 by the Soliman Agha El-Silehdar, who was a lieutenant in the court of Mohammed Ali. Featuring a mix of Ottoman and the prevailing local style, this mosque is divided into two large squares. The western corner contains the mosque’s courtyard. The courtyard is concealed by four corridors covered with beautiful small domes based on marble pillars. Each dome is adorned with multi-coloured carvings, architectural drawings, and Quranic inscriptions. This mosque is distinguished by its tall and thin pencil-like minaret. A Kuttab is located next to the entrance of the mosque. It is a balustrade for reciting the Holy Quran. Next to the Kuttab lies a sabil. A Sabil is a place that offers water to the public.
P.S – This blog post is part of the weekly series called the Cairo Chronicles. Every week, Maverickbird will try to focus on a new theme, emotion, and beauty of expat life in the exciting, maddening city of Cairo.
Follow the rest of the Egypt series here
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- MOSQUE-OF-AL-REFAIE IN CAIRO
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- CAIRO FOOD TOUR
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- MAGNIFICENT QALAWUN COMPLEX
- AMAZING SAQQARA PYRAMIDS
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RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE