Sultan Hassan Mosque printed on Banknote

13 Jan 2021  Wed

Massive yet elegant, this grand structure is regarded as the finest piece of early Mamluk architecture in Cairo. It was built between 1356 and 1363 by Sultan Hassan who was murdered shortly before the mosque was completed.

Beyond the striking recessed entrance, a dark passage leads into a peaceful square courtyard surrounded by four soaring iwans (vaulted halls). The iwans were dedicated to teaching the four main schools of Sunni Islam. At the rear of the eastern iwan, an especially beautiful mihrab (a niche in a mosque indicating the direction of Mecca) is flanked by stolen Crusader columns. To the right, a bronze door leads to the sultan’s mausoleum.

During construction one of the minarets collapsed and killed some 300 onlookers sparking superstitious rumours that Sultan Hassan's rule was at an end. They weren't wrong. Just over a month later, he was murdered by his army commander.

Due to its tremendous height, this mosque soon became a symbol of the culmination of all the architectural power developed throughout a century of Mamluk rule. Today we are looking at a 100 Pounds banknote of Egypt issued in 2007. The obverse depicts this beautiful piece of architecture in centre-left and Islamic ornamental patterns around with legends.

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