Egypt reopens oldest Ottoman mosque after five-year restoration

The work was carried out by the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities and cost about $161,000

An archaeologist inside the restored Suleyman Pasha Al Khadim Mosque in old Cairo, Egypt, on September 16.  Reuters
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Cairo’s oldest Ottoman mosque and a prominent feature of its famed Saladin citadel was reopened on Sunday after restoration by the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

The restoration began in 2018 and cost about 5 million Egyptian pounds (just over $161,000) to complete, the ministry said.

The Suleyman Pasha Al Khadim Mosque, also known as the Sariya Mosque, is famous for its 23 green-tiled domes and a pulpit inlaid with Iznik tiles.

It is Cairo's earliest Ottoman mosque. It was built 1528 AD and registered as an Egyptian heritage site in 1951.

The restoration included strengthening and cleaning the mosque’s stone facades, its minaret and the characteristic marble cladding of its walls, the ministry said.

The mortar layers in the mosque’s domes were treated and strengthened, and its exposed courtyard was restored.

The area surrounding the mosque has also been planned for development, according to Tourism Minister Ahmed Eissa, who spoke at the reopening ceremony at the Saladin citadel on Saturday.

Restaurants, cafes and more parking areas are going to be built inside the citadel to “improve the touristic experience”, Mr Eissa said.

The citadel was built by the Muslim general Salah Al Din after he took Cairo from the Fatimids. A few years later Salah Al Din went on to conquer Jerusalem from the Crusaders.

To boost the tourism sector, one of Egypt’s most essential sources of foreign currency, the government has restored prominent Islamic sites in Cairo’s historic quarter, home to most of the city's prominent Muslim, Jewish and Coptic sites.

State spending on restorations doubled to reach $3 million during the current financial year compared to the previous year, the ministry said on Saturday.

Revenues from tickets to Egyptian heritage sites have multiplied by five times, the ministry said.

Recent restorations of the Sayeda Aisha Mosque, a prominent site in Cairo built over the 9th century former residence of a direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammed, was criticised for erasing Egyptian cultural identity.

The restoration, which was funded by the Bohras, a denomination of Shiite Islam of whom most live in India and Pakistan, were also overseen by the Armed Forces Engineering Authority and the Egyptian ministries of Awqaf and Tourism and Antiquities.

Updated: September 17, 2023, 8:12 PM