Game’at Al-Azhar al-Sharif
Al-Azhar University in Cairo is one of the oldest operating universities in the world. The Islamic university is connected to the beautiful and historic Al-Azhar Mosque.
The mosque and university are named in honor of Fatima Az-Zahraa, the daughter of Muhammad, from whom the Fatimid Dynasty claimed descent.
The mosque was built in two years beginning in 971 AD. The school of theology (madrassa) connected with it was founded in 988 as an Ismaili Shia school, but it later became a Sunni school, which it remains to this day. It claims to be the oldest Islamic university in the world, but this is disputed by the Kairaouine Mosque in Fes, Morocco.
The Al-Azhar Mosque is a grand structure that reflects many centuries of styles. Entrance is through the 15th-century Barber’s Gate, where students traditionally had their heads shaved.
This leads into a great courtyard (sahn), which dates from the 10th century and is overlooked by three stately minarets. The courtyard’s white facade, accented by rosettes and keel-arched panels, is mostly from the Fatimid period.
The latticework-screened residential quarters of the madrassas on the right side date from the Mamluk period. These are rarely open to visitors, but tourists may enter the prayer hall, which is warmly carpeted and supported by alabaster pillars.
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