The Aga Khan Documentation Center at MIT is pleased to announce that a fully digitized copy of Seddik Shihab al-Din, Millenaire de la Mosquee-Universite d’el Azhar, 359 H.-1359 H. (1940). Travaux d’Urbanisme en Cette Occasion par Seddik Chihab el Dine (Le Caire: Imprimerie Nationale, Boulac, ), is available in the Archnet Digital Library.
Originally produced as the author’s graduation thesis at the Institut d’Urbanisme de Paris, the work provides a history of the district surrounding the al-Azhar Mosque (Cairo, Egypt), along with his project proposal for new developments to be constructed for the occasion of its upcoming millennial celebrations in 1940. The book includes plans and elevations for existing buildings and the proposed structures, which were never built.
The Mosque of al-Azhar was founded by Jawhar al-Siqilly, the Fatimid conqueror of Egypt, in 970 as the congregational mosque for the new city of al-Qahira. The first khutba was delivered from its minbar in 972 and a university was established there in 988.
The original structure is a hypostyle mosque, with the aisles defined by round arches on pre-Islamic marble columns with Corinthian capitals, and with the axis to the mihrab emphasized by a wide longitudinal aisle (transept), higher than the rest of the prayer hall. The other aisles are transverse, running parallel to the qibla wall. The termination of the transept at the mihrab is marked by a dome.
Among the original decorations are stucco panels and a window screen in the original qibla wall, stucco representations of a palm tree on the piers of the wall facing the original qibla wall. Also original are the stucco decorations on the inside of the northeast wall of the sanctuary, including bands of Kufic inscriptions framing windows with geometric stucco grilles, and the Kufic inscriptions and stucco carving in the hood of the mihrab. The stucco panels above it, however, belong to the restoration of Sultan Baybars I.
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