If you are traveling around Cairo, a must-see area is Al-Moez Street, one of the hidden beauties in the city. It is the oldest main street in Islamic Cairo, and holds several mosques established in the Fatimid era, which served as schools, hospitals and an orphanage.
The first mosque on the street is Al-Azhar Mosque, and it was built as the center of Islamic culture since it is considered as one of the first universities in the world. When visiting the temple, one can appreciate the different architectural styles shown on the interior and outer part. Dozens of men and women are constantly entering; most of them hold a notebook or a copy of the Quran on their hand, and others are already settled on the floor around the mosque as they pray, study or rest.
“Al-Azhar Mosque is really old, and for me this fantastic,” says Adriana Bitencourt, 23, a Brazilian Production Engineer student who has been on an internship in Cairo for 10 weeks. “I told my guide that my culture is only about 500 years old, and to see such an amazing building that is over 1000 years is incredible to me.”
Al-Moez continues alongside of the famous market Khana el-Khalili, which is considered the oldest bazaar in the city. Hundredths of shops selling spices, scarves, dresses, lamps, jewelry and souvenirs for every taste, guide people to the rest of the mosques and madrasas, meaning schools in Arabic.
All the mosques, including the Bersbay School, Mosque of Soliman Agah and Al Hakim Mosque, represent years of history, power and urban success. And it is interesting to discover the different architectural styles and stories in every building.
Architectural design at the Bersbay School. (Photo: Constanza Gallardo)
“My favorite mosque was the Bersbay School because it is small and colourful,” says Sujay Ps, 18, an Indian Aerospace Engineer who is also on an internship. “When I was there, people started praying together, and I got to experience one of the five prayers a day done by Muslims.”
Around noon, people enter the nearest mosque. In this case, the Bersbay School welcomes people to pray. The five prayer times are around 3 a.m, 5 a.m, 12 p.m, 3:30 p.m, 6 p.m and 8 p.m. (Photo: Constanza Gallardo)
The silence and peaceful ambient that hangs upon these places welcomes every type of person. One can walk around the rock corridors and pass by the geometric patterns on every door and ceiling; sit down underneath the shade and take in the people, the prayers, the joy and the stillness of every mosque.
Note: For women visiting Al-Moez, a long skirt and a scarf to cover the head and shoulders is needed when entering every mosque.