High atop a hill in Cairo sits an Islamic fortress, built in the 1100s to protect the city from Crusaders.

If that alone does not impress, within the fortress walls and atop the summit is the Mosque of Muhammad Ali, the Ottoman ruler over Egypt in the early 1800s. Muhammad Ali was not exactly the most benevolent ruler.  Because he did not want anyone of the previous Mamluk Sultanate to attempt to reclaim the throne, so to speak, he arranged for the execution of all males of the Mamluk clans. Nice.  Oddly enough, he was also the first ruler to institute formal education for Egyptian females.

The construction of the Alabaster Mosque was modeled after the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, and was Muhammad’s way of erasing any trace of the Mamluk. An Ottoman Hitler, perhaps.






This is the interior court of the Alabaster Mosque.

And this, the interior of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, taken on our 2013 holiday.


The interior of the Alabaster Mosque.  As with the Blue Mosque, the interior contains 365 lanterns, one of which is lit each day starting with the beginning of the Islamic New Year.

The interior of the Blue Mosque.

A final comparison, Alabaster Mosque followed by Blue Mosque.

From the terrace adjacent to the mosque one is afforded panoramic views of Cairo.

Also within the fortress is the Al-Gawhara, or Crysal Palace, built by Muhammad Ali for his wives. The palace is currently under renovation, and so we could not tour the sparkly rooms.

Within the fortress are two smaller mosques; a 16th century mosque (no longer accessible), and one remaining from the Mamluk period.



Our Egyptian history complete for the morning, the afternoon was spent with Rania on an insider’s tour of the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities and its Tutankhamen exhibits…