While it can look a little like a fortress from outside, the Ibn Tulun Mosque is a tranquil space. As you stroll the shady arcades around the open prayer area, it’s easy to see how the pointed arches here influenced European architecture. The best way to appreciate the mosque’s elegant simplicity is to climb the minaret and see it from above. You might need to pay a donation to the caretaker to ascend, though guides on Islamic Cairo tours will arrange this for you.
Things to know before you go
- The Ibn Tulun Mosque is a must for anyone with an interest in architecture. It’s a great choice for photographers, too.
- There’s no charge to visit the Ibn Tulun Mosque but donations are appreciated and may be requested.
- As always with mosques, dress modestly (covering shoulders, upper arms, and legs) and remove shoes before entering. Women should also cover their hair.
- Much of the mosque is wheelchair-accessible, although the minaret can only be scaled by winding stairs.
How to get there
The Ibn Tulun Mosque sits in Islamic Cairo, about a 1-mile (1.5-kilometer) walk west of the Cairo Citadel and around 2 miles (3 kilometers) southeast of Tahrir Square. It’s about a 1-mile (1.5-kilometer) walk from El Sayeda Zeinab metro station (Line 1) but many travelers prefer to beat the heat with a private driver or organized tour.
When to get there
The mosque is usually open from morning to mid-afternoon throughout the week, but it’s reserved for worshippers during Friday prayers, which fall around lunchtime. Visit during the Egyptian working week (Sunday through Thursday) for a more tranquil experience.
Islamic Cairo’s Must-See Mosques
Cairo is sometimes known as “the city of a thousand minarets” and it can be hard to pick which mosques to explore. The Mosque of Ibn Tulun is a masterpiece of early Islamic architecture; The Sultan Hassan Mosque and Madrassa—about a 0.5-mile (0.8-kilometer) walk from Ibn Tulun—is a marvellous example of 14th-century building styles. Further on, up in the Cairo Citadel, the 19th-century Alabaster Mosque (formally the Mosque of Muhammad Ali) dominates the city skyline.
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