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Al Salih Talai Mosque ( 555 A.H. / 1160 A.D. )

The mosque was found by al-malik Al Salih Talai ebn Ruzzik in 555 A.H. / 1160 A.D. it’s located outside Bab-Zuwala, & was intended to be as the burial place for the head of AL – Hussian the grand son of prophet Mohamed when the mashhad in Askalon was feared to be destroyed by attacks of the crusaders, but the Fatimid caliph insisted that the head should be buried in prosperous places, & it was actually buried in the place where the Hussain mashhad is presently located. The mosque was demolished except for the qibla riwaq & was rebuild according to it’s original Fatimid style.

The plan of the mosque is rectangle 29.00 x 53.00m with a total area of 1537.00 m. sq.
It consists of a square open yard surrounded by four riwaqs, the largest of which is the qibla riwaq. The mosque considered the earliest remaining architectural model of the elevated mosques ( those which rise above the street level & whose ground floor is occupied by shops). The southeast side contains the qibla riwaq & it consists of rectangular area containing three arcades the largest of which is the qibla arcade each of this arcades consists of seven pointed arches whose voussoirs are encircled with kufic inscriptions & their spandrels contain ornamented medallions. At the top point of the arch is a rectangular stucco window with engraved decorations. The mihrab, which is composed of a circular niche free from decorations except the hood, is at the center of the qibla riwaq which also contain a wooden minbar installed by prince Baktamur in 696 A.H. / 1299 A.D.

The mosque has three entrance, the main one is a deep recess & is placed on the main axis of the rectangle on the north west facade opposite of which is a riwaq enclosed between two rooms with the two secondary entrances leading to the mosque directly by passing through the side riwaqs on axis with the two side facades but not with the yard. The minaret does no longer exist, but sources point out to another minaret which is on top of the entrance door. In lieu another one was built which also fell during the earthquake in 702 A.H. / 1302 A.D. followed by a recent one that was removed in 1862 A.D. due to structural defect. The internal walls of the mosque are covered with a coat of plaster with decorations distinguished for their geometrical elements & a group of floriated kufic inscriptions, containing Quranic verses & a group of round medallions of different forms.

The external facades of the mosque are developed recalling al –Aqmar mosque’s facade, by opening the entrance in the center of the northwest facade preceded by riwaq overlooking the street through five arches supported on round marble columns, & at it’s lower part are six shops. The southwest facade has at the center a protruding entrance with seven shops on it’s right & five on it’s left. The external walls of the mosque are built of limestone, but red bricks, available locally, are used for the internal walls which is convenient for climatic conditions. Wood is also used for roofing, in the shape of compartments supported on two or four centered arches. Building materials are used naturally, with the method of construction clearly indicated in the external facade.

In sum the mosque is distinguished for being a physical example of integrating religious & commercial activities & is a portrayal of the Islamic theory of non-separation of daily life from religion.