CAIRO – Amid the clutter and energy of Cairo’s old city, a restoration team from Egypt’s ministry of antiquities worked on Sunday in the quiet halls of the 12th-century Mosque of Amir Altinbugha al-Maridani.
The ongoing preservation effort at the mosque is part of a collaboration between the Egyptian government, the European Union and the Aga Khan foundation, a nonprofit development organization.
Scaffolds reached to the ceiling as white-coated specialists wearing gloves and masks carefully cleaned years of dust from the mosque’s marble columns and stone arches.
Others labored to restore intricately-painted blue and gold calligraphy on the walls and to clean the metal bars on the exterior windows, under the supervision of curious children from the neighborhood.
The al-Maridani Mosque was built in AD 1340 just outside the city wall near Zuweila Gate and is considered one of the most beautiful mosques in Old Cairo.
But the mosque fell into disrepair due to its location in the middle of a still-active urban area as well as damage from sewer water.
Like many mosques in the old city, al-Maridani does not have a perfectly rectangular floor plan, as it was built to fit into the existing streets and alleys of the time.
Although the most ancient civilization known to have lived near what is now Cairo dates back over 5,000 years, the Islamic era medieval city was founded in AD 969 as a royal enclosure and developed over the centuries into a prosperous center for trade.