Al Azhar is one of Cairo's older mosques, built in AD 97, and is regarded as the top theological authority for Egyptian Muslims. It has served as Egypt's official Friday prayer (jummah) mosque for many years.
It is the second-oldest university in the world and the oldest degree-granting institution in Egypt. It is also known as the most prestigious institution of higher learning for Islamic studies. Al-Azhar is in charge of a national network of schools with about two million students in addition to higher education.
Although the main institution has since relocated to other structures, the mosque continues to be one of the world's foremost centres of Islamic learning, drawing students from all across the Muslim world.
- Al Azhar translates to 'the most luminous mosque' in Arabic, which is a beautiful phrase in and of itself. Additionally, according to certain narrations, the Prophet Muhammad's daughter Fatma Al Zahra served as inspiration for the mosque's name. The world's most significant centre of Islamic theology and scholarship was established by the Fatimids in 970 AD as a mosque with dual religious and educational purposes.
- The Al-Azhar Mosque covers 12,000 square metres. More than 380 gorgeous marble columns with crowns imported from ancient Egyptian temples can be found in the mosque.
- Three porticos made up the Al Azhar Mosque's original design at that time. The largest of these porticos was known as 'Al Qibla,' and there were two more on the other two sides. Al Azhar Mosque's current location is roughly twice as large as the original location where it was first built. To enhance the area's splendour, new porticos, minarets, schools, and niches have been constructed. Al Azhar Mosque thus serves as a kind of museum to display the exquisiteness of Islamic architecture and how it has greatly influenced Egyptian history and culture.
- Additionally, it is the origin of the black graduation gowns. The elaborate robes worn by Islamic scholars 'graduating' from Al-Azhar appear to have served as inspiration for the attire worn by students around the world on their graduation.
- The structure has two madrassas, or religious schools, in addition to the stunning centre court made of white marble that goes back to when the mosque was first built. Lessons in Arabic and Koranic interpretation are still offered here, but before Azhar University expanded and predominantly moved to a second campus in the north of the city, students used to meet with instructors in the main courtyard.
- The five minarets' various architectural motifs serve as a reminder of the various dynasties that ruled Al-Azhar.