A bird's eye view of the Sultan Hassan Mosque and Al Rifai Mosque next door shows a series of minarets and domes with the buildings of the modern-day city right behind.

12 Most Beautiful Mosques In Egypt

Cairo is known as “the city of a thousand minarets” – and it’s packed with thousands of historic mosques that are masterpieces of Islamic architecture.

Islamic Cairo (including Moez Street) has one of the highest concentrations of architectural treasures in the Muslim world.

And cities like Alexandria and Luxor have their fair share of breathtaking mosques.

So where do you begin to explore this incredible history?

azhar park

I’m a travel writer living for over a decade in Egypt and I’ve visited dozens of different mosques across the country.

And this is my ultimate list of the most beautiful and historically significant mosques you must see in Egypt – including a few hidden gems!

1. Mosque of Muhammad Ali (Cairo)

cairo citadel guide

The grand 19th-century Mosque of Muhammad Ali is the iconic centerpiece of the Cairo Citadel. It stands on a hill overlooking the city surrounded by a medieval stone fortress built by Saladin.

This Ottoman masterpiece is definitely one of Cairo’s glitziest mosques with its lavish domed ceiling, low-hanging lanterns and intricate carvings. It’s also known as the Alabaster Mosque and has a gleaming open-air courtyard with a beautiful ablution fountain.

cairo citadel

Head to the terrace for some sweeping views of Cairo’s old minarets and towering modern-day buildings – you can even spot the pyramids on a clear day.

How to visit: The mosque is inside the Cairo Citadel, which is perched up on a hill along a busy highway. It’s largely a tourist attraction and not really a part of local everyday life. Take an Uber and they’ll drop you off at the gates. Then it’s a short uphill walk to the ticket booth.

READ MORE: Cairo Citadel: An Ultimate Local’s Guide

2. Abu Al Abbas Al Mursi Mosque (Alexandria)

Abu Al Abbas Al Mursi Mosque in Alexandria is shown white with a tall minaret and domes rising up above surrounding tall and packed apartment buildings.
(photo: @ozgomz)

Abu Al Abbas Al Mursi is the oldest and most historic mosque in Alexandria built over the tomb of a 13th-century Sufi saint.

Abu Al Abbas Al Mursi was an Andalusian sheikh who spent much of his life in Alexandria. His tomb later became a popular pilgrimage spot for Muslims heading to Mecca.

A mosque was built over the shrine in 1307 and the complex was expanded over the centuries. It was finally completed in the 1940s with renovations by a pair of Italian architects.

Abu Al Abbas Al Mursi Mosque in Alexandria is shown at street level with a tall and intricade facade with flowers and greenery on the ground in the foreground.

The interior contains gorgeous painted ceilings, columns and intricate carvings with Quranic verses. The shrine to the Sufi mystic still attracts devotees.

How to visit: This mosque stands in a large square just off the corniche, not far from the Qaitbay Citadel. It’s an easy sightseeing stop on your way to the citadel.

3. Al Azhar Mosque (Cairo)

The courtyard of the Al Azhar Mosque in Cairo has a white marble floor surrounded by columns, arches and three minarets and a dome off in the distance.

Al Azhar is a regal 10th-century mosque that’s at the heart of Islamic Cairo – and it’s the highest authority in the world for Sunni theology.

Founded in 970 AD, Al Azhar Mosque was the first Fatimid monument in the newly-established capital of Islamic Cairo.

It’s also home to Al Azhar University – the prestigious center of Sunni theology that draws in students from around the world.

Dee sits on a bench inside Al Azhar wearing a sweater, long skirt and head scarf. Behind her are rows of columns and wooden bookshelves. Blue prayer rugs are on the ground.

The sweeping courtyard is sparkling with white marble. And it’s surrounded by three minarets – including a double finial that was added on by the Mamluk Sultan Al Ghouri.

How to visit: Al Azhar is just across the street from Cairo’s famous Khan el Khalili souq and a few minutes from Moez Street. It’s an easy stop as you’re visiting Moez and definitely worth it. But keep in mind Al Azhar is a scholarly mosque so there’s no wiggle room in the dress code for tourists. Long skirts and headscarves are provided at the door.

READ MORE: Al Azhar Mosque: An Ultimate Visitor’s Guide (By A Local)

4. Abu Haggag Mosque (Luxor)

The Abu Haggag Mosque inside the Luxor Temple has a white dome and minaret and is seen with an obelisk off in the distance.
(photo: @baraimambara)

Abu Haggag is one of the world’s most unique mosques – it’s built right inside the Luxor Temple nestled in the walls of the ancient court of Ramses II.

The 13th-century mosque contains the tomb of Sheikh Abu Haggag. And it has two mud brick minarets that give a surreal compliment to the nearby Ancient Egyptian columns.

The Abu Haggag Mosque also makes Luxor Temple the oldest continuously used temples in the world. After the fall of Ancient Egypt, this corner of Luxor Temple was used by Coptic Christians before it was converted into a mosque.

The Abu Haggag Mosque inside the Luxor Temple has a white dome and minaret and is seen with an obelisk off in the distance.
(photo: @historywithted)

The interior is absolutely surreal. There are prayer mats spread out beneath short columns etched with hieroglyphs.

How to visit: You’ll spot the walls and minarets of Abu Haggag Mosque from inside Luxor Temple. To go inside, you’ll have to exit the temple and enter through the mosque doors.

5. Sultan Hassan Mosque (Cairo)

A bird's eye view of the Sultan Hassan Mosque in Cairo shows an enormous building topped with a dome and surrounded by tall minarets.

This grandiose 14th-century mosque is a stunning example of Mamluk architecture – and contains one of the most beautiful mihrabs (prayer niches) in Egypt.

Built from enormous blocks of stone (during the Black Plague, no less), its walls reach 38 metres and symbolized the might of Mamluk rule.

The splendid courtyard has a domed ablutions fountain and soaring vaulted halls on all four sides. These four corners of the courtyard lead into four madrasas, where the four Sunni Islamic schools were taught.

sultan hassan mosque cairo

A bronze door leads to the sultan’s mausoleum – though it stands empty. Sultan Hassan was assassinated before the mausoleum was finished and his body was never found.

How to visit: Sultan Hassan is near the Cairo Citadel and an easy taxi ride away. You’ll get dropped off at a large square and the ticket booth is right at the front. Your ticket to Sultan Hassan also gets you into Al Rifa’i Mosque, just next door.

READ MORE: Sultan Hassan Mosque: An Ultimate Local’s Guide

6. Al Rifa’i Mosque (Cairo)

Al-Rifai Mosque

Al-Rifai was built right alongside Sultan Hassan in an attempt by 19th-century rulers to link themselves to the Islamic glories of the past.

It was completed in 1912 and houses the royal mausoleum of Muhammad Ali’s family. It’s also the final resting place of the last Shah of Iran, who was overthrown by the Iranian Revolution and exiled in Egypt.

The doormen show you around and unlock the various mausoleums – they sometimes do Quran recitations under the domed ceilings to showcase the incredible acoustics.

The intricate arches and domes inside the Rifa'i Mosque in Cairo.

Al Rifa’i is truly majestic with soaring ceilings filled with intricately carved windows and stained glass.

How to visit: Al Rifa’i is next to Sultan Hassan. Get dropped off at a large square and walk to the booth to get your ticket to both mosques.

READ MORE: Sultan Hassan Mosque: An Ultimate Local’s Guide

7. Qalawun Complex (Cairo)

The tall minaret and dome of the Qalawun complex loom over a small sidestreet.

The Qalawun Complex is one of the major monuments of Islamic Cairo – and one of the gems along the famous Moez Street in Khan el Khalili.

This massive complex was built by a Mamluk sultan in the 13th century. And it’s incredibly rich in its scope and architecture.

It contains a hospital, madrasa and a mausoleum considered to be one of the most stunning in the world – and second only to the Taj Mahal.

qalawun mosque

But miraculously the complex only took about a year to build, thanks to the sultan’s disciplined leagues of slave labor.

How to visit: Take a taxi to the entrance of Moez Street (at Al Hakim Mosque) or to Khan el Khalili and then walk down the pedestrian-only Moez from there. The ticket booth is right in front of the complex.

8. Al Sahaba Mosque (Sharm el Sheikh)

This contemporary mosque (inaugurated in 2017) is already a Red Sea icon thanks to its bold lavish design and 76-meter minarets.

Towering above the old market in Sharm el Sheikh, the mosque gives the beach holiday crowd a chance to mix some culture to their itinerary.

Al Sahaba is a mix of Fatimid, Mamluk and Ottoman styles – and it makes a striking impression with its ornate facade and painted domes.

How to visit: The mosque welcomes tourists and has imams fluent in English and French. It’s an easy stop on your shopping trip to the souq – if you go at night, it looks beautifully illuminated.

9. Ibn Tulun Mosque (Cairo)

The mosque of Ibn Tulun in Cairo with its spiraling minaret and tall ablution fountain topped with a dome.

Ibn Tulun is Cairo’s oldest surviving mosque with a one-of-a-kind spiral minaret that you can climb for sweeping views of the old City.

It’s much older and has a completely different feel than Cairo’s grand Mamluk or Ottoman mosques. Ibn Tulun is lined with rows of geometric archways and patterns that are every photographer’s dream (art students often come here to practice drawing perspective).

ibn tulun mosque

Don’t miss the geometric patterns carved out of stucco on the undersides of the arches, the spacious courtyard and the mosque’s narrow enclosed wings (called ziyadas) that surround Ibn Tulun on all three sides.

How to visit: Take a taxi and be patient – Ibn Tulun is in a working-class neighborhood that many drivers aren’t familiar with. But it’s worth the trip and you can even take a tuktuk from Ibn Tulun to nearby Sultan Hassan Mosque.

10. Complex of Faraj ibn Barquq (Cairo)

city of the dead cairo

Faraj ibn Barquq is a beautiful mosque with a leafy courtyard in the misunderstood City of the Dead.

But it’s absolutely worth visiting – and lots of tour companies now offer walking tours around this enigmatic neighborhood (which is also great for shopping for handicrafts and seeing real Egyptian daily life).

city of the dead cairo

The guards at the complex are super friendly and will offer you a short tour and a climb up the minaret.

One of the largest monuments of the Burgi Mamluk period, the complex dates from 1400-1411. Sultan Faraj built it as a tribute to his father, Sultan Barquq. The complex marks one of Cairo’s first urban ventures into what was then a vast desert. It included baths, grain mills and water wheels.

How to visit: Take a taxi to the mosque, and then make an afternoon of it by walking down Souq Street and finishing off at the fun MASQ cultural center.

11. Al Hakim Mosque (Cairo)

Hakim Mosque

Built by a controversial caliph (who some consider insane), this 11th-century mosque has very unique minarets and a beautiful courtyard with flowing green curtains.

It’s one of my favorite mosques in Cairo with its unique architecture and quiet atmosphere.

There are shady benches in front where you can rest under orange flowered trees and watch kids playing soccer under the mosque’s walls. It’s generally less crowded here than in central Khan el Khalili.

hakim mosque cairo

Inside the mosque, there’s a rectangular open courtyard with parallel columns running on all sides draped with long and flowing green curtains. The unique minarets, built in the North African style of the Fatimids, are topped by a cylindrical body.

How to visit: Al Hakim Mosque is right at the entrance to Moez Street and makes a great starting point to your walking tour of Islamic Cairo. It’s along a busy street and easy for an Uber drop off.

12. Aqsunqur Mosque

Blue tiles fill the qibla wall of the Blue Mosque in Islamic Cairo.

Aqsunqur Mosque is beloved for the blue tiles that line its qibla wall and the breezy courtyard filled with palms and oleander.

Built in 1347 by a Mamluk emir in a Syrian architectural style, Aqsunqor is one of three blue mosques in the world.

Though its famous blue tiles were actually added centuries later by the Ottomans, who restored the mosque and decorated it with blue and green Iznik tiles from Constantinople and Damascus.

A mausoleum inside the Blue Mosque in Cairo is filled with blue tiles, a prayer niche richly ornamented and a marble tomb.

The breathtaking tiles feature floral motifs including cypress trees, carnations and vases filled with tulips.

How to visit: Aqsunqur is about a 15-minute walk from the Tentmaker’s Market. It’s in a district called Al Darb Al Ahmar, which I highly recommend if you want to see Islamic treasures but without the tourist crowds of Khan el Khalili.

Mosques in Egypt architecture

Many of the historic mosques you’ll see in Egypt are either from the FatimidMamluk or Ottoman dynasties.

Who are these dynasties – and how can you tell them apart?

The Fatimids (969-1171)

Two images show Fatimid architecture. On the left is Azhar Mosque with white columns and an ornate minaret. On the left is a painted seated figure wearing a bright shirt and a turban.

  • The Fatimid Caliphate was a Shia dynasty originating from Tunisia that spanned the Mediterranean and eventually made Egypt the center of their rule. They traced their ancestry to the prophet Muhammad’s daughter Fatima and her husband Ali, the first Shia Imam.
  • Known for their religious tolerance, they nevertheless couldn’t convince the Egyptian population to adopt their Shia beliefs.
  • Fatimid art and architecture is known for lively figurative motifs and beautiful Kufic script for Arabic inscriptions.

The Mamluks (1250-1517)

Two images show Mamluk architecture. On the left is the entrance of a Mamluk-era mosque in Cairo with a tall and ornate doorway. On the right is a Mamluk dressed in a white turban and a long red vest and puffy blue pants.

  • The Mamluk Sultanate was an ethnically diverse dynasty, mostly of Turkic origin, who first served as slave soldiers and eventually gained control of several Muslim states.
  • Known for their skills in horse riding and archery, the Mamluks were a class of slave warriors who came to rule an empire.
  • Mamluks were skilled artisans known for their carved wood and glass work, which inspired craftsmen as far away as Venice.

The Ottomans (1517-1867)

Two images show the Ottoman Empire. On the left is a series of white domes at the mosque inside the Cairo Citadel. On the right is Ottoman ruler Muhammed Ali Pasha.

  • The Ottoman Empire was created by Turkish tribes in Anatolia and rose to become one of the world’s most powerful states. They famously captured Constantinople and ruled over three continents with a well-disciplined military.
  • Ottoman architecture is known for its imperial palacesgardens and grand mosques (with their characteristic pencil-shaped minarets).

How to visit a mosque

If you’ve never visited a mosque, going inside can be kind of worrying. What should you wear? Will you interrupt prayers?

What to wear:

Women should wear a headscarf and cover their arms and legs. Men should (of course) wear a shirt and long pants.

That being said, certain mosques (like Al Azhar) have strict dress codes they enforce at all times. Others (like the Cairo Citadel) are more touristy and allow flexibility.

I’ve seen women in tank tops and shorts inside certain mosques, and women being turned away from others because their jeans were too tight. Some mosques provide scarves and long skirts for tourists who don’t have their own. Other mosques do not.

My advice is: wear a maxi skirt and pack a thin linen scarf in your bag if you’re planning to visit any non-touristy mosques. If you’re doing the regular tourist itinerary (Cairo Citadel and Sultan Hassan) then a decent shirt and pants are fine.

How to visit:

Mosques aren’t the tyrannical and somber holy places like they’re portrayed in Hollywood movies. I’ve had a friend who was actually shocked to see children playing in the Al Azhar courtyard when we visited before sunset.

That being said, avoid loud conversations so you don’t bother those who are praying or studying Quran.

Prayer times: If you’re visiting a working mosque, then wait until prayers are over to enter, If you’re already inside when prayers start, then it’s fine to stay.

When to visit: Mosques are open from the first sunrise prayer (fajr) until the after sunset prayer (isha’a). Check your mobile for those times because they are based on the sun and change throughout the year. Touristic mosques often have their own opening and closing times – check online before you visit.

During Ramadan: Mosques are open as usual all day during Ramadan – and they stay open late into the evening for special taraweeh prayers that happen after Isha’a. If you’re in Egypt during Ramadan then go and listen to some taraweeh if you can! It’s an amazing atmosphere and beautiful recitations of the Quran.

Shoes: Take your shoes off as you enter the mosque and carry them with you or leave them at the shoe locker at the entrance. Tip the mosque caregivers when you pick your shoes up again.

Make the most of it:

Read up about the mosque and its history before your visit. You’re going to enjoy your experience A LOT MORE when you actually know what you’re looking at.

If you want a readable guide to Islamic Cairo, then I recommend Islamic Monuments in Cairo: The Practical Guide by Caroline Williams. There’s no better book on Islamic architecture. And it was actually recommended to me by an architect – so you know it’s authoritative.

I love to sit down and do a few sketches whenever I visit a mosque. It helps me to slow down and appreciate the details I’d otherwise miss.

Mosques in Egypt are beautiful and quiet places that are such a welcome oasis from the surrounding traffic jams and city life.