The Al Rifa’i Mosque is also known as the Royal Mosque, as it houses the tombs of many members of the royal family. It is located next to the Citadel of Saladin and is an imposing temple for its size and great beauty. Its construction took more than 40 years, between 1869 and 1912, and the result is a building of incomparable aesthetics and that is very strongly linked to the history of Cairo, so your visit is a must if you want to know the city in all its dimensions.


The original plan to devise this new mosque was part of an ambitious campaign by Egypt’s rulers in the 19th century. They sought to relate directly to the glory of earlier periods of Egypt’s Islamic history and, in addition, to make it a symbol of the city’s modernization. In other words, to combine Islamic tradition with urban innovation, so that in addition to the construction of the mosque, two large public squares and several European-style boulevards were built.

The first phase of the mosque’s construction period was commissioned by Khushyar Hanim, Ismail Pasha’s mother, with the idea of replacing the pre-existing zawiya of the medieval Islamic saint Ahmed al-Rifa’i. Zawiya was the name given to pilgrimage sites for Muslims who believed that the tomb had mystical healing properties. Khushayer’s plan had two objectives: to generate a house-like structure to store the relics of Sufism and to build a mausoleum for the royal family of Egypt. But as the years, rulers and architects passed, the purposes changed.

The first architect of the Al Rifa’i Mosque was Hussein Fahri Pasha, who died during the first phase of construction. The patron of the project also died during the first phase, in 1885, so the work had to stop and only resumed in 1905 by order of Abbas II of Egypt, who would lead the completion of the project and under the supervision of the Hungarian architect Max Herz, then head of the Committee for the Preservation of Arab Monuments in Egypt. Cairo. In 1909 the minarets were completed, in 1911 the details of the mosque were completed and in 1912 it was opened to the public for visits and religious worship.

Architectural details of the mosque

  • A huge rectangular floor plan. Upon entering the Al Rifa’i Mosque the first thing that strikes the visitor is its huge rectangular floor plan measuring over 1700 square meters and divided into three naves arranged around a beautiful dome.
  • The prayer sector. Special attention has been paid to the area dedicated to Muslim prayer, which is undoubtedly the main part of the mosque, all covered with beautiful carpets and with a very particular mix of styles.
  • The tombs of the royal family. It is unusual for Muslim religious buildings to function as cemeteries for prominent personalities. That is also why the Al Rifa’i Mosque is so special. The most prominent members of the Egyptian royal family who are buried in Al Rifa’i Mosque are Khushyar Hanim and his son Ismail Pasha, King Fuad I, Princess Fadia, Abu Shebak (son of Al-Rifai) and King Faruq, the last king of Egypt.
  • The detail of the mosque walls. Another architectural highlight of the Al Rifa’i Mosque is the walls covered with stucco and marble and pierced with elaborate arabesque ornaments with scholarly tracery.

Rules for entering the mosque

  • Cover your shoulders, legs and knees. You should avoid wearing skirts or shorts and tank tops.
  • You cannot enter with alcoholic beverages of any kind because they are forbidden by the Muslim creed and may be taken as an offense to the temple.
  • You must remove your shoes when you enter. He has foresight and puts some socks in his bag so that he can enter the mosque.

How to get to the Al Rifa’i Mosque

It is located next to the Sultan Hassan Mosque and the two are usually visited together, most of the time within a tour that includes other points of interest of the Saladin Citadel such as the Alabaster Mosque.

The most comfortable way to go is by cab or private car from your hotel, with the price previously agreed upon. Many excursions to the Saladin Citadel include transfer to and from the Citadel.


The Al Rifa’i Mosque is open daily from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm.

Visit prices

The Al Rifa’i Mosque is visited together with the Sultan Hassan Mosque, so you have to buy a combined ticket which costs 60 EGP for adults and 30 EGP for accredited students.

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