Saturday, May 11, 2024

Kodak Agfa presents : Cairo’s Al-Sayeda Zeinab Mosque and Shrine during Renovations

A very short break and escape from a war that will be our Karbala moment as a nation and on the eve of the re-inauguration of Al-Sayeda Zeinab Mosque and Shrine after a major renovation, I would like to share with you a couple of photos I took earlier this year to the Mosque while it was still being renovated.

On Sunday, it is expected that the Mosque will be re-inaugurated by the current Sultan of Bohras Mufaddal Saifuddin and Egyptian officials above them expectedly President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.

El-Sayeda Zeinab Mosque and shrine during renovations in Cairo ترميمات مسجد و ضريح السيدة زيبن بالقاهرة
Al-Sayeda Zeinab Mosque's entrance from Al-Sadd Street in Cairo

The Indian spiritual leader of the Shia sect arrived in Cairo on Saturday and met with El-Sisi.

I think that he made a new record number of visits to Egypt in the past few years that no other Sultan of the Ismaili branch of Shia Islam had made in the past.

The Dawoodi Bohra Shiites are funding the whole renovation process of the mosques and shrines Ahl Al-Beit or Prophet Mohamed (PBUH) Family in Egypt especially in Cairo.

Al-Sayeda Zeinab or Lady Zeinab is Prophet Mohamed’s granddaughter. It is widely believed in Egypt that she came to Cairo in 61 Hijri (680 AD) and lived there till her death. Lady Zeinab was buried in a place that was once part of the Egyptian Gulf.

Lady Zeinab is a holy symbol for Shias as well as the Sunnis, especially Egyptians “We are the Shiaa of the Sunni”.

One of the oldest photos taken in the 19th century of El-Sayeda Zeinab
Mosque in Cairo

Again, I won’t enter the debate about whether Lady Zeinab Peace Upon Her was buried in Cairo or in Damascus but the oldest mention of the mosque as a shrine for the Prophet Mohamed’s Granddaughter or “Mashhad al-Sayyida Zainab” was found in the 4th century Hijri (10th century) chronicles of Andalusian traveller “Al-Fassi” to Egypt during then.

It was later mentioned in subsequent eras including the Fatimids and Ayyubid eras.

It was also mentioned in the 16th century Ottoman records that speaking about the renovation works.

Cairo's Al-Sayeda Zeinab Mosque in 1863
One of the oldest photos taken for Al-Sayeda Zeinab Mosque in 1863
before the later renovations that would change its Ottoman facade. 

Revered along with her brother the Master of Martyrs Al-Hussein, Lady Zeinab is considered the Islamic Saint Patron of not only Cairo but Egypt itself. According to some anthropolinguistic explanation, Egyptians had Isis then the Virgin Mary then Lady Zeinab to revere.

Anyhow here are the photos of the great Mosque and Shrine of the Great Lady of Cairo who is labelled “The Head of Diwan” or the “President of the Diwan”.

I snapped those shots while visiting the El-Sayeda Zeinab Ramadan Market. During Ramadan, the Mosque was unofficially inaugurated for visitors.

There were already before and after differences from the outside.

The first difference you will notice is the dome.

El-Sayeda Zeinab Mosque and shrine during renovations in Cairo ترميمات مسجد و ضريح السيدة زيبن بالقاهرة
The Silver Gold Dome of Al-Sayeda Zeinab Mosque
can be seen from far away now

The once-stone dome of the mosque is now adorned with mixed silver gold.

El-Sayeda Zeinab Mosque and shrine during renovations in Cairo ترميمات مسجد و ضريح السيدة زينب بالقاهرة
The dome from another angle 

Here it is how it looked like in the past.

Egypt's El-Sayida Zeinab Mosque
It was normal stone dome
A closer look

Egypt's El-Sayida Zeinab Mosque
That was from a very close point from the car to be honest 

The second difference is that a second entrance was added to the mosque on El-Sadd Street.

El-Sayeda Zeinab Mosque and shrine during renovations in Cairo ترميمات مسجد و ضريح السيدة زيبن بالقاهرة
The new entrance from El-Sadd street 

Here is how it looked in the past.

Egypt's El-Sayida Zeinab Mosque
The old small door at 

This is reportedly the biggest renovation process the old Mosque and shrine has undergone since 2005. It is carried by the Arab Contractors. Here is a glimpse of the renovations inside.

According to the Arab Contractors’ official website, the renovations included all the archaeological elements, refurbishing facades, decorations, inscriptions, stained glass (both interior and exterior), the dome, minaret, plaster windows, dikkat al-muballigh (a raised area from which prayers are reiterated to worshippers), Sheikh Al-Shaarawy's chair, wooden doors, silver and brass accessories, as well as rooms for scholars, sanitary facilities, bathrooms, and the construction of a new entrance 18 meters high overlooking Sadd Street.

El-Sayeda Zeinab Mosque and shrine during renovations in Cairo ترميمات مسجد و ضريح السيدة زينب بالقاهرة

The Mosque underwent several renovations above them in 1940 and in 1969. The 1969 as well as 1978 renovations were also funded by Dawoodi Bohras.

Now the Arab Contractors did not mention that the silver used in the shrine renovations reached over 3.2 tons of pure silver with the highest purity percentage of up to 99.99%, while the weight of gold used amounts to 16 kilograms of 24-carat gold according to sources inside the Ministry of Religious Endowment that spoke to Egyptian media.

It's unlikely that Lady Zeinab herself, along with the rest of the Ahl-Beit peace upon them, would approve of adorning her shrine with silver and gold while millions of Muslims are facing hunger akin to famine in Gaza or Sudan.

Anyone familiar with the biographies of Imam Hussein, Lady Zeinab, or Lady Nafisa knows that these revered figures, like devout believers, did not seek or indulge in luxury during their lives.

Needless to say, we can’t ignore the other side of the Ahl-Beit Mosques and shrine renovations.

El-Sayeda Zeinab Mosque and shrine during renovations in Cairo ترميمات مسجد و ضريح السيدة زيبن بالقاهرة

Many experts, historians and architectural renovations experts have issues with those renovations that are not supervised by the Ministry of Tourism

For two years Egyptians raised concerns remarks about Al-Hussein Mosque, Al-Sayida Nafissa and other mosques and their super lux renovations that killed the antiquity soul of those Mosques erasing the Egyptian architectural style and making them a replica of the Shiite Al-Najaf Al-Ashraf’s Mosques.

Historically, Al-Sayeda Zeinab Mosque and Shrine was officially registered as an Egyptian Islamic monument in the official Egyptian antiquities registry only in January 2017.

I know that Egypt is the birthplace of Bohras and there are more between Egypt and Dawoodi Bohras but I hope they take in consideration the concerns of the experts from the Egyptian people.

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