St. Catherine Monastery Mosque
Egypt, Local, 4/22/2004
St. Catherine Monastery in South Sinai is the only monastery in the world to embrace a church and a mosque.
The mosque, of Fatimid origin, drew the attention of the German traveler Febri who visited Sinai in 1483 and the Swiss traveler Borkhart in 1816.
The later discovered patterns in the mosque that indicate that the mosque was completed in 1106.
A text was also found revealing that Emir Anoshtakin had ordered the building of the mosque during the reign of Abu Ali AI Mansur, the tenth of the Fatimid caliphs, who gave the mosque a six-step wooden pulpit.
During the Ayubid and Memluk ages, only little was known about the mosque through travelers hat visited the monastery.
The mosque, however, remained in use up till the 14th century AD, although it was neglected for a long time during the Ottoman age when it became a store- house for grains and fruits.
According to the manuscript preserved at the library of St Catherine, monks of the monastery used to confer in the mosque round 1508 AD. However, King Fuad provided the mosque with carpets and decorated the pulpits with green flags.
The SCA carried out a restoration process of the mosque in 1986 by means of grant from Sultan Qaboos of Oman. A budget has been allocated for the mosque for periodical maintenance.
Director of South Sinai Antiquities, Tarek Al Naggar, said that several commemorative writings were found in the mosque that were written by pilgrims on their way back from Mecca to Cairo.
The mosque is divided into six rooms by two pillars with irregular sides. Al Naggar said that the minaret of the mosque, which lies in the north- eastern side, was one of the distinguishing landmarks denoting the peculiarity of the monastery.
The minaret, he said, was the only high tower in the vicinity of the monastery until the Russian Tsar gave the monastery bells to the tower in the 17th' century as gift.
The floor of the minaret is made of wood and carried by wooden rams that extend inside the wall.
The upper part of the 12 meter high minaret is square in shape and covered by a round dome.
Al Naggar said that the minaret is very much like that of AI Gioshi Mosque in Cairo.
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