In 640 AD the general Amr Ibn Al-Aas led the army of the Islamic Rashidi Caliphate in Africa. The general and his army arrived in the present Cairo area with the intention of attacking the fort of Babylon along the banks of the Nile. Stationed north of the fortress, the Muslim army began the siege.
Legend has it that while the army was organizing its garrison, a dove made its nest on the general's tent. After conquering the fort of Babylon, the victors prepared the march to Alexandria, the capital of Egypt during the Greco-Roman period, but the general ordered not to withdraw his tent, considering the nest as a sign of divine will.
The Muslim army conquered Alexandria, establishing control over the whole of Egypt, but by order of Caliph Umar a site closer to Medina should have been chosen to found the capital.
In what he considered a divine sign, Amr Ibn Al-Aas had a mosque built in the same place where his tent had been pitched, which later became the center of the new Muslim capital in Egypt, Fustat. This mosque, founded in 642 AD. C., and which was given the name of the general, was the first mosque on the African continent.
The mosque of Amr Ibn Al-Aas was originally built with palm trunks, mud bricks and palm leaves for the roof, as a result there is no trace of the original structure, which has been rebuilt several times since the 7th century.
The first colonnades were erected in 827, giving the structure a permanent form from which the rest of the building then developed. Currently only a small number of these original lintels remain standing and can be seen walking along the southern wall of the mosque, whose most recent reconstruction dates back to 1875.
Although most of the original structure has been replaced during the various reconstructions, the primeval significance of the mosque as the first settlement of the Muslim religion in Egypt and the first mosque in Africa remains the main reason for visiting. It is easily accessible due to its location in Old Cairo, near the Mar Girgis metro station and Cairo Coopto.
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