Al-Moez Street is a priceless gem and a true treasure that the Islamic world has left. In this article, we will walk through time to see the changes that has happened to this great thoroughfare. To clarify, we will showcase the state of Al-Moez Street during medieval times and our contemporary ones. Therefore, through a profusion of pictures and paintings we will experience these changes. So, close your eyes, take a deep breath and get ready to soar to the past.
Firstly, Al-Moez Street got its name after the first Fatimid Caliph in Egypt, Al-Moez Li-Din Allah. Above all, the street intended to be the main street through the Fatimid’s grand city. In the plan of Al Qahira, the street’s design was to run between Bab Al-Futuh in the north to Bab Zuweila in the south.
Urban Fabric … then and now
Certainly, El-Moez is a prototype of the Islamic urban planning of cities. Islamic cities’ design was to divide the city into haras حاره (districts). Each one named after a central street called darb. Within each hara there were several narrow streets called ‘atafs, with dead ended alleyways named zuqaqs. Consequently, the result of this network was a compact and continuous layout of buildings. The urban fabric of the street represented the social and values of the Islamic city. That is to say, the tightly-knit urban fabric created a sense of community that was maintained through compact and highly dense neighborhoods. Now El-Moez Street still sustained its urban fabric. For instance, you can practically feel this sense of community once you go there and move around its human scale buildings and closely attached structures.
Architecture … then and now
The area around the historic Al-Moez Street and the main street hosts several historical buildings spanning from various eras. From Amr Ibn El-As over the Tulunid, Fatimid, Ayyubid, Mamluk and Ottoman periods to Muhammad Ali’s era. A United Nations study discovered that the street hosts the greatest collection of medieval architectural treasures in the Islamic world. So, now the street is celebrated as an open-air museum and a collection of architectural masterpieces that serve different purposes. To name a few, one would say: Al-Hakim mosque (religious building), Bayt El-Suhaimy (a residential house). In addition to Hamam Inal (public bath), Mosque-Sabil-Kuttab of Sulayman Agha al-Silahdar (complex of a religious, charity and educational building). Moreover, Qalawun mosque, Ghuri complex and Sabil-Kuttab of Katkhuda. Here is a visual experience of Mosque-Madrasa of Sultan Barquq as perceived now.
Activities … then and now
By the fourteenth century El-Moez Street became the qasaba or the religious, educational, commercial lifeline in the whole city. So, it was home to prominent mosques, charitable Sabil-kutabs and crowded Wikalas. Consequently, These different buildings created different types of socio-cultural activities. The street was full of life and represented almost all shades of civic life. From praying and education to commerce and leisure, El-Moez was a destination for all these. However, today, it is home for history and culture. It hosts unique architecture and presents diverse cultural and commercial activities as festivals, art tours and touristic visits. On the other hand, some of the old commercial activities are on going, yet the street is now regarded as touristic destination rather than an everyday one.
Al-Moez Street much more than a mere street
To conclude, El-Moez Street is a patron of urbanism, architecture and art. It holds so much history deep within its soul that it is impossible to express in just one article. In addition to history, the street also bears many shades of culture found throughout the ages. It is the most simple yet the most sophisticated representation of life in Egypt, then and now.
We encourage you to check the full report of the UNESCO on the conservation of Old Cairo. If you’re interested to know more about urban treasures in Egypt, check Al-Azhar park and the revival of Al-Darb Al-Ahmar.