May 4, 2012

The Great Mosque of Sultan Hassan, 1857

The Great Mosque of Sultan Hassan, 1857 
William C. Prime

Mosque of Sultan Hassan
In one of our rambles about town, going up one street and down another, without heeding wither they led us, we found ourselves one day at the great entrance of the mosque of the Sultan Hassan, and dismounted to enter it. Outside the door were vendors of trifles of various sorts; a kind of old junk dealers, secondhand clothiers, and sellers of paste and imitation jewellery. Among them were vendors of Meccan curiosities sandal-wood beads, and the wood, dipped in the holy well of Hagar, which they use to clean their teeth with. All, or nearly all, the Moslems have good teeth, kept white with this wood, a small stick of which, chewed at one end, forms a soft brush, which they use till the whole is worn away.

The mosque is a grand structure, chiefly interesting from being built of the stone which was the casing of the great Pyramid of Ghizeh. It is the most imposing structure in all the Mohammedan countries I have visited, and probably the most in the Moslem world. The lofty walls surround a rectangular court, one side of which opens by a grand arch into an immense alcove, in the rear of which is the enclosed chamber around the tomb of Sultan Hassan, who was murdered and buried here. . . . On the tomb lie, as is the custom, a copy of the Koran in a strong box, and sundry old coverings of silk, that were once heavy and gorgeous. The days are past when any one lived to cover the Sultan Hassan with cashmere.

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