1356-1363 AD King Sultan Hassan - Cairo, Egypt

1356-1363 AD King Sultan Hassan - Cairo, Egypt

When thinking about the origin of the S, our imagination is often lost amongst the ancient world. We imagine long lost Hieroglyphics etched into pyramid walls, or cave paintings telling a story we could never believe. But more recently our dreams have become a reality. Introducing - Sultan Hasan.


The Mosque and Madrasa of Sultan Hasan is one of the largest and architecturally exquisite mosques in all of Egypt. It was commissioned by the Mamluk Sultan Hasan ibn al-Nasir Muhammad ibn Qalawun sometime between 757 AH/1356 AD and 764 AH/1362 AD, and is located opposite its nineteenth century neighbor al-Rifa’i mosque in Salah al-Din Square.

Sultan Hassan Mosque Cairo Egypt The S Thing Tile Work

Sultan Hassan Mosque Cairo Egypt The S Thing Tile Work



The mosque was considered remarkable for its massive size and innovative architectural components, and is still considered one of the most impressive historic monuments in Cairo today.

 

Sultan Hassan Mosque Cairo Egypt The S Thing Tile Work


The mosque consists of an open courtyard with a beautiful fountain in its centre. The courtyard is surrounded by four iwans (a rectangular space that is open on one side). Doorways at the four corners of the courtyard allow access into four madrasas, educational institutions, where the four Sunni schools of Islamic jurisprudence were taught.


It is within this open courtyard, where we see the S symbol used in the tile work on the flooring. We looked to tripadvisor to find authentic photos from tourists within this sacred area and have included them here. 

Sultan Hassan Mosque Cairo Egypt S Thing Tile WorkSultan Hassan Mosque Cairo Egypt The S Thing Tile WorkSultan Hassan Mosque Cairo Egypt S Thing Tile WorkSultan Hassan Mosque Cairo Egypt S Thing Tile WorkSultan Hassan Mosque Cairo Egypt The S Thing Tile Work

 

The second location where we found the S, was alongside the outside perimeter of the mosque. This is the most striking resemblance to the modern day S. On a slanting stairway leading to the entrance is a clear and obvious 'S' motif. And it's massive. 

 

Sultan Hassan Mosque Cairo Egypt The S Thing Tile WorkSultan Hassan Mosque Cairo Egypt The S Thing Tile WorkSultan Hassan Mosque Cairo Egypt The S Thing Tile Work

Like most Islamic monuments in Cairo, this one has also undergone several phases of reconstruction, up until the twentieth century. The mosque and madrasa are distinguished with the ornate domes, stone and plaster carved decorations, as well as the marble works of the mihrab.​

Where these tileworks part of a more modern reconstruction or were they original? Historical images below from photographer Francis Firth from 1850-1870 may suggest the mosque has simpler brick work around the main fountain which would also suggest an even lower grade expected outside the mosque. 

 

Bernard O'Kane The S Thing Sultan Hassan

Bernard O'Kane

 

We headed to Youtube to find a highly insightful video tour of the Mosque by the Professor of Islamic Art and Architecture at The American University in Cairo - Bernard O'Kane. We reached out to Bernard who kindly and quickly responded. (Thank You Bernard) 

When asked about the S tile work inside and out Bernard responded: 

''The outside tiles were installed after the roadway was paved over in the early 1990s, approximately.

Those in the inner courtyard have been repaired many times, but there's a chance that they reflect the original pattern of 1356.'' 

We will continue to investigate this spectacular find and report back on any new evidence. One day soon we will visit the location to investigate for our own eyes. Please let us know what you think in the comments. 
 

Sultan Hassan Mosque Cairo Egypt The S Thing Tile WorkSultan Hassan Mosque Cairo Egypt The S Thing Tile WorkSultan Hassan Mosque Cairo Egypt The S Thing Tile WorkSultan Hassan Mosque Cairo Egypt The S Thing Tile Work

This is an active investigation and we welcome any and all contributions. 

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