Though not as old as many other Cairo mosques, Al-Rifa’i Mosque stands out among others for its elaborate cavernous ceilings and the fact that it serves as a mausoleum for the last Shah of Iran (who died in exile in Egypt), as well as the last reigning king of Egypt and several members of the Egyptian royal family.
Shortly after entering, visitors will find the tomb of Shaykh ‘Ali al-Refa’i, a saint and the leader in an order of dervishes, and to the left beyond that are the tombs of the ‘last-in-line.’ The area is significant for burial because the building was built atop an ancient pilgrimage site said to have healing properties. Forty-four enormous columns support Mamluk-style inlaid marble walls decorated with gold-leaf Quran verses—they form a meditative cocoon from the honks and street noise outside while sung prayers echo off the tall ceilings. Al-Rifa’i Mosque was constructed between 1869 and 1912, and its exterior was designed to mimic the adjacent 14th-century Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Hassan.
The mosque is located in Midan Al-Qalaa, the Citadel Square, and charges a 25 EGP ($3.20 USD) adult/15 EGP ($1.90 USD) student admission. You will be required to remove your shoes, so it’s best to wear socks. In order to respect the local culture, women entering the mosque should cover their ankles, knees and arms.