The Royal House of Mehmet Ali
La Maison Royale de Mehmet Ali
Cairo, Egypt

HRH Princess Fevziye was the latest member of the Royal Family to be buried in the royal chantry of the Mosque beside her grandfather's mother Feriyal Hanimefendi.
The Royal Mosque Al Rifai in Cairo stands opposite the grand Mosque of Sultan Hasan as an exhibit of the Khedival family's ability to measure up to the achievements of the Memluks. Not only did it mark a new era in the history of Egyptian architecture since it was the first major structure designed with the neo-Memluk style, but also, it was a bold statement in rejecting the foreign architectural forms especially those imported from Europe and Turkey.

In 1869, Mimar Huseyin Fehmi Pasa (educated in France in 1840 as part of Mehmet Ali's fifth and largest educational mission) was commissioned by Her Highness Husiyar Hanimefendi, mother of the Khedive Ismail, to replace the zeviye of Rifai and its revered mausolea with a dynastic Mosque that would house, in addition to the Sufi relics, the tombs of the royal family. However, he died during the first phase of construction, which came to a complete halt shortly after the abdication of Khedive Ismail in 1880. Construction resumed in 1905 upon the orders of II. Abbas Hilmi, who entrusted Max Herz Bey, the Austro-Hungarian architect in charge of the Committee for the Conservation of Arab Monuments in Cairo, to complete the Mosque. Herz was aided by the Italian architect Carlo Virgilio Silvagni. Finally, it was completed in 1912, more than forty years after its initial commission.

This Mosque represents a turning point in the cultural and political history of Egypt. It looks onto straight boulevards and open squares, two aspects of European city planning introduced during the reign of Mehmet Ali and his successors, who sought to transform Egypt's traditional society into a cosmopolitan one. Designed as a free-standing monument, the Mosque responds to its site by presenting four fully articulated facades in addition to a highly decorated, neo-Memluk-style dome and minaret.

The Mosque is an architectural expression of the Royal Family's inception of national symbols. It's association with the Memluk legacy is manifested by its remarkable emulation of the massing, use of material, color, and details of the adjacent Mosque of Sultan Hasan. Its integration in the urban context of a popular zeviye is a clear indication of the dynasty's desire to appeal to popular support in the face of increasing British control at that time.

It's axiality and abandonment of intricate Memluk spatial configurations in favor of a rational plan clearly reflect the architect's preoccupation with the 19th century Beaux-Arts classical revival. The mihrab is decorated with thin marble inlays, incrusted with mother-of-pearl. Most of these materials were imported from Europe. The minbar and the lectern for the Koran are made of pieces of Indian wood alternating with incrustations in ivory, ebony and mother-of-pearl.

The building covers an area of 1767 square meters. It is flanked by four massive columns on which the pointed arches which divide the mosque into three porticoes stand. Two marble columns, one white and the other dark green, stand at the sides of the great dome.