The Mosque in Luxor Temple
Ayman Wahby Taher tells a story of destruction, discovery and conservation.
In the last issue of AE , we included a few pages on the recent changes in and around the Temple of Luxor. We mentioned the mosque of Abu’l Hagag, situated within the temple, with photos. of its interior, which Editor Bob Partridge visited for the first time in April. He was fascinated to see the ancient column capitals and lintels, plastered over and forming part of the integral structure of the mosque. In June, a fire almost destroyed this famous mosque. I am sure readers will greet the news with some sadness as they may have visited and admired the mosque as well as Luxor temple. I had the opportunity to visit it recently, following discussions with my friends, past colleagues and Mansour Boriak from the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA). After the fire, the SCA agreed to take over the mosque as an official Islamic Monument and carry out investigations to see what can be done, as the building was originally part of Luxor temple. Some exploratory work has been done by the SCA and plasterwork has been removed by specialists. Many inscribed blocks, lintels (one is fifteen metres
long) and columns have been revealed, nearly all dating to the reign of Rameses II. I was given the opportunity to make translations of what I think are the most important inscriptions, which have survived so many years and the fire. The mosque was named after Sheikh Yusuf Al Haggag who lived and preached for many years in Luxor before dying there in 1245 AD. He was born in Damascus around 1150 AD, and moved to Mecca in his forties before finally settling in Egypt. Many of his descendants still live in the area. The mosque was constructed by the son of Abu Al Haggag about thirteen years after his father’s death and was dedicated to him as a ‘Father of the Pilgrimage’. His grave and that of his student are in the mosque. The tradition of celebrating the birthday of local saints or holy persons is strong in the Luxor area, and every year in November the famous Moulid of Abu Al Haggag takes place. Many readers may have been in Luxor when this festival occurs. Giant floats move through the densely-packed streets. The parading of a large boat (sometimes three boats) is often compared to
Above left: the entrance to the mosque. Above right: one of the plastered-over column capitals.
Below: views of the grave of Sheikh Yusef Al Haggag (left) and the main area of the mosque (right) with the mirhab, or prayer niche, marking the direction of Mecca. Photos: RP.
ANCIENTEGYPTDecember 2007/January 2008