The Largest Restoration Process in the History of Al-Azhar

In September 2014, it was brought to the attention of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud that Al-Azhar (the mosque and its educational institutions) is in urgent need of comprehensive restoration, based on extensive technical reports by UNESCO experts. Thus, His Majesty ordered conducting an immediate study for the project and gave direct instructions to his assistants to visit Al-Azhar, determine its needs and start restoration works. The King concealed this great project from people due to his desire to be rewarded only by Allah. The project was not disclosed till after he passed away.

King Abdullah’s swift decision to rescue Al-Azhar was not limited to the restoration process, as he ordered the construction of several major development projects of Al-Azhar as part of his benevolent grant.

Based on King Abdullah’s instructions, the company in charge of restoration and development began conducting groundwater detection using sensors and exploring underground conditions prior to launching restoration. The restoration process study was completed in accordance with the highest standards adopted for monument restoration, and architectural plans for the new facilities were drawn, including the new Madinat Al-Beouth Al-Islameya Complex, for which three designs were proposed and submitted to the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar to select one for implementation.

This blessed project constitutes the largest restoration and development process in the history of Al-Azhar since its construction over more than 1000 years ago.

Al-Azhar and the Depth of Its Islamic Significance

Built in 359 H (970 G), Al-Azhar Mosque is regarded as the most important mosque and Islamic university in Egypt, and the most famous in the Muslim World. Its history is tied to that of Cairo, as it is the first mosque established in it. It is also considered the oldest Islamic monument in Egypt. Al-Azhar underwent several restoration, expansion and development operations throughout various periods of its history. In the modern era, simple restoration works were carried out, including reinforcement of the Mosque’s existing foundation using needle beams planted underground at each pillar to minimize the repercussions of the damage caused to the pillars and walls by the earthquake that struck Cairo in 1992.

Throughout Al-Azhar’s more-than-1000-year-old history, the restoration project ordered by King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud is considered the largest and most comprehensive. The project, implemented by 33 monument restoration scientists, aims to restore Al-Azhar as a historic monument to its former condition prior to sustaining damage, using state-of-the-art field monitoring and photogrammetry equipment to fully preserve Al-Azhar’s genuine archeological character.

Restoration Projects

The restoration project comprises four phases and aims to develop and restore Al-Azhar as well as its buildings and annexes. It is divided into the following:

Restoration of Al-Azhar Mosque

This comprises meticulous restoration work, analysis of sample stones and archeological authentication; restoration of Islamic decorations, inscriptions, ceilings, wooden windows and oriels; restoration of external and internal stone facades and of the mosque’s minarets; and rehabilitation of the mosque’s floors and its three schools (Al-Jawhariya, Al-Taybarsiyya and Al-Aqbughawiyya schools) using the same flooring as that of the Holy Mosque in Mecca. The project also includes works to make the most of the Mosque’s general location, through shifting the old bathrooms’ location whereby they would not block the view of historical buildings and decorative façades; installing rainwater drainage and sewage networks outside the Mosque; upgrading efficiency of services such as exterior and interior lighting, TV transmission, interior audio system, firefighting equipment; and finally, replacing the dilapidated electric grid with a modern one that serves the Mosque and the rituals observed therein.

Rehabilitation of Al-Azhar’s historic Mashyakha to serve as headquarters of the Council of Senior Scholars

The project includes complete restoration of the five-story building both externally and internally, and the redistribution of some internal spaces.

Restoration of the ancient Madinat Al-Beouth Al-Islameya Complex

The project comprises the construction of 7 new residential buildings to expand complex capacity from 450 to 1750 male and female students (4 buildings for boys and 3 for girls, with annexed services building and a mosque) as well as water network upgrades. Works on the site span a built-up area of 28,800 square meters.

Construction Projects

Construction of the new Madinat Al-Beouth Al-Islameya Complex

This complex covers an area of 172 acres, to accommodate about 35,000 students (85% designated for boys and 15% for girls) in the future. The project includes the construction of 32 residential buildings, main mosque, restaurants, kitchens, services buildings, open playgrounds, green areas, fences, and roads.

Construction of 5 faculty buildings for girls in Cairo and Luxor

The project consists of the construction of independent buildings for the following colleges: Faculty of Mass Media for girls in Cairo, Faculty of Dentistry for girls in Cairo with a capacity of 1,500 students, Faculty of Pharmacy for girls in Cairo with a capacity of 2,250 students, Faculty of Medicine for girls in Luxor with a capacity of 500 to 750 students, and Faculty of Pharmacy for girls in Luxor with a capacity of 750 students. The construction projects include faculty annexes such as outpatient clinics and facilities for other educational and administrative services.

Construction of a Al-Azhar satellite channel building

This building, built over a total area of 17,000 square meters, includes four different-sized studios, equipped with necessary technologies and supporting amenities such as lighting, dressing rooms, montage rooms, management headquarters, and receptions.

Construction of a foreign students’ complex on a 100-acre area in New Cairo’s Muthalath Al-Amal

The project comprises an integrated Azharic city (a complex of distinguished Azharic institutes, hostel for foreign students, dormitory for expatriate students, and new headquarters for some Azharic faculties).

Construction of a female students’ dormitory

The dormitory is for Al-Azhar University’s Tenth of Ramadan City Branch.

Construction of male students’ dormitory in Tanta

This dormitory accommodates 450 students and teachers on an area of 6,600 square meters.

Development and Rehabilitation Projects

Rehabilitation and development of the Holy Qur’an Printing Press

This project involved supply and installation of the necessary modern printing machines and related technical upgrades. The project aims to raise the printing press’s production capacity to 75,000 copies of the Holy Qur’an monthly and 900,000 copies annually.

Upgrading of 200 laboratories at Al-Azhar institutes

These laboratories are distributed across the Arab Republic of Egypt.

Rehabilitation of the kitchens at the male and female students’ dormitories in Nasr City

The project includes the rehabilitation of kitchen equipment in dormitories and in 3 central kitchens, two for males and one for females.

Follow-up on Execution

Since its inception, the project received personal follow-up from King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud until his death, through phone calls and through personal delegates he sent to senior Al-Azhar officials.

Diligent project follow-up is now carried out during the reign of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, by King Abdullah International Foundation for Humanitarian Activities. Al-Azhar’s Grand Imam Dr. Ahmed El-Tayeb hailed the Islamic and humanitarian stances of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, affirming that his contributions will remain witness to his efforts in promoting peace, cooperation and dialogue and propagating moderation in Islam among the world’s peoples. The Grand Imam also commended the follow-up by His Royal Highness Prince Khalid bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of King Abdullah Foundation, on the restoration and rehabilitation project’s progress. El-Tayeb considered King Abdullah’s support, and later that of his Foundation, an act of faith in Al-Azhar’s role in summoning people to adopt Islam with wisdom and proper guidance and to propagate the principles of moderation and tolerance in Islam.

His Royal Highness Prince Turki bin Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, Chief Executive Officer of King Abdullah Foundation, continues to follow up on the under-construction projects ordered by King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud prior to his death. On his visit to these projects, Prince Turki stressed the commitment of all Board of Trustees members – the sons of late King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz – to follow up on outstanding projects to completion.