Often lost in Cairo's electrifying presence, Al-Hakim, one of Egypt's lesser-known mosques, was built under a ruler who could have changed the world. Completed in 1012 A.D., the second-largest Fatimid mosque in Cairo with the city's two oldest surviving minarets came into existence after Al-Hakim Be'amr Allah took the throne at age 11. Al-Hakim quickly became an arrogant and savage ruler, who, at age 15, had his tutor assassinated. He later ordered the burning of several buildings after his people rejected some of his more audacious laws, including the requirement that people use his name instead of Allah's in prayer and forbidding the manufacture of women’s shoes so that women could subsequently not leave their homes.
There were some merits to Al-Hakim's rule, however; the most profound being his attempt to make reality out of a dream that came to him one night, a dream of uniting the faiths of Islam and Christianity. Unfortunately, once Al-Hakim began spreading his message of tolerance and harmony through Egypt, his people rebelled, and he was soon murdered by a group of slaves. His body was never found, but his mosque lives on as a symbol of a violent character who tried to spread peace.
Al-Hakim Mosque is open to the public daily from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m., although it does close for prayers. It is located in the Al-Azhar area, also known as El Hussein Square, in Cairo's Islamic district near the famous Khan el-Khalili souk. Visitors can take a taxi directly to the mosque or the metro to the nearby Al Attaba stop before asking someone to point out the mosque. Men, women and children must dress modestly inside the mosque and on the grounds; women must cover their heads, and everyone must take off their shoes before entering.