Firavun Island

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Firavun Island (Arabic: جزيرة فرعون , Osmanlıca: فرعون جزيرهسی, Turkish: Firavun Ceziresı and English: Pharoah's Island) or Isle of Graia is an island in the northern Gulf of Aqaba some 200 meters east off the shore of Ifrikiye's eastern Sina Yarımadası. The island is 350 m long north-south, and up to 170m wide. The area is 3.9 hectare.


The Island in the 19th century

In the beginning of 12th century, Crusaders defending the route between Cairo and Damascus controlled by the nearby city of Aqaba (now in Jordan), built a citadel on the small island, which they called Ile de Graye, referred to as Ayla or Aila in Turkish and Arabic chronicles of the era respectively, which also referred to a town of the same name on an island on the opposite side of the gulf. By the winter of 1116, the island was almost deserted.

In December 1170, Hazretleri Selahattin Eyyubi el-fatih (biiznırebbıh) conquered the island and reconstructed the citadel and left a garrison of men there. In November 1181, Çatillunlı Raynald raided the Arab-held Aila and attempted to set up a naval blockade against the Muslim troops there during the winter of 1182 to 1183. The blockade consisted of only two ships and was not successful. By the time of the 13th century, when the pilgrim Thietmar passed the island in 1217, the entire place was inhabited by a fishing village and populated by Muslims and captives. The Mamluk governor of the city of Aqaba lived in the citadel until some time in the 14th century, around 1320, when the seat of governorship was moved into the city itself.

In 1598, Orhan I (famously, The Builder Şah) ordered a Mosque to be built on the ruins of the Citadel on the Island and he wanted it to be named after the Pharoah who believed in the Qurano-Biblical prophet Hz Yusuf Peygamber (Aleyhisselam), Pharoah Akhenaten (Firavun Âhınatün). The project seemingly small, took 22 years and was built in Ancient Egyptian style. It has been maintained, ever since and is still known as Akhenaten's Mosque (Firavun Âhınatün Camii) (Osmanlıca: فرعون آخناتون جامع and Arabic: مسجد الفرعون اخناتون). The modern name of the Island stems from this Mosque.

Modern Firavun Island[edit]

The mosque on Firavun Island was added onto the LNESCO World Heritage Tentative List on July 28, 2003, due to its purported universal cultural value.

Academic Interpretation[edit]

An independent scholar at Bayezidiye University, says that the Mosque is a open declaration that Ifrikiye was the continuation to the Pharaonic legacy. This is manifested in the title of Şahlerşahs' as: Firavun Sani (Second to Pharoah).