Arafa’s design of the Basuna Mosque in Sohag, completed in 2019, was recently chosen as one of seven winners of the Abdullatif Al Fozan Award for Mosque Architecture. The competition aims at developing and revitalising mosque architecture worldwide, while also encouraging innovations in planning, design and technology.
Arafa was also honoured by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi at the Arab and African Youth Forum, held in Aswan in March 2019
Dar Arafa’s Basuna Mosque design also won a Marmomac Stone Award at an exposition in Italy the same year. The awards jury said the design “celebrates traditional and contemporary forms, opening up possibilities for future models in Islamic architecture.” It commented that the “stone is manipulated through varying geometries to celebrate the essential characteristics of Islamic culture.”
Arafa thinks that “the crises that afflict architecture in Islamic cities reflect the dilemma of modernising religious discourse itself. The majority of the representatives of this modernising debate are unable to represent it visually,” he said, “and some of them even promote ugliness and do not have a genuine understanding of the religion they claim to defend.”
Teaching Architecture in Egypt
Even with his achievements so far, Arafa wants to continue studying to deepen his theoretical knowledge and earn scientific degrees. His ambition is to establish a new architectural school in line with his vision.
The study of architecture at Egypt’s universities currently faces a “big predicament,” he says.
“When we talk about prominent architects, we mention names of those whose work stopped 50 years ago, like Hassan Fathy, Ramses Wissa Wassef, and Naoum Shebib. This means there are gaps in our memory and the names that emerged after those famous figures seem like flashes in a dark space,” he said.
“Now, we have mere individual figures, not currents, due to the lack of institutional interaction.”
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Through his architecture firm, Arafa offers scholarships to recent architecture graduates for advanced training. Over the past two years, Dar Arafa has more than 20 trainees, and it currently receives requests from around the world.
“We do not operate entirely commercially, and academic obsession governs our work,” Arafa said. “We always prefer working with fresh graduates who are not spoiled by the competitive market.”