Friday, June 19, 2009

Worlds Most Amazing Mosques Part1

27 Worlds Most Amazing Mosques - Part 1

From ancient times long past to present day, man has constructed mosques revered for their stunning architectural beauty and distinctive features — grand entrances, soaring minarets, dramatically tiled domes, monumental courtyards, majestic halls, ablution fountains, and even tombs. In the first of a 2-part series, we will take a look at some of the most amazing and dazzling mosques in the world.

Al-Masjid Haram Sharif
Al-Masjid al-Ḥaram (”The Sacred Mosque”) — commonly known as the Grand Mosque, Haram or Haram Sharif — is the largest mosque in the world located in the city of Mecca, and considered by Muslims as the holiest place on Earth.

Isha prayer at the Haram Sharif mosque. Photo Mohammad Suman Hossain

Pilgrims circumambulating the Kaaba during the Hajj. Photo Mohammad Mahdi Karim

Visitors at the Zamzam Well at Haram Sharif mosque. Photo Mardetanha

Covering an area of 3,840,570 square feet (356,800 sq. meters) including the outdoor and indoor praying spaces, it can accommodate up to 4,000,000 during the Hajj period, one of the largest annual gatherings in the world.

The entire building is constructed out of the layers of gray blue stone from the hills surrounding Mecca. The 4 corners roughly face the 4 points of the compass. In the eastern corner is the Hajr-al-Aswad (the Black Stone), at the northern corner lies the Rukn-al-Iraqi, at the west lies Rukn-al-Shami, and at the south Rukn-al-Yamani.

The four walls are covered with a curtain — Kiswah — which is usually of black brocade with the Shahada outlined in the weave of the fabric. About two-thirds of the way up runs a gold embroidered band covered with Qur’anic text.

The Islamic teaching states that nothing is magical about the Grand Mosque except for the oasis Zamzam Well which has never dried ever since it was revealed.

Ortaköy mosque in Istanbul. Photo Kiwanc

Mosque dome. Photo Elif Ayse

Mosque dome and minaret. Photo Hamed Masoumi

Ibn Tulun Mosque
Built for Ahmad ibn Tulun — son of a Turkish slave of the Abbasid caliph al-Ma’mun — the historic Ibn Tulun Mosque is the oldest surviving, best preserved mosque in Egypt and one of the largest in the world, famed for its exquisite architecture and unique minaret.

Ibn Tulun Mosque central courtyard. Photo Upyernoz

Ibn Tulun Mosque central courtyard. Photo N Creations

Ibn Tulun Mosque central courtyard. Photo Upyernoz

Named after the Emir Ahmed Ibn Tulun2, a soldier among the troops of Samara who was promoted to rule Egypt between 868 and 883 AD, the mosque was constructed on a small hill in Cairo called Gebel Yashkur — “The Hill of Thanksgiving.”

Local legend has it that it is here that Noah’s Ark came to rest after the Deluge, instead of at Mount Ararat.

The grand ceremonial mosque was intended as the focal point of Ibn Ţulun’s capital, al-Qatta’i, which served as the center of administration for the Tulunid dynasty. Al-Qatta’i was completely destroyed in the early 10th century AD, and the mosque is the only surviving structure.

It was constructed in the Samarran style common with Abbassid constructions, built around a courtyard with one covered hall on each of the 4 sides, the largest being on the side of the qibla, or direction to Mecca.

The original mosque had its ablution fountain (sabil) in between the inner and outer walls. A distinctive sabil with a high domed roof was added in the central courtyard at the end of the 13th century by the Sultan Lajīn.

The minaret features a spiral-shaped outer staircase similar to that of the famous minaret in Samarra.

The minaret at Cairo’s Ibn Tulun Mosque. Photo Darvishjohn

Photo Bakar 88

Looking down upon another part of the mosque. Photo Upyernoz

The mosque has been restored several times, as recently as 2004 by the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities. During the medieval period, several houses were built up against the outside walls of the mosque. Most were demolished in 1928 by the Committee for the Conservation of Arab Monuments.

Two of the oldest and best-preserved homes remain — the “house of the Cretan woman” (Beit al-Kritliyya) and the Beit Amna bint Salim — which were originally 2 separate structures, but a bridge at the 3rd floor level was added at some point, combining them into a single structure.

Parts of the James Bond movie “The Spy Who Loved Me” were filmed at the Mosque of Ibn Tulun and in the Gayer-Anderson Museum — the house, which is accessible through the outer walls of the mosque.

Hassan II Mosque
The Hassan II Mosque is the 2nd largest in the world, and its minaret is the world’s tallest at 689 feet (210 meters). Located in Casablanca, Morocco, it was designed by the French architect Michel Pinseau and built by Bouygues.

Hassan II mosque, Casablanca, Morocco. Photo Rosino

Hassan II mosque. Photo Photo Jerzy Strzelecki

Hassan II mosque. Photo Jerzy Strzelecki

Built on reclaimed land, almost half of the surface of the mosque lies over the Atlantic water. Part of the floor has a gigantic glass base so worshippers can kneel directly over the sea, with room for 25,000. These features were specifically requested by King Hassan II.

An additional 80,000 people can be accommodated in the courtyard. From above, spotlights shine at night from the top of the minaret toward Mecca.

Hassan II mosque. Photo Amerune

Doors to the Hassan II mosque. Photo Icelight

Hassan II mosque. Photo Amerune

Hassan II mosque. Photo Rightee

It also includes a number of modern touches — it was built to withstand earthquakes and has a heated floor, electric doors, and a sliding roof.

The mosque displays strong Moorish influence and the architecture of the building is similar to that of the Alhambra and the Mezquita in Spain.

Hassan II mosque. Photo Jerzy Strzelecki

Ablutions pool Hassan II mosque. Photo Dlisbona

Interior of Hassan II mosque. Photo Dlisbona

Sheikh Zayed Mosque
The Sheikh Zayed is the 3rd largest mosque in the world, located in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, situated in a large area between 2 bridges — Mussafah Bridge and Maqta bridge.

Sheikh Zayed Mosque. Photo GC

Part of Sheikh Zayed Mosque from the Circular Fisheye. Photo Fares4uae

Named after Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founder and the first President of the United Arab Emirates who is also buried there, the mosque was officially opened in 2007.

It’s large enough to accommodate 40,000 people — the main prayer hall accommodates up to 9,000, and 2 rooms next to the main prayer hall, with a 1,500-capacity each, are for the exclusive use of women.

There are 4 minarets on the 4 corners of the mosque which rise about 375 feet (115 meters) in height. There are 57 domes covering the outside yard and the main building decorated with white marble, and the interior decor is constructed of marble.

The courtyard is paved with floral marble designs and measures about 18,600 square yards (17,000 sq. meters).

Sheikh Zayed Mosque.

Sheikh Zayed Mosque.

The Sheikh Zayed Mosque has made some world records:
• The carpet laid out on the vast expanse is the “World’s Largest Carpet” measuring 6,158 square yards (5,627 sq. meters). It took about 1,200 weavers, 20 technicians, and 30 workers to create the 47 ton carpet made of 35 tons of wool, and 12 tons of cotton. There are 2,268,000 knots within the carpet.

• The world’s largest chandelier at about 33 feet (10 meters) in diameter, and 49 feet (15 meters) in height. There are 7 imported chandeliers from Germany which are copper and gold-plated.

Both of these records were previously held by the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Oman.

But the mosque’s reputation may be short-lived, as Algeria is set to build the 3rd-largest mosque in the world facing the Bay of Algiers to hold 120,000. Planners boast that the Bay of Algiers mosque will also contain the tallest minaret in the world at 985 feet (300 meters) high.

Al-Fatih Mosque
The Al-Fatih Mosque — also known as Al Fateh Grand Mosque — is one of the largest mosques in the world and the largest place of worship in Bahrain, capable of accommodating over 7,000 people.

Al-Fatih Mosque at night. Photo Vladimir Arshinov

Al-Fatih Mosque. Photo Omar Chatriwala

The massive dome built on top of the Al-Fatih Mosque is currently the world’s largest fiberglass dome, weighing over 60 tons (60,000 ilos).

It’s located next to the King Faisal Highway in Juffair, a town located in the capital city of Manama, close to the Royal Bahraini Palace — the residence of the king of Bahrain Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifah.

The mosque was built by the late Sheikh Isa ibn Salman Al Khalifa during the early 1990’s, named after Ahmed Al Fateh, the conqueror of Bahrain, and now includes the new National Library which opened to the public in 2006.

Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque
Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque dominates the skyline in Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital of the Sultanate of Brunei. The mosque is classified as one of the most spectacular in the Asia Pacific and a major tourist attraction and landmark, completed in 1958.

Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque. Photo Daniel Weiss

Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque with the ceremonial ship. Photo Abdullah Geelah

Designed by an Italian architect, the mosque is constructed on an artificial lagoon near the banks of the Brunei River circled by a water village named Kampong Ayer. It also has a long bridge meandering across the lagoon to Kamong Ayer, and another marble bridge connecting to a structure in the water that resembles a ship which was once used for official state ceremonies.

It consists of marble minarets and golden domes with courtyards and fertile gardens filled with fountains, encircled by a plethora of trees and floral gardens. The main dome which is said to be the mosque’s most recognizable feature is covered in pure gold.

Standing at 171 feet (52 meters) high, the mosque can be seen from virtually anywhere in Bandar Seri Begawan. The main minaret is the mosque’s tallest feature which incorporates a unique Renaissance and Italian architectural style. The minaret has a working and modern elevator which goes to the top of the structure, providing a panoramic view of the city.

The interior of the mosque boasts magnificent mosaic stained glass, many arches, semi-domes and marble columns.

Niujie Mosque
The Niujie Mosque is the largest, oldest mosque in Beijing’s Xuanwu District, China, covering an area of about 6,500 square yards (6,000 sq. meters). First built in 996 during the Liao Dynasty, it was reconstructed in 1442 in the Ming Dynasty and expanded in 1696 under the Qing Dynasty, and now one of the major mosques in north China.

Niujie Mosque main gate. Photo Smartneddy

Niujie Mosque main hall. Photo Smartneddy

Constructed from timber, its architecture bears traditional Chinese influence on the exterior. The mosque is home to a number of important cultural relics and tablets such as the upright tablet of an emperor’s decree proclaimed in 1694 during the Qing Dynasty.

Id Kah Mosque
The Id Kah is the largest mosque in China capable accommodating up to 20,000, located in Kashgar, Xinjiang, in the western People’s Republic of China. Covering 18,400 square yards (16,800 sq. meters), the mosque was built by Saqsiz Mirza in 1442, although it incorporated older structures dating back to 996.

Id Kah mosque. Photo Colegota

Id Kah mosque Photo Yosri

Great Mosque of Xi’an
The Great Mosque of Xi’an is one of the oldest and most renowned mosques in China, located near the Drum Tower (Gu Lou) on Huajue Lane of Xi’an, Shaanxi province. It was first built in the Tang Dynasty during the reign of Emperor Xuanzong, 685-762, and renovated in later periods, especially during the reign of Emperor Hongwu of the Ming Dynasty.

Great Mosque of Xi’an. Photo Taylor and Dayumi

Great Mosque of Xi’an. Photo Taylor and Dayumi

Great Mosque of Xi’an. Photo Taylor and Dayumi

The mosque has neither domes nor traditional-style minarets. Unlike most mosques in Middle Eastern or Arab countries, the Great Mosque of Xi’an is completely Chinese in its construction and architectural style, except for some Arabic lettering and decorations.

The Bell Tower. Photo Taylor and Dayumi

Great Mosque of Xi’an. Photo Taylor and Dayumi

Above the doors is Arabic writing. Photo Taylor and Dayumi

Great Mosque of Xi’an. Photo Taylor and Dayumi

Masjid-i-Jahan Numa
Commonly known as the Jama Masjid of Delhi, the Masjid-i-Jahan Numa is one of the largest and best-known mosques in India, capable of holding up to 25,000 in its courtyard. Situated at the beginning of a very busy and popular street / center in Old Delhi, Chandni Chowk, it was commissioned by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, builder of the Taj Mahal, and completed in 1656 AD.

Jama Masjid mosque. Photo PlanetMad

Jama Masjid, northeast entrance. Photo Paul La Porte

Jama Masjid main entrance. Photo Kaiser Tufail

It took more than 5,000 workers over a period of 6 years to construct, and houses several relics in a closet in the north gate, including a copy of the Qur’an written on deer skin.

The courtyard is accessed by as many as 39 steps on its sides made of red sandstone, which used to house food stalls, shops and street entertainers, and the eastern gate was the royal entrance.

The mosque stands on a platform of about 5 feet (1.5 meters) from the pavement of the terrace, and 3 flights of steps lead to the interior of the mosque from the east, north, and the south.

Its 3 sides are covered with open arched colonnades, each having a lofty tower-like gateway in the center. The mosque itself is about 261 feet (80 meters) long and 90 feet (27 meters) wide.

The roof is covered with 3 domes with alternate stripes of black and white marble, with its topmost parts covered with gold.

Inlay detail of arches in Jama Masjid. Photo Kaiser Tufail

Jama Masjid minaret detail. Photo Kaiser Tufail

Jama Masjid main arch. Photo Kaiser Tufail

Two towering minarets 130 feet (41 meters) high, containing 130 steps, longitudinally striped with white marble and red sandstone flank the domes on either side. The minarets are divided by 3 projecting galleries and are surmounted by open 12-sided domed pavilions. On the back of the mosque are 4 small minarets crowned like those in the front.

Under the domes of the mosque is a hall with 7 arched entrances facing the west and the walls of the mosque, covered with marble. Beyond this is a prayer hall with 11 arched entrances — the centre arch is tall and wide in the form of a massive gateway with slim minarets in each corner, with the usual octagonal pavilion surmounting it.

Over these arched entrances there are tablets of white marble, 4 feet (1.2 meters) long and 2.5 feet (76 centimeters) wide, inlaid with inscriptions in black marble. These inscriptions give the history of the building of the mosque, and glorify the reign of Shah Jahan. The slab over the center arch contains the words “The Guide!”

The floor of the mosque is covered with white and black marble. The back of the mosque is cased over to the height of the rock on which the mosque stands with large hewn stones.

Istiqlal Mosque
Istiqlal Mosque, or Masjid Istiqlal — Arabic for Independence Mosque — in Jakarta, Indonesia is the largest mosque in Southeast Asia. This national mosque was built to commemorate the independence of Indonesia.

Alabaster marbled Istiqlal Mosque, the largest in Southeast Asia. Photo Michael J Lowe

Mihrab and minbar of Istiqlal mosque. Photo Gunkarta

Istiqlal grand domed prayer hall supported by 12 columns. Photo Gunkarta

The rectangular main prayer hall building is covered by a 147-foot (45 meter) diameter central spherical dome which is supported by 12 round columns, and the prayer hall is surrounded by rectangular piers carrying 4 levels of balcony.

Staircases at the corners of the building give access to all floors. The main hall is reached through an entrance covered by a dome 33 feet (10 meters) in diameter.

The interior design is minimalist, simple and clean cut, with minimal adornment of aluminum geometric ornaments. The 12 columns are covered with aluminum plates. On the main wall on qibla is a mihrab and minbar in the center. The latter structure is directly connected to the arcades which run around the large courtyard.

Al ‘Askari Mosque
Al ‘Askari Mosque, or the ‘Askariyya Mosque / Shrine is a Shi‘ah Muslim holy site located in the Iraqi city of Samarra, 78 miles (125 kilometers) from Baghdad. It’s one of the most important Shi‘ah mosques in the world, built in 944.

Al ‘Askari Mosque. Photo Toushiro

Its dome was destroyed in a bombing in February 2006, its two remaining minarets were destroyed in another bombing in June 2007, and the remaining clock tower was destroyed in July 2007.

The remains of the 10th and 11th Shi‘ah Imams, ‘Ali al-Hadi and his son Hasan al-‘Askari, known as al-‘Askariyyain (”the two ‘Askaris”), rest at the shrine. Also buried within the Mosque are Hakimah Khatun, sister of ‘Ali al-Hadi, and Narjis Khatun, the mother of Muhammad al-Mahdi. Adjacent to this shrine is another mosque, built over the location where the Twelfth or “Hidden” Imam, Muhammad al-Mahdi first entered the Minor Occultation.

Great Mosque of Samarra
The Great Mosque of Samarra was at one time the largest mosque in the world, located in the Iraqi city of Samarra. Built in the 9th century, it was commissioned in 848 and completed in 852 by the Abbasid caliph Al-Mutawakkil who reigned from 847 until 861.

Great Mosque of Samarra. Photo Jim Gordon

Its minaret, the Malwiya Tower, is a vast spiraling snail-shaped cone, 170 feet (52 meters) high and 108 feet (33 meters) wide with a spiral ramp. The mosque had 17 aisles and its walls were paneled with mosaics of dark blue glass. On April 1, 2005, the top of the Malwiya minaret was damaged by a bomb.

The art and architecture of the mosque was influential with stucco carvings within the mosque in floral and geometric designs.

Jame Mosque
Jamé Mosque is one of the oldest still standing in Iran, located in Isfahan, and the result of continual construction, reconstruction, additions, and renovations on the site from around 771 to the end of the 20th century.

View of the north iwan from the Jamé Mosque courtyard. Photo Alex O. Holcombe

The entrance to Jamé mosque. Photo

Columns and vaults in the hypostyle area. Photo Alex O. Holcombe

It was built in the four-iwan (vaulted open rooms) architectural style, placing 4 gates face-to-face. The qibla iwan on the southern side of the mosque was vaulted with muqarnas — niche-like cells — during the 1300’s.

Construction under the Seljuqs included the addition of 2 brick domed chambers, for which the mosque is renowned, claiming its place as a masterpiece in Persian architecture.

The south dome was built to house the mihrab in 1086-87 by Nizam al-Mulk, the famous vizier of Malik Shah, and was larger than any dome known at its time. The north dome was constructed a year later. Although it was situated along the north-south axis, it was located outside the boundaries of the mosque.

Calligraphy in the west iwan. Photo Alex O. Holcombe

Scale model of the mosque. Photo Alex O. Holcombe

Further additions and modifications took place including the elaborately carved stucco mihrab commissioned in 1310 by Mongol ruler Oljaytu, located in a side prayer hall built within the western arcade. Safavid intervention was largely decorative, with the addition of muqarnas, glazed tilework, and minarets flanking the south iwan.

The cupolas and piers that form the hypostyle area between the iwans are undated and varied in style, endlessly modified with repairs, reconstructions and additions.

The origins of this mosque lie in the 8th century, but it burnt down and was rebuilt again in the 11th century and went through remodeling many times. As a result it has rooms built in different architectural styles, so now the mosque represents a condensed history of the Iranian Architecture.

Shah Mosque
The Shah Mosque is regarded as the masterpiece of Persian Architecture and one of the everlasting masterpieces of architecture in Iran and all over the world, located in Isfahan, standing in south side of Naghsh-i Jahan Square. It’s registered along with the Naghsh-i Jahan Square as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

View of the Shah mosque at night. Photo Pastaitaken

Shah mosque. Photo Apcbg

Built during the Safavids period, its construction began in 1611, and its splendor is mainly due to the beauty of its 7-color mosaic tiles and calligraphic inscriptions on all of its walls.

The port of the mosque measures 89 feet (27 meters) high, crowned with two minarets 138 feet (42 meters) tall. The Mosque is surrounded with 4 iwans and arcades. The most magnificent iwan of the mosque is the one facing the Qibla measuring 108 feet (33 meters) high. Behind this iwan is a space which is roofed with the largest dome in the city at 170 feet (52 meters) high, and is double layered.

Interior architecture of the Shah mosque. Photo

Facade of Shah mosque entrance arcade. Photo

Facing northwards, the mosque’s portal to the Maidan is usually under shadow, but since it has been coated with radiant tile mosaics it glitters with a predominantly blue light of extraordinary intensity. Within the arcades and iwans, one is drowned by the endless waves of intricate arabesque in golden yellow and dark blue.

Goharshad Mosque
The famous Goharshad Mosque is the first and greatest surviving Persian monument of the 15th century, located in Razavi Khorasan province of Iran, now abutting the Imam Reza shrine in Mashhad. It was built by the orders of Goharshad, the wife of Shah Rukh of the Timurid Dynasty in 1418 CE and by the architect Ghavameddin Shirazi.

Interior of Goharshad Mosque exhibits the superb work of Persian craftsmen. Photo Zereshk

It has 4 iwans and a courtyard measuring 55 by 60 yards (50 by 55 meters). Its portals continue the Samarkand style of arch within arch, enriched by a succession of bevels and reveals that give it depth and power.

The double layered dome of the mosque was severely damaged in 1911 in bombings by Russian troops.

The towering minarets, merging with the outer corners of the portal screen extend the ground with the high foundation revetment of marble.

The entire court facade is faced with enamel brick and mosaic faience of the finest quality. The full range of colors includes a dominant cobalt blue and turquoise, white, a transparent green, yellow, saffron, aubergine and mirror black, in faience floral patterns and brick geometrical schemes.

The Sanctuary iwan is in pure white, while in the other 3 iwans are pale red, carrying large white-outlined kufic inscriptions of light turquoise that appear green against the reddish ground. The whole decor is interlaced with an unusual amount of white.

Al-Aqsa Mosque
Al-Aqsa Mosque — also known as al-Aqsa — is an Islamic holy place in the Old City of Jerusalem. The mosque itself forms part of the al-Haram ash-Sharif or “Sacred Noble Sanctuary,” a site also known as the Temple Mount and considered the holiest site in Judaism, since it’s believed to be where the Temple in Jerusalem once stood.

Eastern view of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Fakhariyyah Minaret. Photo MathKnight

The Al-Aqsa along the southern wall of the Temple Mount. Photo David Shankbone

The dome of the Al-Aqsa in 1982, made of aluminum, replaced with its
original lead plating in 1983. Photo Barbara Kabel

The rectangular mosque and its precincts are 1,550,003 square feet (144,000 sq. meters), with a capacity of 400,000 people, although the mosque itself is about 376,737 square feet (35,000 sq. meters) and could hold up to 5,000, measuring 272 feet (83 meters) long by 184 feet (56 meters) wide.

The al-Aqsa Mosque was originally a small prayer house built by the Rashidun caliph Umar, but was rebuilt and expanded with additions of its dome, facade, minbar, minarets and the interior structure, after successions of earthquakes over the centuries.

When the Crusaders captured Jerusalem in 1099, they used the mosque as a palace and church, but its function as a mosque was restored after its recapture by Saladin. More renovations, repairs and additions were undertaken in the later centuries by the Ayyubids, Mamluks, the Supreme Muslim Council, and Jordan.

The Al-Aqsa silver-colored dome of lead sheeting. Photo Maryatexitzero

Facade and porch of the Al-Aqsa mosque. Photo Yaakov Shoham

Interior of the Al-Aqsa showing the central naves and columns. Photo Eric Stoltz

Al-Aqsa mosque. Photo Wilson 44691

The destruction of the First Temple — known as the Temple of Solomon — is attributed to the Babylonians in 587 B.C, and there are no physical remains attesting to its presence or structure. Building of the Second Temple began during the rule of the Persian king Cyrus the Great, but was destroyed by the Roman Emperor (then general) Titus in 70 CE.

All that remains of it is the Western Wall, which is thought to be a remnant of this second temple’s platform. Emperor Justinian built a Christian church on the site in the 530’s which was consecrated to the Virgin Mary and named “Church of Our Lady.” The church was later destroyed by Khosrau II, the Sassanian emperor in the early 7th century and left in ruins.

It’s unknown exactly when the al-Aqsa Mosque was first built and who ordered its construction, but it is certain that it was created in the early Ummayad period of rule in Palestine.

Dome of the Rock
The Dome of the Rock is an Islamic shrine and a major landmark located on the Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem, completed in 691, making it the oldest existing Islamic building in the world. It’s located at the visual center of an ancient man-made platform known as the Temple Mount.

Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount. Photo Paoloa Massa

Dome of the Rock from the Southwest. Photo Beggs

The platform, greatly enlarged under the rule of Herod the Great, is the site of the Second Jewish Temple which was destroyed during the Roman Siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE.

The structure is basically octagonal, comprised of a wooden dome about 60 feet (20 meters) in diameter, mounted on an elevated drum consisting of a circle of 16 piers and columns. Surrounding this circle is an octagonal arcade of 24 piers and columns.

The outer side walls are made of porcelain and mirror the octagonal design, each measuring about 60 feet (18 meters) wide and 36 feet (11 meters) high. Both the dome and the exterior walls contain many windows.

Section of the Iznik tile work added to the Dome of the Rock by Suleiman the Magnificent.
Photo Wayne McLean

Dome of the Rock. Photo Gila Brand

The Dome is in the shape of a Byzantine martyrium, intended for the housing and veneration of saintly relics, and is an excellent example of middle Byzantine art. al-Maqdisi reports that about 100,000 gold dinar coins were melted down and cast on the dome’s exterior, “which at the time had a strong glitter that no eye could look straight at it.” During the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent the exterior of the Dome was covered with Iznik tiles which took 7 years of work.

In 1955 an extensive renovation replaced large numbers of tiles dating back to the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent, which had become dislodged by heavy rain. In 1960 the dome was covered with a durable aluminum and bronze alloy made in Italy, completed in 1964.

In 1998 the golden dome covering was refurbished with 176 pounds (80 kilos) of gold following a donation of $8.2 million by King Hussein of Jordan. The interior of the dome is lavishly decorated with mosaic, faience and marble, much of which was added several centuries after its completion.

Great Mosque of Djenné
The Great Mosque of Djenné is the largest mud brick or adobe building in the world and is considered by many architects to be the greatest achievement of the Sudano-Sahelian architectural style. A center of the community of Djenné, it’s one of the most famous landmarks in Africa, and was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988.

Great Mosque of Djenné.

Great Mosque of Djenné. Photo Andy Gilham

Located in the city of Djenné, Mali on the flood plain of the Bani River, the first mosque on the site was commissioned by Koi Kunboro in 1240, but the current structure dates from 1907. Other mosques were built on the same locations as conical, mudbrick or stone spires representing the protective spirits of ancestors. The only portion of the original building that still survives is an enclosure containing the graves of local leaders.

The walls of the Great Mosque are made of sun-baked mud bricks called ferey — a mud based mortar — and are coated with a mud plaster which gives the building its smooth, sculpted look. The walls are between 16 to 24 inches (6 to 10 centimeters) thick. The thickness varies depending on the wall’s height — taller sections were built thicker because the base has to be wide enough to support the weight.

Bundles of deleb palm wood were included in the building to reduce cracking caused by frequent extreme variations in humidity and temperature and to serve as readymade scaffolding for annual repairs.

The walls insulate the building from heat during the day and by nightfall have absorbed enough heat to keep the mosque warm through the night. Gutters made of ceramic pipes extend from the roofline, and direct water drainage from the roof away from the walls.

Main entrance in the north wall of the Great Mosque of Djenné. Photo Andy Gilham

Great Mosque of Djenné. Photo Ka Teznik

The prayer wall or qibla is dominated by 3 large, box-like minarets jutting out from the main wall and has 18 buttresses. Each minaret contains a spiral staircase leading to the roof, and on top of each minaret is a cone shaped spire topped with an ostrich egg.

Half of the mosque is covered by a roof and the other half is an open air prayer hall or courtyard. The roof of the mosque is supported by 90 wooden pillars that span the interior prayer hall. Vents in the roof are topped with removable ceramic caps, which when removed allow hot air to rise out of the building for ventilation.

A second prayer hall is enclosed in a courtyard behind the roofed mosque and is surrounded by walls to the north, south, and west and by the mosque itself to the east. An arcade inside the surrounding walls encircles the courtyard. Its walls facing the courtyard are punctuated by arched openings 45 feet (15 meters) high that allow viewing or entry into the courtyard from the arcade.

Water damage, in particular flooding, was a major concern in planning the construction. The annual flooding of the Bani River causes Djenné to become an island, and unusually high floods can inundate parts of the city. The Great Mosque was constructed on a raised platform with a surface area of 62,500 square feet (5,625 sq. meters), which has protected the mosque from even the most severe floods.

Chinguetti Mosque
The Great Mosque of Chinguetti is an ancient center of worship created by the founders of the oasis city of Chinguetti in the Adrar region of Mauritania, some time in the 13th or 14th century.

Chinguetti Mosque

The minaret of this ancient structure is said to be the 2nd oldest in continuous use anywhere in the Muslim world. In the 1970’s the mosque was restored through a UNESCO effort, but the structure and city itself continues to be threatened by intense desertification. The mosque and its minaret are popularly considered the national emblem of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania.

Architecturally, the mosque features a prayer room with 4 aisles and a double-niched symbolic door, or mihrab pointing towards Mecca and an open courtyard. Among its most distinctive characteristics are its spare, unmortared, split stone masonry, its square minaret tower, and its conscious lack of ardornment.

Koutoubia Mosque
The Koutoubia Mosque is the largest in Marrakech, Morocco, and considered the ultimate structure of its kind. The minaret was completed under the reign of the Almohad Caliph Yaqub al-Mansur between 1184 to 1199.

Koutoubia Mosque. Photo Zingaro

Built in a traditional Almohad style, the tower measures 221 feet (69 meters) in height and 41 feet (12.8 meters) wide and adorned with 4 copper globes which were originally made of pure gold, according to legend.

Six rooms (one above the other) constitute the interior. Leading around them is a ramp by way of which the muezzin could ride up to the balcony.

The minaret of the Koutoubia was the model for the minaret of the Giralda mosque in Seville which in its turn has influenced thousands of church towers in Spain and Eastern Europe, and later for many buildings throughout the U.S.

Shah Faisal Masjid
The Shah Faisal Masjid is a state National Mosque in Islamabad, Pakistan, and among one of the largest mosques in the world. It’s renowned for both its size and its architecture, covering an area of 5,470 square yards (5,000 sq. meters) with a capacity of 300,000 people.

Shah Faisal Masjid mosque. Photo Asjad Jamshed

Interior of the Shah Faisal Masjid mosque. Photo David Owers

Its relatively unusual design merges contemporary lines with the more traditional look of an Arab Bedouin’s tent, with its large triangular prayer hall supported by 4 minarets which borrow their design from Turkish tradition which are thin, pencil-like.

The interior of this prayer hall holds a very large chandelier and its walls are decorated with mosaic patterns adorning the west wall, and calligraphy by the famous Pakistani artist Sadeqain.

Construction of the mosque began in 1976, funded by the government of Saudi Arabia, at a cost of approximately $120 million US. King Faisal bin Abdul Aziz was instrumental in the funding, and both the mosque and the road leading to it were named after him after his assassination in 1975. The mosque was completed in 1986, and used to house the International Islamic University.

Tooba Mosque
Masjid e Tooba — known as Tooba Mosque and locally as the Gol Masjid — is often claimed to be the largest single dome mosque in the world, and a major tourist attraction in Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan.

Tooba Mosque. Photo Usman Nasir

Built in 1969, it’s constructed with pure white marble. The dome is 236 feet (72 meters) in diameter, and is balanced on a low surrounding wall with no central pillars. Its single minaret stands 230 feet (70 meters) high.

The central prayer hall was built with acoustics in mind — a person speaking from one end of the dome can be heard at the other end, and holds a capacity of 5,000 people.

Great Mosque of Kairouan
The Mosque of Uqba — also known as the Great Mosque of Kairouan — is one of the most important mosques in Tunisia. Built by Uqba ibn Nafi from 670 AD at the founding of the city of Kairouan, the mosque covers over 985 square yards (900 sq. meters) and is considered a model for all later mosques in the Maghreb in the western Islamic world.

Panorama of the minaret and courtyard of Great Mosque of Kairouan.
Photo Maciej Szczepańczyk

Minaret of the Mosque of Uqba. Photo Asram

Mosque of Uqba eastern exterior wall. Photo Orientalist

The Mosque of Uqba greatly resembles an imposing fortress with its 6-foot (1.9 meter) thick stones that were used to build its walls and its ramparts, in addition to its towers and the solid buttresses that support and strengthen the walls.

It takes the form of an irregular 4-sided structure — 151 yards (138 meters) on the side of the main entrance, 140 yards (128 meters) on the opposite side, and thinner on the side of the minaret measuring 78 yards (71 meters) than on the opposite side of 84 yards (77 meters).

Mosque of Uqba Courtyard and sundial. Photo Asram

Southern side of the Mosque of Uqba courtyard close to the prayer hall. Photo Asram

Its courtyard is accessible by 6 lateral doorways and forms a rectangle measuring about 200 by 130 feet (60 by 40 meters), surrounded by galleries supported by columns made variously of marble, granite or porphyry which were taken from ancient monuments, primarily from Carthage. Near to the centre of the courtyard, there is a rainwater collector, which filters the water before allowing it to pass into the cistern located beneath the courtyard, and a sundial.

The minaret dominates the mosque, made of 3 tiers with a total height of 103 feet (31.5 meters), and built on a square base 34 feet (10.5 meters) long on each side. It was begun by the Umayyad governor Bishr Ibn Safouan around 725 and completed by the Aghlabid princes in the 9th century, and the 4th oldest in the world.

Mosque of Uqba Colonnade abutting the prayer hall. Photo Elcèd77

Mosque of Uqba prayer hall. Photo Asram

Mosque of Uqba prayer hall (with the minbar in the background). Photo Asram

The prayer hall is accessible by 14 doors, and divided into 17 naves and 8 bays including more than 400 columns similar to those in the courtyard. The minbar is made of about 300 pieces of sculpted teak and dates to the 9th century, making it the oldest in the Islamic world.

Local legend says that it’s not possible to count the columns of the Mosque of Kairouan without going blind.

Kocatepe Mosque
The Kocatepe Mosque is the largest mosque in Ankara, the Turkish capital, and one of the largest mosques of the world, accommodating up to 100,000 people. Its size and prominent situation have made it a landmark that can be seen from almost anywhere in central Ankara.

Kocatepe Mosque. Photo Noumenon

Construction began in 1967 which was completed in 1987 in the Kocatepe quarter in Kizilay. The initial project was an innovative and modern design that drew heavy critique from conservatives for its modernist look and therefore stopped at the foundation level. It was later completed in a more conservative or nostalgic design in a pseudo 16th century Ottoman architecture style that resembles the Blue Mosque in Istanbul.

Islamic Center of America
The Islamic Center of America is a mosque in Dearborn, Michigan, that claims to be the largest in North America. Designed by architect David Donnellon, its dome is 150 feet (45 meters) high, and the minaret is 10 stories tall, opening in 2005.

Islamic Center of America. Photo Anne B. Hood

Grand Mosque Dubai
Last for this page but not least in grandeur, importance, or even this series, The Grand Mosque Dubai is claimed to be the most attractive and the most photographed mosque in Dubai. One would be remiss to not include a structure from Dubai, but little information on this particular mosque is available.

Grand Mosque Dubai. Photo thovie333

Entrance of the Grand Mosque Dubai. Photo thovie333

Photo Robertpaulyoung

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