Damascus

Great Mosque of Damascus (Umayyad Mosque)

The Grand Mosque of Damascus, known more commonly as the Umayyad Mosque, is one of the largest, oldest and holiest mosques in the world.

The tomb of Saladin stands in a small garden adjoining the north wall of the mosque. In addition, the mosque holds a shrine which is said to contain the head of John the Baptist, who is honored as a prophet by both Christians and Muslims.

Damascus is believed to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world and the Umayyad Mosque stands on a site that has been considered sacred ground for at least 3,000 years.

It was 1000 BC at the latest when the Arameans built a temple here for Hadad, the god of storms and lightening. A basalt orthostat dating from this period, depicting a sphinx, has been discovered in the northeast corner of the mosque.

Dubai

Jumeirah Mosque

The city has many fine mosques. The largest and one of the most beautiful Jumeirah Mosque is a spectacular example of modern Islamic architecture and is one of the most photographed sights of Dubai.

It is particularly attractive at night when subtle lighting throws its artistry into relief.


Iraq

Imām ‘Alī Holy Shrine

The Imām ‘Alī Holy Shrine (Arabic: حرم الإمام علي‎), also known as Masjid Ali or the Mosque of ‘Alī, located in Najaf, Iraq, is the third holiest site for some of the estimated 200 million followers of the Shia branch of Islam. ‘Alī ibn Abī Tālib, the cousin of Muhammad, the fourth caliph is buried here. Buried next to Ali within this mosque are the remains of Adam and Noah according to Shi'a belief.


Jerusalem

Al Aqsa Mosque

The Al-Aqsa Mosque (also spelled El-Aksa; "Distant Mosque") is the most important mosque in Jerusalem. Located on the Haram esh-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary) or Temple Mount, it is the third holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina. It is the central focus of the Muslim community in Jerusalem, hosting daily prayers and accommodating large crowds for Friday sermons.

Originally, all of Jerusalem was known as the masjid al-aqsa, or "distant sanctuary," but the term eventually came to be applied to the main mosque in the city. It is not certain when the first mosque was built on this site - the first mosque in Jerusalem, the Mosque of Umar, was built in 638 and may have stood here. In 680, the Christian pilgrim Arculf described a mosque that appears to be on this site.The Al-Aqsa Mosque (also spelled El-Aksa; "Distant Mosque") is the most important mosque in Jerusalem. Located on the Haram esh-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary) or Temple Mount, it is the third holiest site in Islam after Mecca and Medina. It is the central focus of the Muslim community in Jerusalem, hosting daily prayers and accommodating large crowds for Friday sermons.


Dome of the Rock

The most famous Islamic site in Jerusalem is the Dome of the Rock (Qubbat as-Sakhrah). An impressive and beautiful edifice, the Dome of the Rock can be seen from all over Jerusalem. It is the crowning glory of the Haram es-Sharif ("Noble Sanctuary"), or Temple Mount.

The Dome of the Rock is not a mosque, but a Muslim shrine. Like the Ka'ba in Mecca, it is built over a sacred stone. This stone is believed to be the place from which the Prophet Muhammad ascended into heaven during his Night Journey to heaven.

The Dome of the Rock is the oldest Islamic monument that stands today and certainly one of the most beautiful. It also boasts the oldest surviving mihrab (niche indicating the direction of Mecca) in the world.

The sacred rock over which the Dome of the Rock is built was considered holy before the arrival of Islam. Jews believed, and still believe, the rock to be the very place where Abraham prepared to sacrifice Isaac (an event which Muslims place in Mecca). In addition, the Dome of the Rock (or the adjacent Dome of the Chain) is believed by many to stand directly over the site of the Holy of Holies of both Solomon's Temple and Herod's Temple.

The Dome of the Rock was built by the Umayyad caliph Abd al-Malik from 688 to 691 AD. It was not intended to be a mosque, but a shrine for pilgrims. According to tradition, the Dome of the Rock was built to commemorate Muhammad's ascension into heaven after his night journey to Jerusalem (Qur'an 17). But there seems to have been more to it than this, since the Dome of the Ascension was later built nearby.


Lebanon

The Mansouri Great Mosque

The Mansouri Great Mosque or the is a mosque in Tripoli, Lebanon, also known simply as The Great Mosque of Tripoli. It was built in the Mamluk period, from 1294 to 1314, around the remains of a Crusader Church of St. Mary.[1][2][3] In any case, the two Christian elements in no way detract from the traditional Muslim nature of this great royal mosque, the first building erected in Mamluk Tripoli.



Morocco

Hasssan II Mosque

The Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca was completed in 1993 after great expense and artistic labor, and the result is one of the largest and most beautiful mosques in the world. Its gleaming newness and tremendous wealth is a stark contrast against the rest of Casablanca.
History

The great Hassan II Mosque was commissioned by its namesake, King Hassan II, in part to provide Casablanca with a single landmark monument. On his birthday, July 9, 1980, the king declared:

Designed by French architect Michel Pinseau, construction of the Hassan II Mosque began in July 1986 on land reclaimed (without compensation to the former residents) from a run-down area near the sea. The goal for completion of the mosque was King Hassan II's 60th birthday in 1989, but it ended up not being finished until August 30, 1993.


Kairaouine Mosque

The Kairaouine Mosque (Djemaa el Kairaouine) in Fes is the second-largest mosque in Morocco (after the new Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca) and gives Al-Azhar in Cairo a run for its money as the world's oldest university. Its minaret dates from 956 and is the oldest Islamic monument in Fes.

The Kairaouine is also the holiest mosque in Morocco and governs the timing of all Islamic festivals across the country. Non-Muslims are not permitted to enter the mosque.

The Kairaouine Mosque was founded in 857 by Fatima al-Fihri, the daughter of a wealthy refugee from the holy city of Kairouan in Tunisia. Fatima and her sister Mariam inherited a great deal of money from their father, and Fatima vowed to spend all of it on a suitable mosque for the Tunisian community in Fes.

The present form of the mosque, however, is mostly the result of a 10th-century reconstruction under Abd Er Rahman III, the Caliph of Cordoba, and a 12th-century reconstruction under the Almoravids.


Saudi Arabia

Al-Masjid al-Haram (The Holy Mosque)

Al-Masjid al-Haram ("The Holy Mosque"; also known as al-Haram Mosque, Haram al-Sharif, Masjid al-Sharif and the Haram) in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, is the holiest mosque in the world and the primary destination of the Hajj pilgrimage.

The mosque complex covers an area of 356,800 square meters and can accommodate up to 820,000 worshippers during the Hajj. The Holy Mosque is the only mosque that has no qibla direction, since Muslims pray facing the Ka'ba in the central courtyard. (See The Ka'ba and Black Stone for more details.)

The Haram was built in the 7th century and has been modified, rebuilt, and expanded on a regular basis ever since. Major expansions took place in the 1980s and further work is going on today.


The Prophet's Mosque

Al-Masjid an-Nabawi (Arabic: المسجد النبوي) or the Prophet's Mosque is a great mosque in Medina, Saudi Arabia. It stands on the site of a mosque built by the Prophet Muhammad himself next to his house and contains his tomb. The Prophet's Mosque is the second holiest mosque in the world after al-Haram in Mecca. (Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem comes in third.)

The original Prophet's Mosque was built by the Prophet himself, next to the house where he settled after his Hijrah (emigration) to Medina in 622 AD. It was an open-air building with a raised platform for the reading of the Qur'an.



Syria

Shrine of Sayidda Zeinab

The Shrine of Sayidda Zeinab is a beautiful Iranian-style mosque and shrine in southern Damascus, Syria. It attracts Shia Muslim pilgrims from Iran and around the world who care far less about its blue-tiled architecture than about its sacred shrine of Sayidda Zeinab, daughter of the Shia martyr Ali and granddaughter of the Prophet Muhammad.

Many tourists to Damascus miss the Sayyida Zeinab Shrine, but it is well worth a visit as it is a beautiful building and the best insight into the emotion of Shia Islam outside of Karbala and Najaf in Iraq. It is a simple taxi ride away and non-Muslim visitors are welcome, especially in the outer courtyard.


The Great Mosque

The Great Mosque or Umayyad Mosque of Aleppo, was built on the site of a former Roman temple and Byzantine cathedral built by St. Helen (mother of Constantine the Great). The mosque was founded by the Umayyad Caliph al Walid in 715 and completed by his successor Caliph Suleiman.

Throughout its history the building has endured multiple renovations and reconstructions in response to natural disasters (earthquakes and fire) and to modify its use, resulting in the development of its surroundings. Nur al Din rebuilt it in 1169 after a great fire and the mosque was destroyed yet again during the Mongol invasion of 1260.

The Great Mosque of Aleppo has recently (2003-04) undergone an extensive renovation, during which the courtyard and the minaret were especially restored.


Turkey

Hagia Sophia

The Church of the Holy Wisdom, known as Hagia Sophia (Άγια Σοφία) in Greek, Sancta Sophia in Latin, and Ayasofya or Aya Sofya in Turkish, is a former Byzantine church and former Ottoman mosque in Istanbul. Now a museum, Hagia Sophia is universally acknowledged as one of the great buildings of the world.
History

Unfortunately nothing remains of the original Hagia Sophia, which was built on this site in the fourth century by Constantine the Great. Constantine was the first Christian emperor and the founder of the city of Constantinople, which he called "the New Rome." The Hagia Sophia was one of several great churches he built in important cities throughout his empire.

Following the destruction of Constantine's church, a second was built by his son Constantius and the emperor Theodosius the Great. This second church was burned down during the Nika riots of 532, though fragments of it have been excavated and can be seen today.


Isabey Mosque

The Isabey Mosque in Selçuk (near Ephesus) is a beautiful example of Seljuk Turkish architecture in an atmospheric location. It is the oldest known example of a Turkish mosque with a courtyard.

The Isabey Mosque was built in 1375 at the direction of the Emir of Aydin. Columns and stones from the ruins of the city of Ephesus and the Temple of Artemis were incorporated into the building. The mosque was restored in 1934.









Beyazit Mosque (Beyazit Camii)

Built from 1500 to 1505 under Sultan Beyazit II, the Beyazit Mosque is one of the oldest mosques in Istanbul. It is located next to Istanbul University and the Grand Bazaar in the center of a large 16th-century complex that includes schools and other buildings.
History

Construction on the Beyazit Mosque began in 1501, overseen by architect Yakubsah Bin Sultan. The mosque was built over the ruins of the Forum of Tauri built by the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius. The pavement of the courtyard and the pillars of the ablutions fountain are reused materials from the Forum.

The Beyazit Mosque was completed in 1506. Sultan Beyazit II died in 1512 and was buried in the gardens with his family.Built from 1500 to 1505 under Sultan Beyazit II, the Beyazit Mosque is one of the oldest mosques in Istanbul. It is located next to Istanbul University and the Grand Bazaar in the center of a large 16th-century complex that includes schools and other buildings.

Construction on the Beyazit Mosque began in 1501, overseen by architect Yakubsah Bin Sultan. The mosque was built over the ruins of the Forum of Tauri built by the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius. The pavement of the courtyard and the pillars of the ablutions fountain are reused materials from the Forum.

The Beyazit Mosque was completed in 1506. Sultan Beyazit II died in 1512 and was buried in the gardens with his family.










Blue Mosque

The cascading domes and six slender minarets of the Sultanahmet Mosque (better known as the "Blue Mosque") dominate the skyline of Istanbul. In the 17th century, Sultan Ahmet I wished to build an Islamic place of worship that would be even better than the Hagia Sophia, and the mosque named for him is the result. The two great architectural achievements now stand next to each other in Istanbul's main square, and it is up to visitors to decide which is more impressive.
History

The Blue Mosque was commissioned by Sultan Ahmet I when he was only 19 years old. It was built near the Hagia Sophia, over the site of the ancient hippodrome and Byzantine imperial palace (whose mosaics can be seen in the nearby Mosaic Museum). Construction work began in 1609 and took seven years.

The mosque was designed by architect Mehmet Aga, whose unfortunate predecessor was found wanting and executed. Sultan Ahmet was so anxious for his magnificent creation to be completed that he often assisted in the work. Sadly, he died just a year after the completion of his masterpiece, at the age of 27. He is buried outside the mosque with his wife and three sons.

The original mosque complex included a madrasa, a hospital, a han, a primary school, a market, an imaret and the tomb of the founder. Most of these buildings were torn down in the 19th century.









Conqueror's Mosque (Fatih Camii)

The Fatih Mosque Complex (Fatih Camii ve Külliyesi) in Istanbul has a lovely interior like many Turkish mosques, but the primary importance of this mosque is its illustrious permanent resident, Mehmet the Conqueror (Fatih Mehmet).

The Imperial Fatih Mosque was constructed between 1462 and 1470 by Sultan Fatih Mehmet ("Mehmet the Conqueror"; 1432-81), who took Constantinople in 1453. The architect was Atik Sinan, not to be confused with the Sinan hired by Suleyman.

Sultan Mehmet's goal was to build an Islamic monument more spectacular than the Ayasofya Church. Legend has it that when the mosque failed to reach as high as the church - despite being bulit atop a hill - the sultan had the architect's hands cut off.

The mosque complex included a caravansary, a hospital, several hamams, the kitchens, and a market. Its school instructed up to 1,000 students at a time.

After an earthquake in 1509, the complex was restored by Beyazit II. During another earthquake in 1771, most of it collapsed. The present mosque and complex mostly date from a reconstruction under Mustafa III, completed in 1771. The mihrab, medreses (schools), and inner courtyard survive from the original complex.









Fethiye Camii (Pammakaristos Church)

Built in 1292, the Church of Theotokos Pammakaristos in Istanbul is a fine example of late Byzantine architecture and art. It has been a mosque (called Fethiye Camii) since 1591, but still contains some well-preserved Byzantine mosaics. The church is a little off the beaten track, but is not too far from the more famous Kariye Camii.

The church of Theotokos Pammakaristos was founded in 1292 by John Comnenus and his wife Anna Doukaina. In 1315, a small mortuary chapel was added for Michael Glabas Ducas, a former general, and his family.

The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate used this church as its headquarters from 1456 to 1586.

In 1591, Murat III converted the church into a mosque, naming it "Fethiye" in memory of his conquest of Georgia and Azerbaijan. Today the building is a museum.










Küçük Ayasofya (Sergius & Bacchus)

Begun in 527 by Emperor Justinian, the Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus in Istanbul was an early experiment in Byzantine architecture, with a large central dome supported by an octagonal base. The church is now a mosque called Küçük Ayasofya Camii (Little Hagia Sophia Mosque), named for its resemblance to the much larger Hagia Sophia built a few years later.

Saints Sergius and Bacchus are Christian Roman soldiers who were martyred in Syria in 303 AD. They became the patron saints of soldiers and their cult was very popular in Syria and beyond.

The Byzantine Emperor Justinian (r. 527-65) was among the saints' devotees. According to legend, when Justinian was a young man he was condemned to death for plotting against Emperor Anastasius. But Sergius and Bacchus appeared to the emperor in a dream, convincing him to release Justinian.











Süleymaniye Camii (Suleiman Mosque)

The Suleiman Mosque (Turkish: Süleymaniye Camii) is a grand 16th-century mosque in Istanbul, Turkey built by Suleiman the Magnificent.
History

The Suleiman Mosque was built on the order of sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and constructed by the great Ottoman architect Sinan. The construction work began in 1550 and the mosque was finished in 1557.

The mosque is modeled in part on the style of a Byzantine basilica, particularly the Hagia Sophia, which was perhaps a conscious move on the part of the sultan to create a continuity and a symbolic connection with the city's past.

The Suleiman Mosque was ravaged by a fire in 1660 and was restored on the command of sultan Mehmed IV by architect Fossatı. The restoration, however, changed the mosque into a more baroque style, damaging the great work severely.

The mosque was restored to its original glory during the 19th century but during World War I the courtyard was used as a weapons depot and when some of the ammunition ignited, the mosque suffered another fire. Not until 1956 was it restored again. Today, the Suleiman Mosque is one of the most popular sights in Istanbul.







Yeni Camii (New Mosque)

The New Mosque (Yeni Camii) in Istanbul is not that new - it was built in the 1600s. Located on the water's edge next to the Galata Bridge, the Yeni Camii has become a defining feature of Istanbul's skyline.
History

Begun by Valide Safiye, mother of Sultan Mehmet III, in 1597, the mosque was designed by the architect Da'ud Aga, a pupil of Sinan. The chosen site was then a poor neighborhood; the inhabitants were paid to move out.

Construction initially dragged on for several decades due to water seeping and funding problems, then stopped completely when the sultan died - Safiye was no longer the Queen Mother so she no longer had the revenues or power to support the project.

The mosque was completed by another queen mother, Valide Sultan Turhan Hattice, mother of Mehmet IV (1642-93).










Church of the Pantocrator (Zeyrek Camii)

Istanbul's Church of the Pantocrator, now a mosque named Zeyrek Camii, is a former monastery church and one of the most important historic landmarks of the Byzantine period.

However, the structure is in a sad state of neglect so a detour here may only be worthwhile in tandem with a stroll through the narrow streets of the Zeyrek neighborhood.
History of St. Savior in Chora (Kariye Camii)

Dedicated to St. Saviour Pantocrator, the monastery was founded by Empress Eirene, wife of John II Comnenus, who completed the south church prior to her death in 1124. She was also the first to be buried here (her sarcophagus was moved in the 1960s to the Archaeological Museum, but now resides in the exonarthex of the Ayasofya).

The northern church was added by the emperor (her husband) after Eirene's death, and dedicated to Virgin Eleousa, the Merciful or Charitable.

The emperor also had the churches connected through the jerry-rigging of a chapel between the north and south church, which also required the demolition of part of the exterior walls of the two buildings.

The church was converted to a mosque in the 15th century.



Eyüp Sultan Mosque

The Eyüp Sultan Mosque is the holiest site in Istanbul and one of the most sacred places in the Islamic world.

The mosque was erected by Mehmet the Conqueror over the tomb of Halid bin Zeyd Ebu Eyyûb (known as Eyüp Sultan), the standard bearer for the Prophet Mohammed as well as the last survivor of his inner circle of trusted companions.



Alaeddin Mosque

The Alaeddin Mosque (also spelled Alaettin) is the largest and oldest mosque in Konya, constructed by the Seljuk Sultan of Rum in 1221. It lies on Alaettin Hill, the site of Konya's original acropolis.

The Alaeddin Mosque has some interesting architectural features, such as columns of different sizes and decorations incorporated from different periods. The interior includes a tomb chamber with the sarcophagi of a dozen Seljuk sultans.







Selimiye Mosque

The Selimiye Mosque (Selimiye Camii) is located next door to the famous Mevlana Museum in Konya.

The mosque was commissioned by, and named for, Sultan Selim II (1566-74) in the Ottoman style. Construction began in 1558 when Selim was still a prince and was completed shortly after he became sultan, in 1567.

Like the Ottoman mosques of Istanbul, the Selimiye Camii is roofed with a large dome surrounded by semi-domes and sumptuously decorated inside. One interesting feature of the interior is the spire of the minbar (pulpit), which closely resembles the Green Dome of the Mevlana Museum.