The Worlds Most Magnificent Mosques

The Worlds Most Magnificent Mosques

1 . Blue Mosque Istanbul Turkey

Istanbuls most photogenic building was the grand project of Sultan Ahmet I (r 1603 17), whose tomb is located on the north side of the site facing Sultanahmet Park. The mosques wonderfully curvaceous exterior features a cascade of domes and six slender minarets. Blue iznik tiles adorn the interior and give the building its unofficial but commonly used name.

2 . Kubah Mas Mosque Depok Indonesia

Throughout history, religious architecture has been flamboyant and overstated. Cathedrals, temples and synagogues form some of our richest architectural heritage, designed to win hearts and minds with shows of lavish wealth and unrivalled levels of craftsmanship. Islam can certainly hold its own in this game and Indonesia is home to one of the worlds flashiest examples. Known as the Golden Dome mosque, Kubah Mas was constructed in 2001 and funded entirely by a private benefactor. It features floors of the finest Italian granite, crystal chandeliers and domes of 24 carat gold to some this mosque might have a touch of the emperors new clothes about it, but the effect is breathtaking nonetheless.

3 . Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque Famagusta Cyprus

Cyprus is a land of contrasts, torn between Greek and Turkish lineage. This 14th century mosque is actually in Turkish Famagusta, known locally as Gazima?usa, and it used to be a cathedral. Consecrated as St Nicholas in 1328, at first glance this seems like a classical French structure with ornate design and rich tracery detail. But whats this? Look to the sky and somethings missing. The soaring limestone towers that once graced the western elevation are no longer destroyed during the Ottoman Empire and subsequently replaced with a single incongruous minaret. Little original decor remains, save a solitary stained glass window high in the front facade.

4 . Al Haram Mosque Mecca Saudi Arabia

This is the big one. Every year millions of Muslims travel to Saudi Arabia in the worlds largest gathering of humanity. The haj, Islams sacred pilgrimage, defines the city of Mecca and the Al Haram Mosque is like no other on earth. The name simply means The Great Mosque, and its almost unimaginably large the complex accommodates 800,000 worshippers on a regular basis and up to four million during haj. Centrally located is the Kaaba, the sacred building towards which all Muslims pray and around which devotees process hypnotically at the peak of the pilgrimage.

5 . Djenn Mosque Mali

The mosque in the island bound Mali town of Djenn seduces travelers with the mud brick hue of its fortress like exterior and the large supporting cast of wooden beams that protrude through the walls into the brilliance of the African sun. So captivating is this earthen marvel, the worlds largest mud brick structure, that itll make little difference to your experience to learn that the current building only dates from 1907. It was modeled on the Grande Mosqu e erected on the same site in 1280; the original building fell into ruin in the 19th century.

6 . Aya Sofya Istanbul Turkey

No, it doesnt honour some saintly Sophia this astonishing construction was named for divine wisdom (sophos in Greek). The name is apt: the incredible beauty of this ancient building, created by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian in 537 AD, is due to the cunning of the innovative architects who perched its vast, seemingly floating 30m dome on pendentives and hidden pillars. Converted to a mosque after the Ottoman invasion of 1453, Aya Sofya is now a secular monument but when shafts of sunlight strike the gold mosaics of its cavernous interior, you might be forgiven for experiencing a religious moment.

7 . Shah Faisal Mosque Islamabad Pakistan

This mosque by architectVedat Dalokaywas designed in the form of a Bedouins tent but no desert nomad ever slept under a canvas like this. Pinned at each corner by four needle like minarets that soar 90m, the pyramid shaped prayer hall appears to hover serenely on an elevated plateau overlooking the city. For such a huge structure the mosque is Pakistans largest and can accommodate upwards of 250,000 worshippers the effect is mesmeric, especially at night or during festivals such as Eid, when the illumination is spectacular. The interior is no less impressive, covered in striking white marble and decorated with mosaics and an elaborate Turkish style chandelier.

8 . Great Mosque of Xian China

The Silk Road trade routes brought more to China than mere commercial gain. In the 7th century merchants from Persia and Afghanistan also brought their religion and those who settled became the forefathers of the countrys Muslim community. Built in 742, under the Tang dynasty, the Great Mosque of X??n is truly unique and as beguiling as the citys more famous Terracotta Warriors. Despite this being a holy Muslim site, theres nothing remotely Islamic about the design. With ornate arched pergolas, verdant landscaped gardens and nary a minaret in sight, the untrained eye would be forgiven for thinking this is a classic Chinese temple.

9 . Sultan Mosque Singapore

The British statesman Sir Stamford Raffles, founder of Singapore, funded the original construction of this iconic mosque with a S$3000 grant in 1824. As the islands Muslim community grew, the number of worshippers increased and by the time the mosque celebrated its centenary it was in need of expansion. In keeping with Singapores diversity the new plans mixed classical Moorish, Turkish and Persian themes, topped off with an ornate golden dome that crowns the 5000 capacity prayer hall.

10 . Imam Mosque Iran

Headlining beside one of the worlds largest squares, Esfahans Imam Mosque (by architectShaykh Bahai)is a tiled wonder. Completely covered, inside and out, with pale blue and yellow ceramic tiles (an Esfahan trademark), its a stunning 17th century mosque, with its tiles seemingly changing colour depending on the light conditions. The main dome is 54m high and intricately patterned in a stylised floral mosaic, while the magnificent 30m high portal is a supreme example of architectural styles from the Safavid period (1502 to 1772).