20 Of The World’s Most Amazing Mosques

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Travel BY Robert James

What’s the difference between a church and a mosque? A church is dedicated to the worship of Christianity, and a mosque to the worship of Islam, which is the Muslim religion and as it says on the packet, not just a religion but a complete way of life – a bit like Raisin Bran. Mosques have Muhammad and the Quran, Churches have Jesus and the Bible. Like the Bible, the Quran is believed to be the word of God, which among no doubt more important things tells Muslims to take their shoes off when they enter a mosque. Meanwhile, Christians get to keep their shoes on and also sit on chairs, except when they’re in mosques, then they must behave as Muslims do and remove their shoes. Mosques don’t have chairs, so if you’re a Muslim who also does Pilates, you’ll have an easier time with the lack of seating in the Islamic religion. If you can do yoga as well, then you’ll never have to revert to Christianity purely on the basis of a better seating arrangement, which is hardly a sound reason for choosing a religion. The word of God is either very long and difficult to pronounce, or the Angel Gabriel is a slow speaker, because it took him twenty years to reveal it to Muhammad. Mosques are beautiful, sacred places, and with Islam as the fastest growing religion, they can be found in practically every nook and cranny on the planet. Here are twenty of the most amazing mosques in the world.

Al Haram Mosque Mecca

Al Haram Mosque, Mecca

The largest and oldest mosque in the world, as well as the holiest site in Islam. Muslims pray facing Mecca, but specifically they are facing this mosque, in particular the Kaaba, a cubed building at the center of the site and the most sacred spot in Islam. In low light it could be mistaken for the Tardis. During the Hajj – the annual pilgrimage to Mecca and one of the largest gatherings in the world – up to two million worshipers can be accommodated here. Anyone using the Gregorian calendar, which is pretty much everyone in the west, will have difficulty pinning the dates of this event down, since it’s held from the 8th to the 12th of Dhu al-Hijjah, the 12th and final month of the Islamic lunar calendar, which is eleven days shorter than the Gregorian. Hence, so far as Gregorian calendars are concerned, the date changes from one year to the next. [Details]

Al Nabawi Mosque Medina Saudi Arabia

Al Nabawi Mosque, Medina, Saudi Arabia

The prophet Muhammad used to live here, and also had the mosque built on the grounds, sharing in much of the construction himself. For these reasons, plus the fact that he’s also buried under the green dome at the center of the mosque – the Dome of the Prophet – the Al Nabawi Mosque is the second holiest site in Islam. [Details]

Al Aqsa Mosque Jerusalem

Al Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem

The third holiest site in Islam, Muslims believe that Muhammad was transported here from the Al Haram Mosque in Mecca during the Night Journey, and then on to heaven. However, according to the new Garmin we just picked up from Best Buy, this is a journey of around thirty two hours, and that’s without traffic. There’s always traffic. So there’s no way Muhammed made the trip in one night, unless he went via another dimension, which is entirely possible. [Details]

Dome Of The Rock Mosque Jerusalem

Dome Of The Rock Mosque, Jerusalem

We’ve put these two together – Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa – because there’s often some confusion between them, to the point where they’re sometimes considered one and the same. But they are two distinctly separate buildings that happen to be very close to each other. They’re located in an area of Old Jerusalem called the Temple Mount. The Dome covers a rock believed by some Muslims and scholars to be the spot from where Muhammed ascended to heaven. Others believe that place to be the Al Aqsa Mosque. In Jewish tradition, the rock is understood to be where Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son. [Details]

The Blue Mosque Istanbul

The Blue Mosque, Istanbul

Its official name is the Sultan Ahmed Mosque, but it is known more popularly as the Blue Mosque because of the blue tiles that decorate the inside walls. There are some 20,000 or so of them, handmade ceramic tiles that decreased in quality over time due to the sultan fixing the price in advance, and not taking inflation into account. In the upper levels of the interior chandeliers have been added. Ostrich eggs are sometimes placed on the chandeliers in the belief that they repel spiders, and so help to minimize cobwebs. [Details]

Shah Faisal Mosque Islamabad

Shah Faisal Mosque, Islamabad

An Islamic house of worship that looks like it might also double as a launch pad for space exploration, the Faisal Mosque is actually designed in the shape of a Bedouin’s tent, and is the largest mosque in Pakistan. Completed in 1986 it is located at the most northern part of the city of Islamabad, at the foot of the Margalla Hills, the westernmost foothills of the Himalayas. [Details]

Hassan II Mosque Casablanca

Hassan II Mosque, Casablanca

Opened in 1993, at the top is a laser pointing across the sea towards Mecca and extending some twenty miles. At almost 700 feet tall the minaret makes this the tallest religious structure in the world. Or so we’ve heard. [Details]

Suleymaniye Mosque Istanbul

Suleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul

One of the perks of being the longest-reigning sultan in the Ottoman Empire is that you get to build mosques with your name on them. Suleiman The Magnificent, as he became known, must have skipped over the parts of the Quran that call for loving thy neighbor, as he spent the majority of the forty four years of his sultancy trying to wipe them off the map. He led the Ottoman expansion across Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East, presided over the “golden age” of his empire’s cultural development, and is buried here in the mosque that bears his name, the largest in Istanbul, and alongside his wife, Hurrem Haseki Sultan, who started out, incredibly, as a Christian called Roxelana, and later one of his harem. [Details]

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Abu Dhabi

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi

It’s not every day you find out where the world’s largest carpet is located. It’s here, in one of the largest mosques in the world that can accommodate more than 40,000 people. Unique lighting on the outside walls projects clouds and gets lighter and darker in relation to the phases of the moons. Why? Because the Islamic calendar is the lunar calendar. [Details]

Nusrat Djahan Mosque Copenhagen

Nusrat Djahan Mosque, Copenhagen

Muslims comprise about four percent of the Danish population, and numbers are on the rise. Built in 1967, The Nusrat Djahan, located on the outskirts of Copenhagen, is Denmark’s first mosque. This mosque is used by members of the Ahmadiyya faith, a branch of Islam, which perhaps accounts for why Denmark’s first real mosque was reported to have opened only earlier this year. [Details]

Zahir Mosque Malaysia

Zahir Mosque, Malaysia

Built in 1912 in the city of Alor Setar, capital of the Malaysian state, Kedah, the Zahir mosque has been voted among the top ten most beautiful mosques in the world. We just don’t know by who. Apparently, Kedah has a Quran reading competition every year, which is held in the mosque. [Details]

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Umayyad Mosque, Damascus

We’ve got the top three holiest sites in Islam, and some Muslims consider this to be the fourth. Legend tells us that the building contains the head of John the Baptist. Muslims also believe it to be the spot where Jesus will return at the End of Days. Also, Muhammad’s family walked here from Iraq following the Battle of Karbala, a distance of around 500 miles. We could go on. [Details]

The Great Mosque Of Cordoba Spain

The Great Mosque Of Cordoba, Spain

Now pay attention because this was originally a Christian church built by the Visigoths possibly somewhere around 400 AD but then sometime in the Middle Ages it was made into an Islamic mosque and then later, after the Reconquista, which is about 800 years of stuff happening in the Iberian Peninsula – something to do with a landmass known as Europe – it went back to being a church so maybe it shouldn’t even be on this list. We’re not really sure. Anyway, it’s too late now. Muslims are asking the Vatican if they can pray there again too, but the Pope, he says nope. [Details]

Bursa Grand Mosque Turkey

Bursa Grand Mosque, Turkey

The Bursa Mosque is built with twenty domes and has one of the finest examples of Islamic calligraphy anywhere in the world. It’s like five-hundred-year-old graffiti. It’s everywhere – on the walls, the columns, on the floor, small plates, big plates. At the time, someone probably got into a lot of trouble for this. [Details]

Marree Mosque Australia

Marree Mosque, Australia

Somehow, you tend not to connect Islam and barbecued lobster on the beach. It may come as a surprise then (or maybe not), to hear that the first mosque in Australia was built in Marree, South Australia, possibly as early as 1861. It has a certain Australian feel to it. [Details]

Qolsarif Mosque Russia

Qolsarif Mosque, Russia

Built in the 16th century the Qolsarif mosque was the largest mosque in Russia for about twenty minutes until it was destroyed by Ivan the Terrible during the storming of Kazan in the 16th century. In 1996 though, it was rebuilt. So take that, Mr. Terrible! It’s mostly a museum, but during the big Muslim celebrations, thousands come. [Details]

Crystal Mosque Malaysia

Crystal Mosque, Malaysia

Built in 2008 out of steel, glass, and crystal, the Crystal Mosque is on the small side for Islamic houses of worship, and only holds around 1500 people. By church standards, though, it’s still pretty much a whopper. [Details]

The London Central Mosque London

The London Central Mosque, London

Located in Regent’s Park and also going by the name Regent’s Park Mosque, the spiritual center for Muslims across the UK can hold over five thousand worshippers and also has a book shop and cafe. Its notably domed top looks like the lid off Paul Bunyan’s turkey roast. [Details]

The Great Mosque Of Xian China

The Great Mosque Of Xi’an, China

Founded in 742 it is the oldest and possibly best known mosque in all of China. Unlike most of the mosques listed here, apart from that one in Australia, the Great Mosque is unique in that it is completely Chinese in its architecture and design. Although a popular tourist stop, it is still actively used as a place of worship by Chinese Muslims. [Details]

Puchong Perdana Mosque Malaysia

Puchong Perdana Mosque, Malaysia

Sure, you can say your prayers in this mosque, worship according to Islam, face Mecca and all that good stuff, but if you’ve also got your camera handy then you’re in for a treat, because it looks to be floating on the water, possibly it is floating on the water, and in the right light you get some terrific reflections. Yes, alright it’s true, we don’t know a whole lot about this mosque. But you must admit, it’s a great location. [Details]

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