From the largest mosque in the world to the most colourful, these stunning feats of architecture show how cultural influences are woven into places of worship.
Originating from the Arabic word ‘Masjid’, mosques are places of worship for Muslims that date back centuries. Not only are they steeped in sacred culture and history, but many are so rich in beauty that they draw visitors from around the globe. Here are 10 of the world’s most beautiful mosques:
1. Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Located in Abu Dhabi, the UAE’s capital city, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is an architectural marvel that fuses together Islamic motifs from different cultures around the world.
As one of the world’s largest mosques, its 82 gleaming white domes, 1,000 white columns, Swarovski-encrusted chandelier, reflective pools and hand-knotted carpet make it a sight to behold. With an open-door policy and an astonishing capacity allowing for up to 40,000 worshippers and visitors, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is an artistic masterpiece that draws crowds from around the world.
2. Putra Mosque
Blending traditional design and local craftsmanship along the waters of Purtrajaya Lake, Putra Mosque is as an example of how mosque designs have evolved in Malaysia. With its alluring rose-pink tint and it’s 160-meter minaret, the mosque has become a distinctive modern landmark since its completion in 1999.
Outside of mosque times, non-Muslim visitors are invited to visit inside to capture how Malay and Middle-Eastern architecture have been intertwined.
3. Hagia Sophia Mosque
The history of Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia is as captivating as its imposing architectural presence in the Sultanahmet district of the Turkish capital. Originally build as a Greek Orthodox Christian basilica, Hagia Sophia later became an imperial mosque. Not only has it withstood centuries of earthquakes, but it has also witnessed Ottoman Sultans praying and emperors being crowned.
Somewhat of a a mystical marvel with its centuries of secrets, Hagia Sophia draws in curious travellers who want to uncover how the Byzantium and Ottoman histories created one of the most iconic architectural monuments in the world.
4. Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
Accommodating up to 20,000 worshippers, Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is one of Oman’s most popular landmarks and its regal stature dominates Muscat’s skyline. Inaugurated by Sultan of Oman in 2001, the mosque was a gift to celebrate the 30 years of the Sultan’s reign, and its hand-loomed carpet is just one feature that has garnered attention over the years.
The five minarets of Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque are representative of the 5 pillars of Islam, and its design is embellished with colorful mosaic patterns, fine crystals and hand-crafted details. The mosque is one of only two mosque’s in Oman to invite visitors who are curious to learn more, but those who can’t get there can take a virtual tour instead.
5. Blue Mosque
Built in the 17th century, Istanbul’s Blue Mosque boasts six minarets that rise into the sky and a number of ornate domes that form its majestic, jewel-like presence. Known for its Blue İznik tiles that adorn the interior, the Blue Mosque is possibly Turkey’s most photographed landmark.
While it is still an active mosque and only worshippers can enter through its main door, visitors are welcomed outside of daily prayer times. While its interior showcases the architectural prowess, capturing the exterior from rooftops around the city allows photographer’s to snap the mosque when the soft light or the dawn and dusk hit its walls.
6. Nasir al-Mulk Mosque
Located in Shiraz, Iran, Nasir al-Mulk is known for its kaleidoscopic beauty. Allowing light and worship to intertwine, the mosque’s interior is a masterpiece in design. Under the order of Mirza Hasan Ali Nasir al Molk, a lord of the Qajar dynasty, the history of the mosque dates back to the late 19th century; it took 12 years to build and was completed in 1888.
The stained glass windows of Nasir al-Mulk soak up the morning sunlight, allowing for the carpeted floor and surrounding walls to come alive in all its colourful beauty. No matter what your culture or creed, Nasir Al-Mulk invites visitors to appreciate its historical beauty.
7. The Hassan II Mosque
Located in Casablanca, Morocco, the Hassan II Mosque is one of the largest mosques in Africa. Designed by a French architect, it was built in six years and opened its doors to worshippers in 1993. Jutting out over the ocean, Hassan II Mosque is a sprawling work of hand-carved art; its intricate marble walls and minaret that stands 210 metres tall make it a must-visit mosque while in Morocco.
Non-muslims can still visit the mosque outside of prayer times and are invited to take multi-language tours to learn more about the history, culture and craftsmanship.
8. Masjid Al Haram Mosque
Not only the largest mosque in the world, but also a focal point for Islamic worshippers, Al Masjid Al Haram covers a sprawling 356,800 sq metre space with the Holy Kabaa at its centre. Not only does it house the holiest structure in all of Islam, but it is also at the heart of Islamic pilgrimages, such as hajj and umrah.
The sacred city of Mecca does not allow non-muslim visitors, so those who are culturally curious will have to learn about this mosque from afar.
9. Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque
Built on an artificial lagoon that reflects its golden domes, Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque in Brunei has a lavish, photogenic exterior. The area surrounding the mosque is very much a gathering spot for families, and there’s also a stone replica of a 16th-century mahligai (royal barge) ceremonial boat sitting in the lagoon.
While it may seem a little over-the-top from the outside, Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque only allows worshippers in at prayer time. Still, it stands as one of the most beautiful mosques in Southeast Asia.
10. Jama Masjid
Located in Delhi, Jama Masjid is the largest mosque in India, boasting a courtyard that can host up to 25,000 worshippers. Built from red sandstone and white marble, the mosque offers momentary solace in one of the world’s most populous cities.
Visitors can enter the mosque and climb the narrow steps one of the 40-metre-high minarets, but those carrying a camera will have to pay a small fee to capture the mosque’s beauty.
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