Some Muslim mosques are more important than others. The most important ones in Mecca and Medina are out of reach for non-Muslims. But there are many to choose from.
Some of the most holy ones
The Al-Aqsa Mosque is recognised as the third-holiest place in Islam. It is located near the colourful shrine called Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount in Old Jerusalem. The mosque sits practically on top of the Wailing Wall, the western wall of the ancient temple of Herod. This is generally recognised as a very holy place for Jews. Nearby there are several sites very important to Christians as well. Of course, this is a world hotspot and extremely fascinating to visit.
The Umayyad Mosque in Damascus is the fourth-holiest place in Islam. According to legend the mosque holds a shrine with the head of John the Baptist, honoured also by Christians. In Muslim belief, Jesus will return to this mosque at the End of Days. Unfortunately it is for the time being (2013) not a place to visit, as Damascus for some Syrians has become the actual end of days.
World Heritage Sites
My two personal favourite mosques among the ones listed on the World Heritage List, are La Mezquita in Cordoba (Spain) and the Hagia Sofia in Istanbul (Turkey). The Mezquita and Hagia Sofia are examples of places of worship that have changed religions. The first started as a mosque and was turned into a church when the Muslims were evicted in 1236. The second went the other way round after the Muslim takeover of Istanbul in 1453. Today they are both museums and World Heritage Sites.
The Mosque of Muhammad Ali sits on the citadel of Cairo (Egypt). I include it here not for its architectural beauty but for its powersome location (it is visible all over Cairo) and appearance (it looks overwhelming as well).
My best experiences with mosques are with the smaller, modest local ones. It is nice to be able to enter the courtyard, take off my sandals and wash my feet in the fountain before entering the prayer hall for a look. In Nazareth, in a failing attempt to find traces of the famed carpenter’s son, I was lucky to meet a local priest in a mosque. He invited me to his home for a chat and cup of Arab coffee.
As a matter of fact, the modest looking building on the cover of this post was located in Lhasa (Tibet), back in 1985.
Articles about religious buildings:
Theme I, Places of worship:
II, Monasteries and educational institutions (chapter 7) Read
III, Housing for the deity itself or its premier representatives (chapter 8) Read
IV, After death (chapters 9-12) Read the first
Click to enlarge the following images tagged “mosque”: