33 of the Most Beautiful Mosques in the World and the Pictures to Prove It

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Anyone who’s had the privilege of traveling in a Muslim-majority country like Azerbaijan or Tunisia can tell you about how stunning Islamic architecture around the world can be. Whether you’re exploring the famed Blue Mosque in Istanbul or the much less visited Blue Mosque in Yerevan, stepping into a mosque for a non-Muslim is both educational and spiritual. Here are some of the most beautiful mosques in the world, with travel tales and accompanying the pictures of mosques to help you plan which ones you want to visit.

 

Asia

When folks think of Islamic nations, most thing first of the Middle East. However, Central and Southeast Asia have some of the most spectacular mosques in the world.

 

 

Jama Masjid in India

A couple of years back I started reading a lot of comparative studies on world religions. I find it interesting to discover both the similarities and the differences between faiths, beliefs. This included looking up shrines and temples from different religions. This is how I became mesmerized by Islamic architecture, especially the incredible mosques. Each time I visit a new place I try and see if there is any mosque around.

 

And my beloved India was no exception. With a large Muslim population, it is not difficult to spot mosques and to hear the call to prayer in a lot of places. The first mosque that I visited during my extensive travels in India was the Jama Masjid in Delhi (masjid meaning mosque), one of the largest in India.

 

Located in Old Delhi, walking distance from the Old Delhi Railway Station, this mesmerizing mosque was commissioned by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan (the one responsible for the Taj Mahal) and inaugurated in 1656. The mosque impresses by its sheer size, being able to house 25,000 worshippers at once. And it will instantly catch your eye with its red sandstone and soft white marble.

 

Jama Masjid also has an impressive collection of relics. There is a transcript of the Quran on deerskin, but also the sandals, footprints and red beard-hair of the Prophet Muhammed. In the center of the courtyard, you will spot a Hauz, the ablution tank where believers wash their feet, hands, and face before entering for prayer.

 

You don’t have to be a Muslim to get enchanted by the atmosphere around the Jama Masjid. You could easily spend a quiet afternoon watching people coming for their rituals or merely enjoying the serenity of this place of worship.

 

Contributed by Andra Padureanu from Our World to Wander

 

Jama Masjid. Photo by Andra Padureanu. Reused with Permission.
Jama Masjid. Photo by Andra Padureanu. Reused with Permission.

 

 

Masjid Jame in Afghanistan

A couple of days before we visited the mosque, an attack damaged a small part close to the entrance. A war zone for decades, in Herat, western Afghanistan, this probably wasn’t big news.

Built in the 13th century where there were two smaller mosques from the Persianate Muslim Ghaznavid dynasty that were destroyed by an earthquake, as soon as you enter Herat’s Masjid Jame, the Grand Mosque, you will walk across a candid white shiny floor. Ordered by Ghurid ruler Ghiyath al-Din Muhammad b. Sam and later extended by the Timurids in the 15th century, today this beautiful building is the city’s main mosque.
Its architecture is typical of the Persian mosques, the patterns of the interior decorations include flowers and symbols and while the blue in all its hues prevails, other colors such as yellow, white and green contribute in making the walls an interplay of mesmerizing artwork.
The mosque, located in the very city center, opens every day from morning to evening, but if you want to visit, definitely avoid the prayer times (five daily) announced by the muezzin. In front of the main entrance is a bustling market selling antiques while close to the back entrance is a textile market with all types of fabrics, pillow paddings, curtains and second-hand clothes.

 

Contributed by Angela Corrias from Chasing the Unexpected

 

Masjid Jame. Photo by Angela Corrias. Reused with Permission.
Masjid Jame. Photo by Angela Corrias. Reused with Permission.

 

 

 

National Mosque in Malaysia

One of the greatest pleasures of visiting Malaysia, especially the big cities like Kuala Lumpur or George Town, is the cultural and religious diversity. In Kuala Lumpur, you can find Buddhist temples, Christian Churches, and several mosques, the most impressive being the Masjid Negra, also referred to as the National Mosque.

 

Masjid Negra is both the largest and most modern looking mosque we have ever visited. It has a capacity of 15,000 people, occupies more than 13 acres, and its dimensions are simply impressive. The National Mosque has 73-meter tall minarets and the roof is like a folded umbrella. The blue and green colors dominate in the whole construction. The main hall is enormous, and the surroundings are charming with small ponds and fountains.

 

Located very close to the Chinatown of Kuala Lumpur, you only have to cross a few roads to get there. The mosque can be visited only at certain hours, which don’t coincide with Muslim praying time. Naturally, women have to cover themselves with a veil.

Contributed by Gábor Kovács from Surfing the Planet

 

National Mosque. Photo by Gábor Kovács. Reused with Permission.
National Mosque. Photo by Gábor Kovács. Reused with Permission.

 

 

Shah Rukn-e-Alam in Pakistan

Attracting over 100,000 pilgrims a year to commemorate the death of Sheikh Rukn-ud-Din, the Sufi Saint who is buried here, Shah Rukn-e-Alam is a Sufi mosque located in Multan, in Punjab province, Pakistan.

 

Built in the 14th century, this is considered one of the most beautiful Sufi shrines in the whole Subcontinent, and for good reason.

 

With a unique architecture and a peculiar round-appearance, consisting of a big dome and several tiny towers around it, the exterior of the mosque is decorated with tile-work characteristic from the region, using floral elements and dark blue tiles that make a huge contrast with the red bricks.

 

As you may know, Sufism is the mystical branch of Islam and Multan is one of the world Sufi capitals, where you can find several similar Sufi shrines. The city is around 12 hours by train from Lahore, but you can easily come on a night train. I can assure you that visiting this beautiful mosque, as well as other shrines, and seeing the Sufi worshipers in action is something that you don’t wanna miss!
Contributed by Joan Torres from Against the Compass
Shah Rukn-e-Alam. Photo by Joan Torres. Reused with Permission.
Shah Rukn-e-Alam. Photo by Joan Torres. Reused with Permission.

Straits Mosque in Malaysia

Our favorite Mosque around the world is the Straits Mosque in Melaka, South Malaysia. The Mosque is a little far from the city center and you can get there by public transportation, or, as we did, by bicycle. It will take you 15-20 minutes to get there and the place is very peaceful. Since Melaka city center is so busy, it makes a great place to visit in Malaysia. Straits Mosque looks like it’s floating since it’s built over the water. It was built in 2006 and mostly locals were praying, arriving by bicycle, car, or just walking.

Travel Tip: Don’t miss the sunset! The view is stunningly surreal with a hint of purple tones filling up the sky.

 

Contributed by Ruben Arribas from Gamin Traveler

 

Straits Mosque. Photo by Ruben Arribas. Reused with Permission.
Straits Mosque. Photo by Ruben Arribas. Reused with Permission.

 

 

Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque in Brunei

The Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque is a beautiful mosque conveniently located in the center of Brunei’s capital Bandar Seri Begawan.  In addition to being a place of worship for Muslims, the mosque is also one of the top tourist attractions in Brunei.  Completed in 1958, it is named after the 28th Sultan of Brunei. The mosque is the tallest building in Brunei and its large gold dome dominates the city skyline.

 

Non-Muslims cannot enter inside during prayers and are only allowed to enter during the limited visiting hours.  Shoulders and knees must be covered but the mosque conveniently provides robes for visitors to borrow.

 

While beautiful and ornate on the inside, Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque is even more impressive from the outside. The mosque is surrounded by an artificial lagoon which makes it look like it is floating on water and acts as a reflecting pool.  There is a bridge that crosses the lagoon and a boat which is a replica of a 16th-century royal barge.  I recommend seeing the outside of the mosque both during the day and at night when the mosque is illuminated.

 

Contributed by Matilda of The Travel Sisters

 

Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque. Photo by Matilda from the Travel Sisters. Reused with Permission.
Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque. Photo by Matilda from the Travel Sisters. Reused with Permission.

 

 

Taj-ul-Masjid in India

Taj-ul-Masjid means ‘Crown of Mosques’ and is one of the largest mosques in India and Asia that can accommodate up to 10,000 people at a time. Taj-ul-Masjid is located in Bhopal, the state capital city of Madhya Pradesh in central India; the mosque dominates the cityscape of Bhopal. The construction of Taj-ul-Masjid was commissioned by Shahjahan Begum (not to be mistaken for the Mughal ruler Shah Jahan who built Taj Mahal), a female ruler in Bhopal during the 19th century when Bhopal was ruled by royal families dominated by women rulers – the Begums. Should you plan to travel in Bhopal, sign up for a walking tour that brings you to Taj-ul-Masjid and much of the old heritage and architecture in the walled city of Old Bhopal.

 

Contributed by Kathleen Poon from Where is Kat Going

 

Taj ul Masjid Bhopal. Image by Kathleen Poon. Reused with Permission.
Taj ul Masjid Bhopal. Image by Kathleen Poon. Reused with Permission.

 

 

The Blue Mosque in Armenia

The Blue Mosque in Yerevan is a very unique mosque in Yerevan’s city center that is a must-visit for any traveler coming to Armenia’s capital city.  The mosque was built in the 18th century and is a Shia mosque.  One thing that makes the Blue Mosque really worth a visit is that it is the only mosque in Armenia, the country that claims rights to being the birthplace of Christianity.  Since its completion in 1768, it held religious services until 1931 when the Soviet Union abolished all religious activity in and at the mosque.  The USSR then turned the mosque into a museum and it housed the History Museum of Yerevan.  In 1999, the mosque underwent a facelift funded by Iran and the Iranians living in Yerevan and religious services commenced.  Today, the mosque is under Iranian ownership and that will last for the next 80 years or so.  I have visited this mosque on numerous occasions and I really love it because the grounds are peaceful and offer refuge from the busy city right outside.  There are apricot and cherry trees on the premises, and during the spring roses and flowers are scattered across the grounds.  The Blue Mosque offers insight on a different piece of Yerevan history and I think it is important to see all facets when visiting a place… not merely what the city is traditionally known for.

 

Contributed by Megan Starr from MeganStarr.com

 

The Blue Mosque. Photo by Megan Starr. Reused with Permission.
The Blue Mosque. Photo by Megan Starr. Reused with Permission.

 

 

Turkmenbashy Mosque in Turkmenistan

This mosque, around 10 kilometers outside Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan, is Central Asia’s largest.   It’s a stunning building with a vast golden cupola that’s some 50 meters in diameter and 4 minarets.   It is possible to fit 10,000 worshippers inside (and the inside is stunning too).  There are interlocking stars made from cherry wood and pillars of marble with a glorious handwoven carpet.

 

This is the Turkmenbashy Mosque, built by Turkmenistan’s first dictator in honor of his mother, although he’s not interred next to her in the mausoleum here.  It’s relatively new, built in 2002-2004.

 

Mosque walls are traditionally decorated with suras from the Koran.  This mosque has that as well as phrases from the Rukhnama, a book on spirituality and morality written by Turkmenbashy.   This doesn’t sit well with many Muslims and so you’ll find the mosque deserted much of the time.

 

That said, it’s a unique building and should you be visiting Ashgabat it’s well worth taking the time to come out here and see it for yourself.

Contributed by Sarah Carter from ASocialNomad

Turkmenbashy Mosque. Picture by Sarah Carter. Reused with Permission.
Turkmenbashy Mosque. Picture by Sarah Carter. Reused with Permission.

 

 

Ubudiah Mosque in Malaysia

During my month in Malaysia, I made a 2-day detour to the city of Kuala Kangsar, purely to see the incredible Ubudiah Mosque. It was so worth it. This beautiful mosque in bright white and gold is, if anything, even more amazing than the pictures. Inside, it’s modern and less ornate, except for a massive crystal chandelier that sparkles from the high ceiling.

 

There’s a fun story about this mosque: the legend goes that while it was being built in the early 1900s, construction had to be halted when two fighting elephants that belonged to Sultan Idris and Raja Chulan damaged the imported Italian marble.

The good news is, you don’t actually need to stay in Kuala Kangsar to see this amazing mosque. Kuala Kangsar is an easy half-day trip on the train from several popular cities in the region of Perak — it’s 30 minutes away from Ipoh. I’d definitely recommend making a trip.

Contributed by Maire Bonheim from Temples and Treehouses

Ubudiah Mosque. Photo by Maire Bonheim. Reused with Permission.
Ubudiah Mosque. Photo by Maire Bonheim. Reused with Permission.

Wazir Khan Mosque in Pakistan

Walking around Lahore, Pakistan’s Walled City, it’s hard not to be amazed by the crumbling mosques, shrines, and havelis throughout the bustling bazaars and winding side streets.

 

But even among all this splendor, the Wazir Khan Mosque stands out. The mosque, built in the mid-17th century as part of a larger complex, is considered one of the most elaborate and intricate Mughal mosques in existence. The exterior is completely covered in Persian-style kasha-kari tile work, and the interior is adorned with numerous frescos.

 

Wazir Khan Mosque is in the Walled City—the historical old center—of Lahore, along the ‘Royal Road’. This road was used by Mughal nobility to reach their residence in Lahore Fort. There are several other historically significant buildings along this road, but Wazir Khan Mosque is clearly its pearl.

 

One of the great joys of visiting the Wazir Khan Mosque, if you’re lucky, is climbing the roof across from the main building. You might have to give the caretaker some baksheesh, and it helps if you have someone with you who speaks Urdu, but you can get a great view from the mosque from above.

 

Wazir Khan has been severely neglected in the past, but the local government, together with the Aga Khan Foundation and international organizations, has made great headway in restoring and preserving the mosque for future generations to enjoy and admire.

 

Contributed by Alex Reynolds from Lost With Purpose

 

Wazir Khan Mosque. Photo by Alex Reynolds. Reused with Permission.
Wazir Khan Mosque. Photo by Alex Reynolds. Reused with Permission.

 

 

The Middle East & Turkey

Like Christianity and Judaism, Islam had its start in the Middle East, and some of the oldest and most important mosques in the world are located here.

 

 

Al Masjid Al Haram (Grand Mosque) in Saudi Arabia

If you ask a Muslim about the most famous mosque in the world, chances are they’d mention Al Masjid Al Haram, or in other words, the Grand Mosque of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. There is a special reason millions of Muslims flock there every single year, while many dream to perform the mandatory pilgrimage (if financially capable) – in the heart of Al-Haram lies the Kaaba, a black cube structure originally built by Abraham and his son Ismail.

 

It is the most sacred place of worship in Islam, and the Kaaba is the direction every Muslim faces regardless of where in the world they are when they pray.

 

During the pilgrimage, touching the Kaaba can become a great feat as you are competing with thousands of others with the same goal. What makes this mosque even more special is that you are surrounded by Muslims from every corner of the earth – the different facial features, skin color, languages, behaviors, etc. fill your senses as you realize the various existences of Muslims. Despite these differences, there’s one thing that remains the same, which is clothing.  With the men wearing white toga-like outfits and the women in flowing black abayas, you cannot tell a person’s status, financial standing, or wealth, which puts everyone on an equally distributed pedestal.

 

Only Muslims are allowed in Mecca as there is only one main purpose of visiting there: To worship and focus only on God.

Contributed by Samah from  God & Wanderlust

 

Grand Mosque of Mecca. Photo by Samah from God & Wanderlust. Reused with Permission.
Grand Mosque of Mecca. Photo by Samah from God & Wanderlust. Reused with Permission.

 

 

Al Noor Mosque in Sharjah

Though I am not a religious person, religious buildings always fascinate me tremendously – and mosques are often one of my favorite sites to visit. While most people probably think about the Grand Mosque (also known as Sheikh Zayed Mosque) first when they think about mosques in the United Arab Emirates, there are more mosques to visit in the UAE and another one is…the Al Noor Mosque in Sharjah. Sharjah is another Emirate/city in the UAE and, while it is not well-known amongst Dubai and Abu Dhabi visitors, it is a lovely destination to visit and the Al Noor mosque is one of the main attractions – located right at the water promenade.
While it is one of roughly 600 mosques in the city, it is the most famous, and it amazes with its Turkish Ottoman Style – and it is one of the very few ones in the UAE which is open to non-muslims (be prepared to dress accordingly). Tours are available on Mondays and take about one hour. If it is not open, you will still be able to see it from the outside. The mosque was completed in 2005 and can host up to 2200 for prayers, but, because of its stunning architecture, it is also very interesting to visitors from all over the world.
Contributed by Arzo Nayel from Arzo Travels
Al Noor Mosque. Photo by with Arzo Nayel. Reused with Permission.
Al Noor Mosque. Photo by with Arzo Nayel. Reused with Permission.

Imamzadeh-ye Ali Ibn Hamze in Iran

The mirror mosaics of the Shah Charagh mosque are, in my opinion, one of Shiraz’s must-see sights. but you’re restricted in what you may do there as a non-Muslim. However, you can visit the smaller (but no less magnificent) Imamzadeh-ye Ali Ibn Hamze with little hassle. It’s a 10-minute walk from the tomb of the poet Hafez and the turquoise dome is hard to miss from the street. There is no need to wait for a chaperone; one may walk around the compound, take photographs and browse the stalls in the courtyard at his own leisure. Just remember to put on one of the chadors by the entrance if you’re a woman.
There are separate entrances to the shrine for men and women; leave your shoes at the door and prepare to be dazzled. The walls and ceiling are covered in thousands of mirror tiles that sparkle in the lamplight. The effect is stunning and it feels surreal to see your reflection broken into many pieces. In the middle of the hall, Emir Ali rests within the silver casket. A nephew of Shah Charagh, he died here on his way to help Imam Reza. After praying, the faithful are careful to not turn their backs on the casket as they leave. For me, as a complete stranger to the practices of Iran’s Shia Muslims, it was an eye-opener.

Contributed by Nicholas Lim from Rambling Feet

Imamzadeh-ye Ali Ibn Hamze. Photo by Nicholas Lim. Reused with Permission.
Imamzadeh-ye Ali Ibn Hamze. Photo by Nicholas Lim. Reused with Permission.

 

Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque in Lebanon

Especially impressive at night is the Mohammad al-Amin Mosque, located just off of Martyr’s Square in Beirut, Lebanon. This massive and domineering mosque, now the most recognizable and iconic in Lebanon, was opened in October 2008. Thousands of people, including Muslim scholars and politicians, celebrated the inauguration of the country’s largest mosque. The bells of many churches rang during the ceremony, which also attended celebrities from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, Djibouti, and Palestine. Saad Hariri, son of the 2005 murdered former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, recalled the laying of the foundation stone by his father back in 2002. The floors of the 10,000 square meter building are decorated with precious oriental carpets, while the walls are decorated with verses from the Koran. And another interesting fact: The mosque with its sky-blue dome and towering minarets is built of the same yellow sandstone that rebuilt the center of Beirut.

 

Contributed by Clemens Sehi from Travellers Archive

 

Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque. Photo by Clemens Sehi. Reused with Permission.
Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque. Photo by Clemens Sehi. Reused with Permission.

 

 

Nasir-ol-molk “The Pink” Mosque in Iran

It’s quite a journey to go to Shiraz, Iran but I don’t regret any second I’ve spent on the bus as the city turned out to be really great. One of the reasons why I’ve decided to visit Shiraz was Nasir-ol-molk Mosque, more commonly known as the Pink Mosque. When you google pictures of Iran most likely you will see that gem as it’s one of the country’s showcases! It’s a fairly new mosque, dating back to the end of 19th century. From the outside, it looks like nothing special, but once you enter the random door from the lovely yard you’re transferred to the fairy-tale world. The interior is just too beautiful and you need to pinch yourself to prove you’re not dreaming! I was there in the afternoon and the place took my breath away, especially when I was all alone inside. I could sit on the floor and just look around me with eyes wide open. I don’t think I’ve seen something that spectacular before! But the best time to visit the Pink Mosque is in the morning when the sun is shining. The rays of the sun go through the stained glass windows giving an incredible light show! You don’t want to miss that during your trip to Iran!

 

Contributed by Kamila Napora from Kami & the Rest of the World

The Pink Mosque. Photo by Kamila Napora. Reused with Permission.
The Pink Mosque. Photo by Kamila Napora. Reused with Permission.

Shah Mosque in Iran

One of the most iconic mosques in the country of Iran, the Shah Mosque (otherwise known as the Imam Mosque) lies in the bustling Naghsh-e Jahan Square of Isfahan. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Shah Mosque was built around 400 years ago and is marked by its stunning blue tiles and a large turquoise dome, making it one of the reasons Isfahan is coined “the city of turquoise domes.” If you ever find yourself traveling in Iran, the Shah Mosque is a must-see.

Walking inside of the Shah Mosque is a mesmerizing experience. The interior is adorned with similar, floral-patterned blue-and-yellow tiles that line the gorgeous arches around the mosque’s walkways. Inside, you can explore areas where the commoners of Isfahan used to gather and pray (the Shah and his family had their own private mosque for personal use). If you look closely, you can see Quran verses painted in white onto the tiles that line the walls of the central mosque areas.

 

Outside of the central prayer areas, there is also a large courtyard where people, when not praying, could socialize, share meals, or learn more about Islam. Today, the complex is no longer in use and is undergoing constant renovations to maintain is beautiful tile work and spectacular legacy. Once you exit the mosque, you’ve immediately returned to the giant central square, with side exits into the dark alleys of Isfahan’s bazaar.

 

Although the mosque’s interior is only open to visitors during the day (with a paid entrance fee), it’s also worth strolling to the square at night to see the majestic mosque façade completely illuminated.

 

Contributed by Kay from Jetfarer

 

Shah Mosque. Picture by Kay Rodriguez. Reused with Permission.
Shah Mosque. Picture by Kay Rodriguez. Reused with Permission.

 

 

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates is considered one of the most stunning mosques in the world and rightly so. Given how well known the mosque is most people are surprised to find that it only opened in 2007!
Outside of the fact that admission is free and that the mosque is a photographer’s dream, visiting the mosque is special because you’re given so much access. A lot of other religious institutions I’ve visited while traveling will only let you see some parts of the building but at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque you get to walk around and take in the majority of the beautiful details. There are guided tours but you’re also free to walk around on your own (and therefore take your time!). Some of the stunning things you can see in this mosque include the world’s largest hand-knotted carpet that is over 5,700 square meters! Another beautiful detail not to miss is the 7 giant chandeliers hanging across different parts of the mosque. They’re insanely detailed and super beautiful! If you do find yourself in the UAE then visiting Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque has to be on your to-do list!
Contributed by Liliane Fawzy from My Toronto My World
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Picture by Liliane Fawzy. Reused with Permission.
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Picture by Liliane Fawzy. Reused with Permission.

Suleimaniye Mosque in Turkey

Sprawled over the top of one of Istanbul’s seven hills, Suleimaniye Mosque dominates the city skyline when viewed from the Golden Horn. It dates back to the days of the Ottoman Golden Century – the age of the magnificent Sultan Suleiman.Suleiman, being a progressive ruler hired the most talented architect of his time – Sinan to design some of the most opulent buildings in the Ottoman Empire. And the Suleimaniye Mosque is the most celebrated of Sinan’s creations.

Like most things in Istanbul, the Mosque’s design represents the merging of two cultures: the Byzantine (Roman) and the Ottoman. The epic dome of the Mosque is supported by the smaller semi-domes, mirroring the style of the Byzantine Hagia Sophia, while the pencil-sharp minarets lend the structure a distinctly Islamic look. More then just a Mosque, Suleimaniye was designed as a complex of buildings, including a hospital, a school, a hammam, a Qur’an school and a public kitchen to feed the poor.  Though the most interesting additions to the mosque are the two mausoleums that house the tombs of Sultan Suleiman, his wife, Roxelana. And to top it all off, the views from this hilltop Mosque are some of the best in Istanbul.

 

Contributed by Margarita Steinhardt from The Wildlife Diaries

 

Suleimaniye Mosque. Picture by Margarita Steinhardt. Reused with Permission.
Suleimaniye Mosque. Picture by Margarita Steinhardt. Reused with Permission.

 

 

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Oman

The Grand Mosque in Muscat was built by order of Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said and opened in 2001 in honor of his 30th anniversary of the rule in Oman   It’s sleek modern design and contemporary Islamic architecture feel understated compared to the splendor and beauty inside the main male prayer hall.

 

The main dome stands 90m high and is home to the world’s largest crystal chandelier, with 34 smaller replicas to be found in other parts of the building.  It also houses the second-largest hand-loomed Iranian carpet in the world.

 

There is a smaller, more conservatively designed but nonetheless very pretty ladies prayer hall as well.  In total, the Grand Mosque can house 20,000 worshippers.  Do take time to explore the library and the grounds.  The perfectly manicured gardens are a beautiful tranquil oasis and all around the outer corridors, you will find intricate mosaic tiling.

 

For non-muslims, visiting the mosque is permitted free from 8.30 am to 11 am daily except Fridays.  Female visitors are able to hire abayas at the non-muslim entrance for a small fee.

 

Contributed by Keri Hendrick from Family Travel in the Middle East

 

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. Photo by Keri Hedrick. Reused with Permission.
Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. Photo by Keri Hedrick. Reused with Permission.

 

 

The Blue Mosque in Turkey

The Blue Mosque in Istanbul, which is also known as the Sultan Ahmet Mosque, was completed in 1616. It is for sure one of the most famous Mosques around this globe – and there are several reasons for that. First of all, the location of the Blue Mosque is just incredible: right in the middle of Turkish history, on Sultan Ahmet square.

 

And once you make it there you will realize how impressive this piece of architecture, which was built during the Ottoman Empire, actually is. With its huge minarets, beautiful interior and the whole history that belongs to that place, the Blue Mosque is certainly a mosque you have to visit.

 

Even Pope Benedict XVI visited the Blue Mosque in November 2006, which is only the second papal visit in history to a Muslim place of worship. I especially loved being around the mosque during the night, as it looks even more beautiful when the lights start to turn on – an unforgettable moment.

 

Contributed by Michael Gerber from mscgerber.com

 

The Blue Mosque. Photo by Michael Gerber. Reused with Permission.
The Blue Mosque. Photo by Michael Gerber. Reused with Permission.

 

 

Africa

The nations of northern Africa have a fantastic mix of Islamic and indigenous architecture, mixed with European influences from after the Reconquista.

 

 

Al-Zaytuna Mosque in Tunis

The Al-Zaytuna Mosque in Tunis is more than a religious center. The mosque is located right in the center of the beautiful Medina of Tunis. While life is busy and hectic in the narrow streets of the Medina, the inside of the large religious complex is peaceful and quiet. The mosque covers a total area of over 5,000 square meters and is built on an old Christian basilica.

 

The minaret of the mosque stands tall over the other, lower buildings of the medina. Some of the locals around the mosque offer tourists the opportunity to enter their rooftops for some incredible views of the old town and the minaret of the Al-Zaytuna Mosque. Just make sure to agree on a fair price beforehand and you will have an amazing experience and some incredible views.

 

Contributed by Mike from 197TravelStamps.com

 

Al Zaytuna Mosque. Picture by Michael Meraner. Reused with Permission.
Al Zaytuna Mosque. Picture by Michael Meraner. Reused with Permission.

 

 

The Al-Hakim Mosque in Egypt

The Al-Hakim Mosque in Cairo is probably one of the most beautiful mosques that I ever visited. The mosque is conveniently located in the Islamic old town of Cairo, which is the main tourist destination due to its markets, its busy streets, and the famous Al-Azhar park with its beautiful views of Cairo. The Al-Hakim mosque is still a hidden gem and was not very crowded during my visit. You won’t find many (or any!) tourists here. Therefore, it’s the perfect place to slow down and to recover from Cairo’s busy streets for a moment. The mosque welcomes everyone to visit, and I enjoyed sitting down and watching the locals praying and spending some quiet time. The Al-Hakim mosque was certainly one of the nicest (and calmest!) places which I visited during my trip around Egypt. If you visit Cairo, make sure to check it out!

 

Contributed by Patrick Muntzinger from German Backpacker

 

Al-Hakim Mosque. Picture by Patrick Munzinger. Reused with Permission.
Al-Hakim Mosque. Picture by Patrick Munzinger. Reused with Permission.

 

 

The Great Mosque of Kairouan in Tunisia

My husband and I spent the majority of our time in Tunisia exploring the unique architecture of the traditional Berber culture and the amazingly well-preserved Roman ruins throughout the country. We drove out of the shifting sands of the Sahara Desert through Matmata (famous as a Star Wars filming location) — a village whose houses were dug underground in order to escape the searing heat of the desert environment — into Kairouan, where the imposing Great Mosque stood in contrast high above the ground, orderly and ancient, largely unchanged since the 9th century. Though we were surrounded by the people of Muslim faith throughout Tunisia, we didn’t see very much of it represented architecturally until we got to the Great Mosque.

 

The earliest mosque structure was built on this location in 670 AD, shortly after the spread of Islam throughout northern Africa, establishing Kairouan as one of the first major cities in the new Islamic empire. Most of what is visible today dates to the 9th century, having been reconstructed with more timeless materials than the original mud-brick construction. It’s considered one of the holiest, largest, and most historic sites in Islamic North Africa. The huge square minaret towers above the city, its top visible from inside the narrow alleys of the medina. While the outer facades are spare in color, looking much the same as the desert sands, the stone pillars form elegant corridors of brick archways. Bright red carpets cover the floor of the grand prayer hall, dimly lit with enormous conical-shaped chandeliers. For such a large complex, it was surprisingly empty when we visited. Looking out from a covered walkway, I watched one lone man crossing the tiled courtyard by himself, his pale yellow robe fluttering behind him, reflecting the austerity of the landscape from which the Great Mosque rises.

 

Contributed by Shara Johnson of SKJ Travel

 

Great Mosque in Kairouan
Great Mosque in Kairouan

 

 

Read: Traveling Tunisia’s Historic Sites in Photographs

 

 

The Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, Morocco

The Hassan II Mosque is a beautiful and very large mosque located in Casablanca, Morocco. It is famous for being the largest Mosque in Morocco and the second largest mosque in Africa. That it is large cannot be disputed, since 25,000 worshippers can fit in the main hall, while another 80,000 can find a place on the square outside of the mosque.

 

What is an interesting feature of this mosque, is that apart from some white granite columns and 56 crystal chandeliers imported from Italy, all the materials used to build the mosque come from around Morocco. All the marble and wood you can see is sourced locally. From the High Atlas to the Sahara, every part of Morocco contributed to this mosque. The Hassan II Mosque was funded by worshippers from all over the world, took seven years to build from 1986 to 1993, and 6000 craftsmen worked on the mosque.

 

The Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca is one of the few mosques in Morocco that is accessible to foreigners. You can only visit the mosque through guided tour outside of prayer times. Guided visits are 120 dirhams (about 11 euros) and tours take about 1 hour and are conducted in English, French, German or Spanish. Find all information you need about visiting the Hassan II Mosque here. You will be required to remove your shoes (but they will give you a bag to carry them in), but it was at no point required for women to cover their hair. But keep in mind to dress modestly, both for man and women.

 

The Hassan II Mosque is a great mosque to visit when you are in Casablanca. It is very photogenic, especially around sunset! All the marble, wood carvings, and mosaics will make any photographer’s heart skip a beat! Although you can see the outside of the Mosque without buying a ticket, the guided tours as well worth the money. Observing at the same time the tiny craftsman’s details and the grandeur of the hall, this is one Mosque to put on your to-visit list!

 

Contributed by Sabrina Bos from Backpacking Like A Boss

 

Hassan II Mosque. Photo by Sabrina Bos. Reused with Permission.
Hassan II Mosque. Photo by Sabrina Bos. Reused with Permission.

 

 

Tin Mel Mosque in Morocco

This may be one of the most interesting mosques on the list for two simple reasons:

 

1. Unless you’re Muslim, you can’t go into most of the mosques in Morocco.
2. Tin Mel mosque is abandoned.

 

This just may well be the only mosque you get to go inside during your time in Morocco, and it’s grand as a can be. Sure there’s no roof on this mosque, and the decor has faded a bit, but it’s still quite the spectacle, and its washed out and ornate detail still makes this one of the coolest and most beautiful mosques I’ve ever seen (/got to more than just peer inside of). It was one of my favorite things to do in Morocco but it’s essentially located in the middle of nowhere and the closest “tourist town” is Imlil which is one hour north. Pretty much the only way you’re going to see it is if you road trip, which I highly recommend!
Contributed by Nina Ragusa from Where in the World is Nina?
Tin Mel Mosque. Photo by Nina Ragusa. Reused with Permission.
Tin Mel Mosque. Photo by Nina Ragusa. Reused with Permission.

Europe

While most tourists planning a European vacation might not think to include a mosque on their itinerary, Europe is filled with charming and beautiful mosques, reflecting a complicated history between Christianity and Islam.

 

 

Et’hem Bej Mosque in Albania

Located just off Tirana’s main square, Skanderbeg Square, you’ll find a mosque that is worth visiting – the Et’hem Bej Mosque. Besides being beautiful, one of the things that made this mosque so special to me is that it was the first mosques I have visited that I was able to go inside, but even those that have visited many mosques will be interested in its history and design.

 

Built between 1793 and 1821, the construction was started by Molla Bey and then finished by his son Haxhi Ethem Bey. The mosque is elaborately decorated both inside and out by some of Albania’s masters with colorful paintings of famous Ottoman cities and floral motifs. Outside and in the portico, you’ll find frescoes depicting trees, waterfalls, and bridges – motifs not often seen in Islamic art.

 

Unlike so many other religious sites, this mosque was saved from demolition during the atheism campaigns and turned into a museum. The reopening of the mosque in 1991 was the first sign of the revolution that eventually toppled the communists and the mosque is now one of the oldest structures in Tirana.

 

Today it still provides religious services and visitors are welcome to go inside to visit, though not during prayer times. As with all mosques, visitors are required to dress modestly, remove their shoes, and ladies are required to cover their heads. If you don’t have a scarf of your own, they will provide one.

 

After visiting the mosque, have a look at the landmark clock tower next to it, built during the Ottoman era to inform people of the prayer times. Until recently this was the tallest structure in Tirana, and today is a symbol of the capital.

 

Contributed by Stacey from One Trip at a Time

 

Interior Et'hem Bey Mosque. Photo by Stacey from One Trip at a Time. Reused with Permission.
Interior Et’hem Bey Mosque. Photo by Stacey from One Trip at a Time. Reused with Permission.

 

 

The Cordoba Mosque in Spain

The Cordoba Mosque is one of the most beautiful buildings in the region of Andalusia in Spain.  It is considered to be one of the greatest examples of Islamic architecture in the world and is a photographers dream. Not only is it a beautiful building, it has a very interesting history.

Historians believe the site originally housed a Roman Temple then was converted to a church in 572 by Visigoth invaders.  At one time the complex was both a church and a mosque. In 1784 the entire complex became a mosque. The mosque was completely rebuilt and expanded over the next 200 years.  During this time frame, the distinct red and white columns were added as well as the courtyard which still contains ancient orange trees and bell tower (that was formally the minaret).  Somewhere around the 1200’s (during Spain’s reconquest), the Mezquita was changed back into a church and in the 1600’s a large cathedral was plopped right in the middle of the complex. Fortunately, the mosque and the church blend well together in an unusual juxtaposition.

What I love so much about this mosque (besides the photogenic red and white columns and intricate craftsmanship) is the way the religions blend together.  The mihrab is a beautiful work of art and the cathedral is amazing. The courtyard makes a lovely area to take a break with views of the minaret/bell tower. It’s a spectacular building in the middle of the absolutely charming and family-friendly city of Cordoba.
Contributed by Lori From Fitz5 on the Go
The Cordoba Mosque. Picture by Lori Fitzgibbons. Reused with Permission.
The Cordoba Mosque. Picture by Lori Fitzgibbons. Reused with Permission.

The St. Petersburg Mosque in Russia

St.Petersburg is one of the most European Russian cities though historically Muslims formed a big part of the population. The Saint Petersburg Mosque was opened in 1913, but the interior wasn’t finished, at that the time it was the largest mosque in Europe with a capacity for 5000 people. The mosque was built from donations of the local tartar community and the Russian Muslim community. The construction started in 1909, but, due to World War I, the works on the interior were postponed and it was completely finished only in 1917. The mosque is often overlooked by tourists, but it’s one of the most interesting off the beaten path places to see in Saint Petersburg.

 

The building is an interesting mixture of Oriental style architecture and the Northern Modern, a local Art-Nouveau style popular in St.Petersburg at the beginning of the twentieth century. A huge blue-turquoise mosaic cupola dominates the building, and it can be seen from the opposite side of the Neva river. The cupola contrasts with the grey color building and minarets. The central entrance is the most impressive part of the mosque decorated with ceramic mosaic, a great spot for Instagram lovers.

 

The location of the mosque is very central, next to Troitsky bridge and Neva river, the easiest way to get here is by metro, the nearest station is Gorkovskaya.

 

Contributed by Campbell & Alya from Stingy Nomads

 

St. Petersburg Mosque. Photo by Alya Akhmetgareeva. Reused with Permission
St. Petersburg Mosque. Photo by Alya Akhmetgareeva. Reused with Permission

 

 

More about Traveling to Religous Sites

 

 

Have you visited any of these beautiful mosques? Are you planning a trip to visit a mosque soon or are you looking for pictures of mosques for trip inspiration?  Leave any tips and questions below!

 

 

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33 OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL MOSQUES IN THE WORLD
33 OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL MOSQUES IN THE WORLD

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