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 pictures of mosques to help you plan which ones you want to visit.
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Beautiful Mosques in Asia
Bibi-Heybat Mosque in Azerbaijan
If you travel around Azerbaijan, you’ll get the opportunity to experience some truly beautiful mosques, but one underrated gem in Baku is the Bibi-Heybat Mosque out the outskirts of town.
Inside you’ll find a beautiful green interior with characteristic windows, reminiscent of the palace of the Sheki Khans. That is because the mosque is a 1990s reproduction of the original 13th-century mosque that was destroyed by the Bolsheviks in their efforts to erase religion in Azerbaijan.
The original mosque was even described by Alexander Dumas as somewhat of a shrine to fertility. He wrote, “The mosque – a place of worship for infertile women, they come here on foot, worship, and within a year gain the ability to give birth.”
Imamzadeh Mausoleum (Goy Imam Mosque) in Azerbaijan
Another Azeri gem, the Immamzadeh is the second most important pilgrimage site in Shia Islam. Located outside of Ganja, the original mosque here dates back to the 8th century.
The original site was just a grave, however, the complex has grown around it over time, with periodic restorations and new projects happening every few centuries. The most recent restoration process finished in 2016.
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
Jami-Ul-Alfar Mosque (Red Masjid Mosque) in Sri Lanka
Nicknamed the Red Masjid, the Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque is one of the most popular tourist sites in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Built at the beginning of the twentieth century and based loosely on the architecture of the Jamek Mosque in Malaysia, it is the oldest mosque in the city.
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.
Contributed by Angela Corrias from Chasing the Unexpected
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
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 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 of the region, using floral elements and dark blue tiles that make a huge contrast with the red bricks.
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 most 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
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
Taj-ul-Masjid in India
Taj-ul-Masjid means ‘Crown of Mosques.’ This is one of the largest mosques in India and Asia and 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
The Blue Mosque in Armenia
Turkmenbashy Ruby 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 between 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
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 belonging 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
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 the 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
Beautiful Mosques in 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-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem
Named “the Father Mosque,” the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem is considered the third holiest site in Islam. This site is within the Old Walls of Jerusalem, which makes it both an important site for Muslims and a difficult site for many to visit (especially Palestinians from the West Bank).
The name Al-Aqsa refers both to the small mosque in the complex but can also be used for the entire complex, including the Dome of the Rock, the Gates of the Temple Mount, and the minarets. Of course, it’s the Dome of the Rock that is the biggest draw, which was built over the place where Muslims believe Muhammed ascended into Heaven.
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 there is 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.
Al Noor Mosque in Sharjah
Imamzadeh-ye Ali Ibn Hamze in Iran
Contributed by Nicholas Lim from Rambling Feet
King Abdullah I Mosque in Jordan
The city of Amman has quite a few lovely mosques, and because of the city’s geography, you can enjoy views of these various mosques spread out over Amman’s hills. However, they all pale in comparison to King Abdullah I Mosque, which is an overwhelming sight to behold.
The mosque was built in the 1980s and is complete with a small museum to the late king as well as models of other famous Islamic sites.
This was one of the strictest mosques that I have personally visited in terms of making sure that no hair was out of my scarf. Make sure to practice proper mosque etiquette when visiting.
Ortakoy Mosque in Turkey
One of the most famous photo spots in Istanbul, Ortakoy Mosque sits on the Bosphorus. The view of the outside of the mosque, set against the Bosphorus bridge, is exquisite, but it’s the cupcake pink interior that truly makes you fall in love.
This mosque is a popular place for bridal photo shoots due to its color scheme and setting, so you may get lucky and spot an Istanbul bride (or two!) while you’re here.
Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque in Lebanon
Contributed by Clemens Sehi from Travellers Archive
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 the 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
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
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi
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
Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Oman
The Grand Mosque in Muscat was built by the 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 a sleek modern design and contemporary Islamic architecture feels 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
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
Beautiful Mosques in Africa
The nations of northern Africa have fantastic Islamic 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 197 Travel Stamps
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
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
The Hassan II Mosque in 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 a 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 men 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
Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Hassan
One of the most magnificent Islamic sites in Egypt, the complex dates back to the fourteenth century and is considered the best piece of early Mamluk architecture in Cairo.
The sultan who had it built, Sultan Hassan, gained power at the tender age of thirteen. He was deposed and restored three times, and he died before the mos
Tin Mel Mosque in Morocco
Beautiful Mosques in 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
The Cordoba Mosque in Spain
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 1200s (during Spain’s reconquest), the Mezquita was changed back into a church and in the 1600s 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.
Hala Sultan Tekke Mosque in Cyprus
One of the most famous things to do in Cyprus is to take a visit to the Hala Sultan Tekke Mosque in Larnaca. Perched on the edge of the Larnaca Salt Lake, it’s a famous photography spot, especially during the flamingo season.
The mosque is considered to be an important site in Islam, but because Cyprus is a divided nation and this mosque is on the Greek side, there are very few pilgrims able to come here compared to other sites of the same religious significance.
Koski Mehmed Pasha Mosque in Bosnia & Herzegovina
The Koski Mehmed Pasha Mosque in Mostar is one you’ve probably seen in photographs even if you can’t name it by name. This beautiful Ottoman mosque sits on the banks of the Neretva river just beyond the Stari Most (Old Bridge). That’s why it’s one of the most popular Instagram spots in Mostar, but there’s more to the mosque than just a pretty view.
The original 17th-century Ottoman mosque was badly damaged during the Balkan wars by Croatian forces. It was restored in the 1990s, which saved the mosque for future visitors to enjoy.
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 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
Beautiful Mosques in North America
While many of the mosques in North America are built to blend into local architecture, there are a few stunning mosques in America and Canada that rely on traditional Islamic design.
Islamic Center of Washington, DC
Formerly the largest mosque in the Western Hemisphere, the Islamic Center is one of the most interesting sites to see when you visit Washington DC. It was the work of Islamic diplomats and the American Muslim community.
It is most notable in American politics as the mosque that President George W. Bush visited after the attacks of September 11th to help quell bubbling fervor for some Americans who wanted to retaliate against local Muslims. The visit was televised, during which President Bush famously quoted the Quran.
This Suni mosque and Islamic center in Markham, Ontario, is a beautiful example of Islamic architecture and one of the most beautiful mosques in Canada. The town actually has two mosques, and both of them are beautiful houses of worship.
While this isn’t an international tourist destination, it’s a great place for local Canadians to appreciate the beauty of Islam.
Beautiful Mosques in South America
Islam has reached every corner of the globe, and even predominantly Catholic South America has some gorgeous mosques to visit.
Coquimbo Mezquita in Chile
The Coquimbo Mezquita is a mosque built on a hill overlooking the town below. Besides dominating the skyline, it provides stunning views for those who come up to the top.
It might look familiar as it is a replica of a mosque in Marrakech and was a project of the King of Morocco. It’s not an old mosque either since it was only completed in 2006.
Coquimbo is a bit off-the-beaten-path in Chile. The town is about four and a half hours from Valparaiso and five hours from Santiago.
Imam Ali Mosque in Brazil
This beautiful mosque is located in Curitiba in the Brazilian state of Parana. It is one of two main mosques in the city, and the architecture is based on traditional Shia Islamic architecture. The building was built by traders who came to the area.
The Muslim community of Paramarimbo dates back to the 1920s, and their gorgeous mosque was built in the 1980s. One of its major claims to fame is the fact that Muhammed Ali once came to pray here.
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