Iraq: Kufa – Grand Mosque of Kufa
The Grand Mosque of Kufa is the forth most important and holy mosques in the Muslim world (after Mecca, Medina, and Jerusalem). The mosque was built in 670 CE, and it is considered to be the birthplace of the Shiite religious and political ideology. Supposedly, Noah built his arc here and the flood began and ended at the mosque. The mosque was seriously diminished and almost closed under the Baathist Sunni Saddam regime, that in 1999 assassinated the prominent cleric Muhammad al-Sadr. After the fall of Hussein, it was this mosque where Muqtada al-Sadr (son of the slain cleric) called to protest the US invasion (it was him who is widely credit for mobilizing Shiite militia in fight against the Islamic State and his party just won the most seat in the elections in October 2012). The mosque can accommodate 50,000 worshipers, has spectacular courtyards and domes and gilded minarets. The interior is surreally stunning with myriads of mirror all over the place (typical for Shiite mosques). There are also several shrines inside, where men and women (separately) pay respects by praying, walking around the caged tombs, and kissing it.