Syria: Damascus – Sayyidah Ruqayyah Mosque
This mosque is probably the most heavily guarded place in Damascus. This is a Shiite mosque and as such a big target for would-be Sunni Islamist suicide bombers. We went through three levels of checkpoints, were thoroughly searched, had to surrender all cameras except cell phones. The soldiers were heavily armed and many behind fortifications and turrets. The mosque itself is simple and unpretentious from the outside, it’s also not old and was built only several decades ago. But it contains the tomb of Ruqayyah, the daughter of Husain Ali, Mohammad’s grandson and a key figure in Shiite Islam. The mosque is stunning and surreal inside, built in the Iranian style like the mosques in Shiraz – with myriads of mirrors and gold, with the green-lit shrine standing in the middle. And we had no problems visiting as tourists, despite the safety precautions.