Syria: Damascus – Umayyad Mosque (Revisited)
Umayyad Mosque is one of the oldest mosques in the world and is often considered Islam’s fourth holiest place. The mosque dates to the 7th century and the Arab conquest of Damascus when it was built on the site of an earlier Christian Basilica. And it is the prime jewel of the city, occupying its heart in the middle of the old town. The mosque is a giant complex of marble and stone with multiple domes and three different and dissimilar minarets built during the different eras in history. Minaret of the Bride is from the 9th century and was most likely build on top of a Roman monument or tower. The Minaret of Jesus from the 12th century is the tallest at 77m/253ft and is seen prominently from many points in the old city. It is here, according to Islam, that Jesus will return to fight the Antichrist. The third minaret – the Western Minaret – is from the 15th century and the time of Mamluks. The entire complex is surrounded by tall and thick stone walls and here and there are remnants of Roman arches and columns. Also outside the main walls is the Tomb of Saladin. The inside of the Umayyad Mosque consists of two grand areas – the colonnaded courtyard and the covered sanctuary or haram. The courtyard is surrounded by four arcades with Roman-like double arch columns. The wall and ceiling decorations are just surreal and mindblowing with absolutely stunning intricate details. You just walk there in absolute awe, stunned by the atmosphere and the views. The sanctuary has a totally different feel – dark and damp – you walk around on the carpets among the worshippers and toward the central shrine housing the remains of supposedly John the Baptist. It’s worth pointing out, that tourists are welcome into the mosque, unlike in many Islamic institutions in other countries.