Monday, June 20, 2005

The Umayyad Mosque (the Grand Mosque) of Aleppo

The Grand Mosque with the Citadel in the back
(more pictures here)
Located in the old city (area D4), very close to the citadel of Aleppo.

The site of the Great Mosque is the former Agora from the Hellenistic period, which later became the garden for the Cathedral of St. Helena, during the Christian era.

It was built by the Umayyad Caliph al Walid, who had earlier founded the Great Mosque in Damascus. It was completed in 717 by his successor Caliph Suleiman. Nur al Din later rebuilt it in 1169 after a great fire and the Mamelukes made further alterations. This mosque has an enormous 45-meter minaret, which is completely detached from it, built by the Seljuks in 1070.

Through the main entrance, a large court can be seen with pillared arcades, which are substitutions for the original ones in the Damascus mosque. Another series of arches can be found in the façade of the prayer hall, which were built by the Mamelukes. The façade is well decorated with intricately cut and various colored stones. A composition of white marble and inlaid basalt can be seen on the main door. As for the minbar, which is the pulpit on which the Sheikh stands when preaching, it is very beautifully carved out of wood and probably dates back to the 15th century.

Inside the prayer hall, to the left of the mihrab is a finely tiled chamber that is said to hold the head of Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist.

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