The world´s second largest religion, Islam, is practiced by an estimated 1.8 billion people on every continent, and an estimated 3.6 million mosques worldwide, ranging from the humble, workaday and even primitve to the spectacular indeed. Countries with the most mosques include (believe it or not) Bangladesh, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Morocco, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia (which is after all the religion´s birthplace), Turkey, and Yemen. Known in Arabic as a masjid, this is where Muslims gather to pray the salah, and the world´s most beautiful are more than temples but rise to the level of architectural marvels appreciated by people of all faiths and even no faith. And here we offer our top ten, a mix of old and new:
Al-Haram - Makkah, Saudi Arabia
Probably the world´s most famous mosque (top) - also known as the Sacred Mosque and the Great Mosque of Mecca - is mentioned in the Quran as the first building ever built to worship Allah, started in the 7th century during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammed. Attracting millions of Muslims every year to perform their Hajj or Umrah pilgrimages - including circling the cubelike black-stone building in its centre, called the Kaaba - the Masjid al-Haram is also the world's largest mosque complex (fully 35.6 hectares/88 acres in size) and can hold a staggering 2.5 million.
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque - Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
From ancient to recent (inaugurated in 1997), the UAE's largest mosque (12ha/30 ac., with room for more than 40,000 worshippers) is also without a doubt one of the most beautiful in the world. Named after the Emirates' founder, it has 82 white domes, and its interior features gorgeous hand-knotted carpets; numerous chandeliers covered in Swarovski crystals; 1096 columns made out of amethyst and jasper; and a pool that reflects those columns beautfully, especially at night.
Hagia Sophia - Istanbul, Turkey
Its current iteration, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was built in 537 as the cathedral of Constantinople under the Byzantine emperor Justinian I, Hagia Sophia (Greek for "Holy Wisdom") was turned into a mosque by the Ottomans when they conquered the city 1453 and remained one until 1935, when it became a museum. The vast interior can hold up to 4,000 and among other elements features 107 massive columns; huge wooden roundels with Arabic calligraphy, added during a 19th-century renovation, as well as gorgeous Byzantine Christian mosaics, which were obviously allowed to remain.
Wazir Khan - Lahore, Pakistan
Located in the historic core of Pakistan's second-largest city and named for the grand vizier of the Mughal Empire who commissioned it, Wazi Khan was built during the 17th-century reign of Emperor Shah Jahan (who was also responsible for India's Taj Mahal) and is famed for its intricate tilework and elaborate frescoes.
Nasir-al-Mulk - Shiraz, Iran
Also known as the Pink Mosque because of all the exterior tiles of that color - set off by a beautiful rectangular pool surrounded by flowering plants - this one of the loveliest examples of Islamic architecture in the world because of its stunning stained glass and the interplay of light and colors they create. It was commissioned by Mirza Hasan Ali Nasir, a prominent local aristocrat of the then ruling Qajar dynasty, and completed in 1888.
Sultan Ahmed - Istanbul, Turkey
This city's other best known mosque, popularly known as the Blue Mosque because of the more than 21,000 blue-and-white Iznik tiles used inside, was completed in 1617 right across from Hagia Sophia. Some people think that this imposing edifice, with its six tall, fluted minarets and five domes, was the last great mosque built during the classical period.
Islamic Centre - Rijeka, Croatia
The newest on this list was completed in 2013 (with support from the sultanate of Qatar) as a striking, four/storey mix of modern architecture and traditional Islamic design elements - the first mosque built on the Adriatic since the time of the Ottomans, centuries ago. Designed by the noted Serbo-Croatian sculptor Dušan Džamonja, it's made up of five reinforced concrete domes with a curving steel minaret standing next to them.
Jama Masjid - New Delhi, India
Inaugurated in 1656 during the rule of the aforementioned Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, this is India's largest mosque. It's made of red sandstone and white marble and can hold up to 25,000 people. has three domes, two minarets, and three gates.
Umayyad - Damascus, Syria
Also known as the Great Mosque of Damascus, was finished in 715, it's one of the world's largest and oldest, finished in 715 and named for the Ummayad Caliphate during which it was built. Also considered the fourth holiest site in the Islamic world (after the mosques of Makka, Medina, and Jerusalem), it has three high domes; three minarets; a large courtyard with several domed pavillions; and an interior adorned with marble paneling, ornate grilles, and elaborate mosaics. One interesting note: there´s also a shrine to St. John the Baptist, whose decapitated head was supposedly discovered in a cave chapel here during construction.
Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque - Muscat, Oman
With space for 20,000, Oman´s tallest edifice is a whitewashed sandstone affair which was inaugurated in 2001 to mark Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said´s 30th year as ruler of Oman. bright mosaics and intricate crystal work. Its five minarets represent the five pillars of Islam, and two of the most notable features of the interior are the enormous prayer carpet, the world´s second largest, in 29 hues and designs incorporating classican Persian motifs, and the world´s second largest chandelier, 90 metres (300 feet) high.
Our five-star, 12.night December holidays Umrah package lets you see a few of these gems. A mosque is the best place to go if you want to spend some time in a place where you can feel the passion of the people who pray there. People who worship Allah depend on him for mercy, good luck, and rewards, and they show their gratitude by praying as they go. When you use our March Umrah ackages UK, you can also pray at some of these places. Not only do religious Muslims, tourists, architects, and historians want to see these places, but they are also some of the most important cultural and historical landmarks in the world.