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Great Mosque of Damascus (Umayyad Mosque): Minaret of the Umayyad Mosque of Aleppo, Syria

Minaret of the Umayyad Mosque of Aleppo, Syria

The Great Mosque of Aleppo (Arabic: Jāmi‘ Halab al-Kabīr) or the Ummayad Mosque of Aleppo (Masjid al-Umayya bi Halab) is the largest and oldest mosque in the city of Aleppo, northern Syria. The present mosque dates form the 13th century Mamluk period, only the Seljuk minaret of 1090 is older. It is located in its Old City. The mosque is said to entomb the remains of Zechariah, father of John the Baptist. The site of the Great Mosque once was the former Agora from the Hellenistic period, which later became the garden for the Cathedral of Saint Helena, during the Christian era rule of Syria. The mosque, begun about 715, was built on confiscated land that was the Cathedral cemetery. The construction of the earliest mosque on the site was commenced by the Ummayad caliph al-Walid I in 715 and was finished by his successor Sulayman ibn Abd al-Malik in 717. In the second half of the 11th century, the Mirdasids controlled Aleppo and built a single-domed fountain in mosque's courtyard. The detached 45-meter high minaret of the Great Mosque was restored by the Abul Hasan Muhammad of the Seljuks in 1090. The mosque was restored and expanded by the Zengid sultan Nur al-Din in 1169 after a great fire that had destroyed the earlier Ummayad structure. Later, the Mamluks made further alterations. Carved Kufic inscriptions decorate the entire minaret along with alternate with bands of stylized ornaments in patterns and muqarnas. In 1260, the entire mosque was razed by the Mongols. The courtyard and minaret of the mosque were renovated in 2003. Architecture The Great Mosque is built around a vast courtyard that connects to different areas of the mosque, positioned behind the colonnaded arcade. The courtyard is well known for its black and white stone pavement that forms complex geometric patterns. The courtyard holds the two ablutions fountains. The main prayer hall of the mosque holds the primary elements of the mosque: the shrine of Zechariah, a 15th century minbar, and an elaborately carved mihrab. This large prayer hall originally had a basic straight rooftop with a central dome, but was replaced by the Mamluks with an intricate cross-vaulted system with arches and a small dome over the arcades.

Credit: james_gordon_losangeles / Flickr