WITH ARCHITECTURE AS EXQUISITE on the inside as on the outside, mosques, like churches and synagogues, are must-sees when traveling. From the hand-painted blue tiles of the Blue Mosque to the incredible stained glass of the Nasir al-Mulk Mosque, travelers need not be religious to find appreciation in the face of beauty. If given the chance, make sure you take time to wander through the seven most beautiful mosques from around the world.
1. Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, United Arab Emirates
Abu Dhabi’s iconic Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is all about extravagance and huge numbers. The beautiful white-and-gold mosque attracted just over 5.79 million visitors in 2017 according to The National, but it can host around 41,000 people at once. The mosque has 82 marble domes held by 1,000 pillars, four tall minarets, and a gigantic marble courtyard. All the pillars and the courtyard are decorated in a gorgeous, colorful botanical design to pay tribute to Sheikh Zayed’s love of nature. The interior is just as over-the-top with the world’s largest hand-knitted carpet covering the prayer hall and impressive 24-carat, gilded crystal chandeliers (the largest weighing 12 tons). This mosque is open daily and free for visitors, but it’s closed to non-worshippers on Friday mornings. The mosque’s lighting system illuminates the building at night, reflecting the phases of the moon, so sunset visits are best to see the transformation. Complimentary robe rentals will be offered upon entry, and shoes are to be removed and placed in an open-space cabinet.
2. The Blue Mosque, Turkey
The Blue Mosque‘s interior is adorned with 20,000 hand-painted blue tiles, hence its moniker. (Its official name is Sultan Ahmed Mosque). The tiles at the gallery level are arranged to create amazing flowers, fruit, and cypress designs. In the evening, the ambiance changes as colorful floodlights illuminate the five main domes, six minarets, and eight secondary domes. The mosque has become a popular tourist attraction in Istanbul, but it’s closed to non-worshippers for half an hour during the five daily prayers. The best way to see the architecture in all its glory is to enter the mosque from the west side. Complimentary rentals of headscarves and pants are available at the entrance, and shoes are to be removed and placed in the complimentary plastic bags provided.