Where: Islamabad, Pakistan
Architecture: The world’s largest Mosque, housing 100,000 Muslims in Turkish, Italian and Arabian influenced modern luxury
At the foothills of the Margalla Hills in Pakistan’s capital of Islamabad, the Shah Faisal Mosque is one of the core places of Muslim worship in Southern Asia. It was erected from foundations to prayer in just 5 years in 1976. A dominant and empowering Mosque was fast becoming a necessity to establish the new state of Pakistan after the Partition from India in 1948, and the massive $50 million cost of the grand mosque was generously donanted by King Faisal of Saudi Arabia, after whom the mosque is named as well as the Faisal Avenue highway leading to it.
The massive contructions represents an 8 faced desert ‘tent’ surrounded by 4 huge towering minarets. It is thought to be the largest mosque in the world, able to house 100,000 praying muslim at the same time, although not all in the same venue! 10,000 fit in the main hall, 24,000 in the verandahs and 40,000 in the main court yard with another 30,000 in outbuildings. Designed by Turkish architect Vadat Dolokay, it was the result of an architecture competition. The Mosque has much in common with the designs of major sites of worship in Istanbul.
The mosque is like a whole mini-village with its own library, museum, lecture hall, café, and University of 700 students. However, it is not only the impressive size and exterior for which the mosque is famed – it also supports as an equally elegantly designed interior. The Qibla Wall inside the Main Prayer Hall has many decorated glazed tiles from Turkey and a giant golden crescent in the roof. Underneath the wall are reflection pools which allows for air conditioning by adjusting the water level of the pool. There is a giant chadelier in the main prayer hall which weighs some 7.5 tons and uses 1000 electric bulbs.
There is a Women’s gallery which is rare for a mosque; women in Pakistan rarely enter mosques but instead pray at home. Zebra marble and white marble from Greece are used here. The courtyard is paved in Italian granite making it quite an international affair.
Visiting Faisal Mosque
When visiting a mosque, you must leave your shoes at the door. Dress decoriously covering everything except hands and head, but women should wear a head scarf. It is possible to take an elevator or staircase up each of the four 280ft towering minarets to the visitor’s gallery 190ft above the ground, offering fantastic views of urban Islamabad.
Links to Islamic resources and articles including information on Ramadam and fasting and mosques around the world.
By Susi O’Neill