16 November, 2008

The New Wonder of Sana'a

There are now three architectural wonders in Sana'a; the first two being: The Old City or Sana'a Al'Qadima and Dar Al Hajar. Now the city has a new masterpiece: Masjid Al Saleh. Sana'a, is a city of many beautiful buildings in the Sana'ani style; but the city can be and look so monotonous, that at times one can easily miss its splendid, exotic beauty. Now, that monotony and sameness, is spectacularly broken by the breathtakingly wonderful new mosque.

Built of: steel, concrete, stones, granite, limestone and marble, the mosque - right from the doors, and outside pillars to the inside, except for a few items that came mainly from Oman, Morocco, India and Italy - was built almost wholly of local materials. It has three floors, with wooden roofs and 15 wooden doors, each 75 feet high and carved with copper patterned domes.

The domes are so extraordinarily beautiful, and, depending on the light and where one is viewing them from, they keep on changing colors.

The mosque, surrounded by sprawling gardens, combines traditional Islamic architecture and blends it smoothly with traditional Sana'ani, Yemeni architecture and a little bit of the Taj Mahal, to create the stunningly, wonderful: minarets, arches, carved mihrab and the many decorations and calligraphy on the walls outside the mosque; and on the ceiling, walls and pillars within the mosque. I understand that, 700 ayahs from Quran Al Kareem, decorate the walls, inside the mosque. Inside too, a large crystal chandelier lights up the main prayer area.

Of the six fantastic, red-bricked minarets, four are 100 meters high and two, at the front, are 80 meters tall; all are banded and criss-crossed in white gypsum plaster. The qamariyya-windows of colored glass, beautifully decorate the five domes . At nights, the very imaginative and ingenuously thought of floodlighting system is really dramatic and an awesome wonder to watch.

The mosque, which has three floors, is said to be able to hold, at one time, up to tens of thousands of worshipers and additional thousands more worshipers outside - a total of about 50,000 worshipers. It has too, upstairs, a large prayer hall for women. There is also a large library - separated into two, for men and for women, which will eventually have the largest collection of Islamic books in Yemen. The mosque too, will have an Islamic college with 25 classrooms and will accommodate about 600 students.

The mosque covers approximately 23,000 square meters and took three - some say six - years to build and was opened to the public at the end of last September, during the Eid el Fitr prayers. Masjid Al Saleh will certainly become a great tourist attraction; and there is no doubt, that thousands of years from now - people will still be staring at it in awe and be held spellbound by its majesty.

Postscript: Friday, the 21st of November - the mosque is officially opened. When I took the above photos, I could not take pictures of the inside as finishing touches were still being made and put there. Inside the mosque, is simply breathtaking: so exquisite and stunningly beautiful, that one can not help, but simply gape.