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The World's Most Beautiful Mosques

by Rick Anderson

Raised amid historic Islamic architecture in Baku, Azerbaijan, interior designer Leyla Uluhanli’s appreciation for the architectural splendor of mosques began at a young age. This childhood exposure turned into a lifelong fascination, which has now lead to a comprehensive new guide to 53 of the world's most beautiful structures. Mosques: Splendors of Islam (Rizzoli, $75) explores places of both historic and contemporary places of worship from the Great Mosque of Córdoba in Spain to the minimalist Sancaklar Mosque in Istanbul. Architecture and design experts and scholars shed light on the architectural and ornamental elements and themes that distinguish Islamic architecture, as well as the components that are unique to each region. Read on to tour 10 incredible mosques around the globe.

Great Mosque of Paris (France)

The Great Mosque of Paris was founded in 1926 in the city’s 5th arrondissement. The building was designed in the Neo-Mudéjar style and references the architectural traditions of Spain and North Africa.

Shaykh Lotfollah Mosque (Isfahan, Iran)

Completed in 1618 or 1619, the Shaykh Lotfollah Mosque was built as a private royal place of worship and consists of a single domed chamber. The interior and exterior of the mosque are sheathed in exquisite tilework and 16 screened windows surround the domed ceiling, allowing light to filter in.

Dome of the Rock (Jerusalem)

Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock was built in the late seventh century and is considered one of the most important mosques in the world and the third holiest site in Islam. The structure was built on the platform known as the Noble Sanctuary or Temple Mount, which is considered to be the spot where the Prophet Muhammad began his night journey to heaven. Elaborate mosaics and marblework decorate the interior and exterior and a 780-foot-long Kufic inscription encircles the interior of the dome.

Qarawiyyin Mosque (Fes, Morocco)

The Qarawiyyin Mosque began as a small neighborhood place of worship and has been expanded and embellished for over a thousand years. The Court of the Lions, seen here, was added in the second half of the 14th century and features a marble fountain resting on 12 carved lions.

Masjid-i Nasir al-Mulk (Shiraz, Iran)

Known as the Pink Mosque for its extensive use of the rosy hue, the Masjid-i Nasir al-Mulk in Shiraz showcases exuberant and lavish decoration—a trait common in late 19th-century mosques. Intricate and colorful kashi tilework was used throughout the design, and the minarets give a nod to the bell towers of Europe.

Heart of Chechnya (Akhmad Kadyrov Mosque) (Grozny, Chechen Republic, Russia)

Completed in 2008, the Akhmad Kadyrov Mosque sits in a large riverside park and is part of a expansive complex that includes a madrasa, library, and student dormitories. The exterior features a dome surrounded by four towering minarets, and the interior’s red-striped marble walls were inspired by the Great Mosque of Córdoba.

Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Mosque (Abu Dhabi, U.A.E.)

Constructed in 2007 and named for the former ruler of Abu Dhabi, the Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Mosque currently ranks as the eighth-largest mosque in the world and can accommodate 40,000 people. Syrian architect Yusef Abdelki, who worked with Halcrow Group and the architecture/interior design firm Spatium on the project, was inspired by the lunar cycles, which forms the basis of the Islamic religious calendar.

Tilla Kari Mosque and Madrasa (Samarkand, Uzbekistan)

A gleaming turquoise dome tops the Tilla Kari Mosque and Madrasa, which is located in the city center of Samarkand. The UNESCO World Heritage site was built between 1646 and 1660, and the interior features elaborate gilded tile.

Bibi-Heybat Mosque (Baku, Azerbaijan)

The new Bibi-Heybat Mosque, reconstructed and expanded between 1997 and 2005, draws from the original 1282 mosque, which was built over the tomb of Ukeyma Khanum, a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. The exterior features local limestone, and the interior is decorated with colorful tilework and gold inscriptions.

Mosques: Splendors of Islam (Rizzoli, $75).

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