Officially serving as communal places of worship for those of the Muslim faith, mosques have been built since the beginning of Islam. Many of them contain one or more minarets (towers), a qubba (dome), a sahn (courtyard), and a mihrab (a niche in the wall that faces Mecca).
Mosques are often examples of stunning architecture with influences from different cultures and historical periods. They also typically contain Islamic artwork and are usually built on sites of historical and religious significance. You can find them in all corners of the world, though the majority exist in the Middle East and Central Asia.
Keep reading to learn all about 10 of the world’s most beautiful mosques.
10 Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque, United Arab Emirates
The Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque in the UAE is among the most beautiful in the world. The building features more than 1000 columns, 82 domes, and chandeliers gilded with 24-carat gold. Not too shabby.
Reflective pools surround the mosque and they have been designed to enhance the beauty of the structure. At night, a unique lighting system reflects the phases of the moon on the building, which are important in the Islamic world. The architect who designed the mosque had ambitions of uniting the world through the sheer beauty of the structure.
9 Jāmeh Mosque, Iran
Jāmeh Mosque in the heart of Isfahan is the oldest congregational mosque in Iran, according to Wanderlust. Styles of Islamic art that date back over one thousand years can be seen here, adding to the building’s prominence and individuality.
The mosque contains double-shelled ribbed domes which later went on to inspire architects of other similar structures throughout Iran and the surrounding regions. Jāmeh Mosque was actually used as a prototype for mosque designs that came afterward, the evidence of which can still be seen throughout much of Central Asia.
8 The Dome Of The Rock, Israel
One of the most religiously significant buildings in Jerusalem, the Dome of the Rock is said to have been built on the exact spot where Mohammed ascended to heaven. In the Jewish tradition, it's said to be where Abraham offered his son Isaac as a sacrifice.
The golden dome stands out against the ancient skyline of Jerusalem, thanks to its magnificent details. Technically an Islamic shrine instead of a mosque, the Dome of the Rock features Byzantine and Persian influences and is even more beautiful on the inside than it appears to passers-by.
7 Al Haram Mosque, Mecca
Al-Haram Mosque in Mecca is prominent for three reasons. One, it’s the largest mosque in the world. Two, it’s the oldest mosque in the world. And three, it is the holiest site in Islam. Muslims pray facing Mecca so they can pray facing the Kaaba, a cubed building at the center of Al-Haram Mosque.
The mosque is stunning enough on its own but is truly a sight to be seen during Hajj, otherwise known as the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. During this time, held during the final month of the Islamic lunar calendar, up to two million worshippers visit the mosque.
6 Puchong Perdana Mosque, Malaysia
Giving the impression that it’s floating on water, Puchong Perdana Mosque in Malaysia is one of the most magnificent structures in Asia. Constructed in 2004, this spectacular building was inaugurated in 2006 in the township of Puchong in Selangor.
Built by Lake Puchong, the mosque features a style that is both simple and elegant. The gilded dome combined with the white outer walls makes Puchong Perdana Mosque one of the top buildings to see in Selangor, Malaysia. The nearby Blue Mosque, also known as Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Mosque, is the largest in Southeast Asia.
5 The Qolsärif Mosque, Russia
Situated in Northwest Russia, the Qolsärif Mosque was completed in 1995 and partly funded by the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Though it’s much newer than many of the world’s other mosques, the Qolsärif Mosque was actually built as a replica of a mosque that was destroyed by the notorious Tsar Ivan the Terrible in 1552.
Some scholars believe that the original mosque was inspired by St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow. It was first constructed in the 16th century in Kazan, an area where people practiced Islam and spoke the Tatar language.
4 Zahir Mosque, Malaysia
One of the oldest mosques in Malaysia, Zahir Mosque was built in 1912 and was funded by the son of Sultan Tajuddin Mukarram Shah, Tunku Mahmud. Located in the state capital of Kedah, Alor Star, the mosque is certainly stunning to look at.
There are five large domes located within the mosque, and these represent the five main principles of Islam: sincerely reciting the Muslim profession of faith, performing ritual prayers five times daily, paying alms tax to benefit the poor, fasting during Ramadan and making the pilgrimage to Mecca.
3 The Hassan II Mosque, Morocco
The Hassan II Mosque is home to the tallest minarets in the world, which stand over 688 feet. Combining the old traditions with new technology, they are topped with a laser that shines a light towards Mecca. The interior of the mosque is as impressive as the outside, as it contains walls made from marble and a glass floor. Through the floor, visitors can see the seabed in the main hall.
The largest mosque in Morocco, the Hassan II Mosque was built on the shoreline overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in Casablanca. Since 1993, it has served as a site of religious significance.
2 Umayyad Mosque, Syria
Some Muslims believe that Syria’s Umayyad Mosque is the fourth holiest site in Islam. Situated in Damascus, the building is said to be the site where Muhammad’s family walked from Iraq after the Battle of Karbala. In Islamic tradition, this is also said to be the spot where Jesus will return to earth. There are also those who believe that the mosque contains the head of John the Baptist.
Operating since 715 A.D., Umayyad Mosque is also known as the Great Mosque of Damascus and was built on the site of an old Christian basilica.
1 The Blue Mosque, Turkey
One of the most iconic mosques in the world, the Blue Mosque in Turkey was built between 1609 and 1616 during the reign of Ahmed I. More than 20,000 unique blue tiles were used to decorate the interior walls, earning the building the nickname the Blue Mosque.
An odd discovery that visitors sometimes stumble upon in the mosque is ostrich eggs. It is believed that these repel spiders, and so they are sometimes placed in the chandeliers of the mosque to minimize the appearance of cobwebs and maintain the cleanliness of the mosque.