The Mohammed Al Amin Mosque is a impressive mosque with blue domes, similar to the Blue Mosque of Istanbul. An imposing architecture just off Downtown Beirut, it's also the place where former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri is buried. In fact there's still a make-shift memorial right in front of the mosque.
One of Beirut's most important mosques, al-Omari is named after the second Caliph, Omar ibn al-Khattab, under whose leadership Beirut was conquered by Moslem armies in 635 AD. It is likely that the site of the mosque had previously been used as a church, and as a pagan temple even before. Except for a couple of Roman-period Corinthian columns in the courtyard, nothing appears to have survived from these ancient structures, for in 1115 AD, the Crusaders completely destroyed the mosque and erected their Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist on the site. When Saladdin later ousted the Crusaders he converted their cathedral into a mosque, but upon their return it was restored as a Catholic cathedral. In 1291 AD, the Mamlukes finally expelled the Crusaders from Beirut and immediately re-converted the cathedral into a mosque once and for all, and added a minaret. (Note that the local Christian population had its own churches, so the Crusader Cathedral would have been completely abandoned.) The Romanesque-style structure has survived to this day as the main prayer hall of al Omari Mosque, complete with its triple aisles and chevet. Expansion of the mosque over the following centuries resulted in a striking mix of styles, including modern, Ottoman, Mamluke, Crusader/Romanesque, and Roman - quite appropriate for a multi-cultural city such as Beirut. Most recently, the mosque underwent a post-war renovation in 2004 which saw the addition of a second minaret and a courtyard with modern touches. Traditionally, al-Omari Mosque was the "Grand Mosque" of Beirut, but it appears to have now ceded the title to the newly built, blue-domed, Mohamed al-Amin Mosque.
El-Omari Mosque is one of a number of mosques that surround Sahet an-Nejmeh in the centre of Beirut. This mosque is undoubtedly older than the Hariri Mosque that is found south-east of the square. It is also less assuming, and has lower ceilings and a darker interior that seems to be much more typical of Ottoman mosques. The men’s section of the mosque is fairly small, but also has a few impressive chandeliers and calligraphy paintings on the ceiling. The women’s section is similarly decorated, although even smaller. The architecture of the walls and the windows is typical of Ottoman structures (it reminds me of the mosques I saw in Bosnia and Macedonia), although there are plenty of arabesques and Middle Eastern nuances. Visitors to the Mosque are permitted to photograph the interior, but they are asked to be respectful and to take off their shoes and cover up before coming into the mosque.
One of the most fascinating spaces in Beirut, the interior of al-Omari Mosque mixes Romanesque/Crusader, Ottoman, Mamluke, Roman and modern architectural styles. The entrance of the mosque is quite Islamic, built in the early 20th century under the French mandate, but as one enters, the style immediately changes to Romanesque. This section, used as the main prayer hall, was built by the Crusaders as the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist, with some recycled Roman and Byzantine-period materials. A wide central nave with a vaulted ceiling is separated from its side aisles with cruciform pillars containing Corinthian column capitals, and terminates at the eastern end with triple rounded apses. Upon its conversion into a mosque under the Mamlukes, the orientation changed due south facing Mecca, and a white marble mihrab (prayer niche) was thus installed in the centre of the right aisle. The direction of Mecca is confirmed by the lines along the red carpet, designed to help in aligning the faithful due south. An Ottoman-period domed chamber, adjacent to the cathedral structure, is said to have once safeguarded a box containing the Prophet Mohammed's hair lock, but the box and its contents unfortunately disappeared during the 75-90 Civil War. On the north side of the mosque lies a spacious courtyard surrounded by a columned portico, which, although of a modern construction completed during the 2004 renovation, contains recycled Roman-period columns, some of which still carry their Corinthian capitals.
This building was originally the Church of St. John the Baptist, built by the Crusaders in the 12th century on the site of an earlier Roman temple. It was converted into a mosque in the late 13th century, after the Mamelukes had driven the Crusaders from Beirut. Badly damaged during the Civil War, it has been recently restored and looks as if it was built yesterday.
It is a massive building and the Grand Mosque of Beirut. In architectural style it reminded me of Istanbul's Blue Mosque.
A tour of the old downtown should include the Omari Mosque, the Municipality Building, the Assaf and Amir Munzir Mosques, the Arcaded Maarad Street, the Parliament Building, the Roman columns on Nejmeh Square and the historic Greek Orthodox and Greek Catholic churches opposite the Parliament.
Originally the Crusader Cathedral of St. John (1113 - 1115 A.D.), the building was transformed into the city's Grand Mosque by the Mamlukes in 1291.
Zawiyat Ibn al-'Arraq
Built in 1517 by Mohammed Ibn al-'Arraq ad-Dimashqi, this building was originally an Islamic law school and continued as an Islamic sanctuary into late Ottoman times. It was rediscovered during the post-war clean-up process in 1991.
Amir 'Assaf Mosque
Also called Bab es-Saray Mosque, this was built by Emir Mansour 'Assaf (1572 - 1580) on the site of the Byzantine Church of the Holy Savior.
Located opposite the Municipal Building.
Amir munzer Mosque
The Amir Munzer Mosque was built in 1620 on an earlier structure. Also called Naoufara (Foountain) Mosque, there are eight Roman columns in its courtyard.
This mosque was constructed in the mid-19th century and named after the Ottoman Sultan Abdul-Majid I (1839-1861).
The Great Al-Omari Mosque: This mosque is one of the oldest intact archeological buildings in Beirut, and it is one of the remains from the age of the Islamic Conquest (Al-Fath Al-Islamy) and the early days of Omar Bin Khattab, the second Caliph. It is likely that this Mosque was constructed on the remains of a Byzantine church, a building site chosen by Crusaders, that was later transformed by Moslems into a mosque. Today, this mosque is considered a historic building. It suffered much damage during the civil war but was renovated afterward so that worship could be resumed
The oldest mosque in Beirut is the Omari Mosque, which was converted into a mosque in 1291 having first been built as the Church of St John the Baptist.. There are several other mosques in Beirut that date from Mameluke and Ottoman times, most of them are to be found in the central district and although all were damaged to some extent or other during the war, they are now restored and functioning again.
The Grand Mosque, or Omari Mosque which was badly damaged during the war. It was the Church of John the Baptist of the Knights Hospitallers during the Byzantine era. The conversion to a mosque took place in the 1291 AD.
The great Al Omari Mosque is one of the most important mosques in Beirut. But it has not always been a mosque. First there was a pagan Roman temple, but when the Crusaders arrived in the 12th century, they destroyed the temple and built a church there dedicated to Saint John. About a century later it changed faith again: in 1291 the Mamluks turned it into a mosque. In the 20th century the civil war nearly turned it into dust. However the mosque has now been rebuilt/renovated, and it is still used as a place of prayer
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