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Damascus, Umayyad Mosque, kids playing | by Arian Zwegers
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Damascus, Umayyad Mosque, kids playing

Damascus, Umayyad Mosque


The Umayyad Mosque, also known as the Great Mosque of Damascus (Arabic: جامع بني أمية الكبير‎), located in the old city of Damascus, is one of the largest and oldest mosques in the world. It is considered by some Muslims to be the fourth-holiest place in Islam.


After the Arab conquest of Damascus in 634, the mosque was built on the site of a Christian basilica dedicated to John the Baptist (Yahya), honored as a prophet by Christians and Muslims alike. A legend dating to the 6th century holds that the building contains the head of John the Baptist. The mosque is also believed by Muslims to be the place where Jesus (Isa) will return at the End of Days. The tomb of Saladin stands in a small garden adjoining the north wall of the mosque.


The ground plan of the Umayyad Mosque is rectangle in shape and measures 97 meters by 156 meters. A large courtyard occupies the northern part of the mosque complex, while the haram ("sanctuary") covers the southern part. The courtyard is enclosed by four exterior walls.


Three arcades make up the interior space of the sanctuary. They are parallel to the direction of prayer which is towards Mecca in modern-day Saudi Arabia. The arcades are supported by two rows of stone Corinthian columns. Each of the arcades contain two levels. The first level consists of large semi-circular arches, while the second level is made up of double arches. This pattern is the same repeated by the arcades of the courtyard. The entire sanctuary measures 136 meters by 37 meters and takes up the southern half of the mosque complex.


Within the Umayyad Mosque complex are three minarets.



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Taken on May 23, 2009