umayyad mosque damascus syria

Alamwi Gate - Damascus
Photograph by: Abdullah Hreden

(The Grand Mosque of Damascus, known more commonly as the Umayyad Mosque, is one of the largest, oldest and holiest mosques in the world.

Damascus is believed to be the oldest inhabited city in the world and the Umayyad Mosque stands on a site that has been considered sacred ground for at least 3,000 years.

In this site, Arameans built Hadad temple in 1000 BC. Romans built a massive temple to Jupiter in the early first century AD.

In the fourth century, Christian basilica was built there; dedicated to John the Baptist (Yahya) who is honored as a prophet by Christians and Muslims. A legend holds that the building contains the head of John the Baptist.

In 636 AD the building was shared by Muslim and Christian worshippers. The site remain a church until 706-715, the present mosque was built in its place.

The mosque is also believed by Muslims to be the place where Jesus (Isa) will return at the End of Days. The mausoleum containing the tomb of Saladin stands in a small garden adjoining the north wall of the mosque.)


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Ten years ago, the 11th century minaret of the Umayyad Mosque stood in splendor above the city of Damascus, Syria. Today, the wreckage of the mosque offers a stark reminder of the cultural loss the world has experienced over the last ten years, as iconic spiritual sites have been destroyed as a result of war, short-sighted economic expansion and natural disasters.