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Photographer's Note

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

The tomb of Saladin stands in a small garden adjoining the north wall of the mosque. In addition, the mosque holds a shrine which is said to contain the head of John the Baptist, who is honored as a prophet by both Christians and Muslims.

Damascus is believed to be the oldest continuously 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!

The Umayyad Mosque was accordingly a magnificent structure. The work of thousands of craftsmen of Coptic, Persian, Indian and Byzantine origin, the Umayyad mosque complex included a prayer hall, a vast courtyard and hundreds of rooms for visiting pilgrims. The layout was based on the Mosque of the Prophet in Medina.

The triple-aisled prayer hall, 160 meters long, was covered with a tiled wooden roof and supported on reused columns taken from Roman temples in the region as well as the Church of Mary at Antioch. The facade of the courtyard and its arcades were covered in colored marble, glass mosaic and gold. The mosque may have had the largest golden mosaic in the world, at over 4,000 square meters. The minaret structures of the mosque developed out of the corner towers of the ancient Roman temenos.

The Umayyad Mosque has been rebuilt several times due to fires in 1069, 1401 and 1893. The marble paneling dates from after the fire of 1893, which was especially damaging to the great mosaics. In 2001 Pope John Paul II visited the mosque, primarily to visit the relics of John the Baptist. It was the first time a pope paid a visit to a mosque.

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Additional Photos by Deniz Taskin (rigoletto) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 3089 W: 400 N: 6762] (34225)
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