Al Jami Halab al Kabir
The Great Mosque of Aleppo, also known as the Umayyad Mosque (and in Arabic as al Jami al Kabir), was founded just 10 years after the more famous Great Mosque of Damascus. Little remains of the original structure, and what you see today dates mostly from the 12th century and later. But it has been recently restored to gleaming beauty and is no less fascinating than its Damascene counterpart to visit.
It is the largest and oldest mosque in the city of Aleppo in northern Syria. The present mosque dates form the 13th century Mamluk period, only the Seljuk minaret of 1090 is older. It is located in its Old City.
he site of the Great Mosque once was the former Agora from the Hellenistic period, which later became the garden for the Cathedral of Saint Helena, during the Christian era rule of Syria.
The mosque, begun about 715, was built on confiscated land that was the Cathedral cemetery. The construction of the earliest mosque on the site was commenced by the Ummayad caliph al-Walid I in 715 and was finished by his successor Sulayman ibn Abd al-Malik in 717.
In the second half of the 11th century, the Mirdasids controlled Aleppo and built a single-domed fountain in mosque’s courtyard. The detached 45-meter high minaret of the Great Mosque was restored by the Abul Hasan Muhammad of the Seljuks in 1090. The mosque was restored and expanded by the Zengid sultan Nur al-Din in 1169 after a great fire that had destroyed the earlier Ummayad structure; Later, the Mamluks made further alterations. Carved Kufic inscriptions decorate the entire minaret along with alternate with bands of stylized ornaments in patterns and muqarnas.
In 1260, the entire mosque was razed by the Mongols.
The courtyard and minaret of the mosque were renovated in 2003.
The Great Mosque is built around a vast courtyard that connects to different areas of the mosque, positioned behind the colonnaded arcade. The courtyard is well-known for its black and white stone pavement that forms complex geometric patterns. The courtyard holds the two ablutions fountains.
The main prayer hall of the mosque holds the primary elements of the mosque: the shrine of Zechariah, a 15th century minbar, and an elaborately carved mihrab. This large prayer hall originally had a basic straight rooftop with a central dome, but was replaced by the Mamluks with an intricate cross-vaulted system with arches and a small dome over the arcades.
Aleppo (Arabic: Halab; Greek: Berea), in northern Syria about 30 miles south of Turkey, is the second-largest city in Syria after Damascus with a population of over 1.7 million. It competes with Damascus for the title of the oldest continously inhabited city in the world.
The old section of Aleppo is built around a 12th-century-AD citadel that rests on a partly mound dominating the city and contains a small mosque. The old section has the most famous souks in the Middle East (pictured above), which extend for miles through narrow streets. Its many khans (caravan stops), mosques, and merchants’ houses are built of limestone, with many dating from the 16th and 17th centuries.
Aleppo has a significant Armenian Christian population and there are Greek Orthodox and Catholic churches here as well. The main site of religious interest is the Great Mosque (or Zakariyah Mosque), built by the Umayyads and named for Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist. Parts of the city’s old stone walls, along with several of their gates, are still intact, and the National Museum displays ancient artifacts found in northern Syria at several major archaeological sites.