The Minaret of Qaitbay as seen from the outside of the Umayyad Mosque…
Considered the first monumental work of architecture in Islamic history, the Umayyad Mosque (also called the Great Mosque of Damascus) is a melting pot of different faiths. It houses the mausoleum of John the Baptist — which is said to contain his head — as well as the tomb of Hussein ibn Ali, a grandson of the Prophet Mohammed and an important figure in the Shiite tradition. Its rectangular layout, Roman arches, and Corinthian columns became a prototype for mosques around the Islamic world, influencing structures from Cairo to Istanbul.
After the Umayyad conquest of Damascus in the Seventh century, the Umayyad Mosque was constructed on the site where a Byzantine church, a Roman temple, and before that an Aramean temple to the god of thunder and rain once stood more than 3,000 years ago.
During his reign as caliph in the eighth century, it is said that al-Walid ibn Abd al-Malik addressed Damascenes thusly: “Inhabitants of Damascus, four things give you marked superiority over the rest of the world: your climate, your water, your fruits, and your baths. To these I wanted to add a fifth: this mosque.”
The prayer hall inside the Umayyad Mosque:
In sanctity, the Umayyad Mosque is second only to the holy mosques of Mecca and Medina:
Heading for one of the exits: