Sunday, March 29, 2015

Abu Darwish Mosque - Amman, Jordan

For the half-day we scheduled in Amman, Jordan, I listed for our tour guide several mosques I wanted our group to visit. But for reasons that I'm still unsure of, our guide was reluctant to take us to them. He did come through with one for us, the Abu Darwish Mosque. This mosque, commissioned by King Hussein and Mustafa Jakazi, was built in 1961 and funded by Abu Darwish (Mustafa Hassan), who owned the land and financed the building. Hassan was born in Caucasus and loved Syrian architecture. He drew the mosque's design and had the stone for the face work brought in from Syria. It is the distinctive black and white striped face work which make it so appealing. 

Our original view of the mosque took place when we were visiting the Citadel of Amman, on a central hill surrounded by the seven hills of Amman. One of our group, Julia, noticed a black and white striped mosque on the top of one of the hills (named Jebel al-Ashrafiyeh) and asked if that was one of the mosques we were going to visit? I could not see it for a minute, but it turned out that it was, and I was impressed by her sharp eye-sight.
The Abu Darwish Mosque as viewed from the Citadel. It is at the top of the hill, right of center, visible by its minaret.
A close-up of the mosque as viewed from the Citadel.
We asked our guide to forego a tour of the Roman amphitheater to give us time to visit the mosque and it was a good thing we did. By the time our vehicle navigated the horrible Amman traffic, down the Citadel hill, through a valley, and up the steep and twisting one way streets to the top of Jebel al-Ashrafiyeh, it was time for the call to prayer. Our guide, a self-described liberal Sunni Muslim, asked us to stay outside while he went in to see if he could get us permission to visit after prayers were finished. We walked around the outside taking pictures, then inside an administration building across the street while the outside speakers intermittently issued prayers. I've linked a Youtube video of the mosque during the call to prayer (not my video), but the sound quality of it is horrible. 
View of the mosque from the administrative center across the street. The small room with the mihrab was apparently under the covered area in front in the shape of a semi-circle.
View from the front.

When we did get to the mosque with our guide the gate was padlocked shut, but our guide was able to waive to the sheikh inside who came out and opened up the locked gate and invited us in. We then got our own private tour. I had read that it might be difficult to get inside and a German version of Wikipedia confirms that the inside of the mosque is usually restricted to Muslims only. 

We took off our shoes and the women put on head scarves before entering. We were led into a very small room with a mihrab and small lecturn, just off a central room with a small circular washing area, using bottled water, for the ritual bathing. I was confused as I'd not seen such a small room in a mosque before, believing this to be the central worship spot. Through our guide acting as an interpreter (the sheikh spoke Arabic), we got permission to take pictures, and I got the impression that this first room was perhaps a place for children and for those just  learning how to pray. When asked, our guide showed us how he typically kneeled in prayer. Then the sheikh spent quite a bit of time conveying the message to us, through our guide, that Muslims are not mean and nasty killers and that ISIS is a political group and does not represent a true Muslim agenda. As a side note, tourism in Egypt, Israel and Jordan is way down because of the incidents going on with ISIS. I think that our guide presented the sheikh with the opportunity to educate some American tourists about Islam as the pretext to get us the tour and it was effective in that regard. Some members of our group later did express the feeling that the tour and opportunity to talk with the sheikh had impacted their feelings about Islam positively. 
Small room with mihrab and lecturn. 
Closer view of mihrab. Times for call to prayer are listed to the right.
Beautiful carpet.
Area for washing. They used bottled water.
We were asked if we would like to go upstairs and, of course, said, "yes." Another door was unlocked and we walked outside, up some stairs, and then into the main prayer room of the mosque, much, much larger, with another mihrab. Unlike the unusual outside, which is unique as far as mosques that Judy and I have seen, the inside was very simple, but beautiful.
The mihrab facing Mecca and the minbar from which sermons are given. 
Pillars supporting the dome.
Inside the dome. Extremely simple.
Pattern on the pillars.
Calligraphy above the mihrab.
Green carpet and colored wall tiles.
Simple carpet colors.
Various names for Allah.
Calligraphy on the wall.

Simple stained glass.
What I came away with from this visit, mostly, was the appreciation to meet a sheikh and his graciousness in allowing us to visit, including have a picture taken with him.
Our group posing for a picture with the sheikh. 
And allowing our friends to see, as we have in the past, that mosques are beautiful places of worship with a peaceful sacredness to them. 


  1. I wish we had been able to have more mosque experiences, but this one that we had was wonderful.

  2. I count this as another of our "mini miracles." Being able to speak with the local leaders/residents in a small group changes the experience to a much more personal and meaningful one. I was to impressed by the graciousness of our host.