I visited the brand new Presidential “Al Saleh Mosque” in Sana’a before it opened to the public this past Ramadan.
Exterior view of the new mosque.
For all that there have been rumblings among the populace about how the money could better have been spent building hospitals and schools - the mosque is said to have cost $60 million - it is really quite stunning. Most of the building materials were local; the frame is concrete with pale golden blocks of dressed limestone on the external walls, and polished speckled granite for the massive indoor piers. Red limestone is used to to accent design features. An exception was made for the colored marble flooring of the courtyard which came from India, Italy and Oman.
Exquisitely rendered courtyard in imported marble.
The mosque combines traditional Islamic elements of domes, minarets, arches, carved mihrab, and bands of incised and gold-leaf calligraphy, and blends it with uniquely Yemeni architectural aspects; the distinctive minarets, of which 4 of the 6 are 100 meters high, feature red brick and are banded and criss-crossed in white gypsum plaster, the drums of the five domes are pierced with qamariyya-windows of colored glass and Yemeni-style merlons decorate the exterior roof edging.
Inside the main hall which can hold up to 13000 worshippers, a mammoth Bohemian glass chandelier is suspended from the central dome, the carved doors are of Burmese teak, the coffered inlaid ceiling is American oak, and the carpet which was woven in Turkey is made of New Zealand lambswool. An additional 31,000 worshippers can be accommodated outside, while a large women’s prayer hall is located upstairs.
The Bohemian glass central chandelier
The exterior walls with bands of incised carving of Koranic verses in pale golden limestone are stunning.