al-Hanabaleh Mosque (جامع الحنابلة), in the northern district of al-Salhiyeh (الصالحية), is the oldest surviving mosque in Damascus (دمشق) after the Umayyad Mosque (الجامع الاموي). It was the first monument to be constructed in Damascus (دمشق) during the Ayyubid period, built between 1202 and 1213 for the followers of the Hanbali school of Islam. The rather austere exterior of the mosque hides an attractive courtyard and prayer hall modeled after the larger Umayyad Mosque (الجامع الاموي).
The central courtyard has a large fountain and is surrounded by an arcade on three sides. The arcade columns are crowned by Roman or Byzantine capitals, and the gallery wall above the arcade is punctured by numerous arched windows. The southern wall of the courtyard, which holds the main entrance to the prayer hall, is built with alternating stone courses of basalt and limestone. Located behind the arcade at the northern side of the courtyard, the minaret is shifted from the main axis of the mihrab with the main entrance. The square minaret is a tall tower crowned with a wooden balcony and a stone finial.
The prayer hall is divided into three aisles with heavy piers and columns, carrying stone arches that support a pitched timber roof. The mihrab is a shallow niche on the qibla wall, and is set in a rectangular frame decorated with geometric patterns and topped by a line of Quranic inscription. The mihrab niche is crowned with a muqarna (decorated semi-dome) and framed with two Roman columns. The mihrab is flanked from each side by two arched windows currently blocked by air-conditioning equipment.
The interior is lit through large casements placed inside heavy stone frames located at regular intervals at the ground level. The southern wall has a second tier of windows, some of which are made of colored glass. A few other colored windows lighten either end of the pitched roof. Windows flanking the main entrance on the north wall are richly decorated with stucco panels carved with floral motifs and text at their tympanum. To the right of the mihrab, a wooden minbar (raised pulpit), the oldest in Syria, displays fine wood carving, with interlocking geometric shapes and intricate floral motifs.
The mosque is only open for visitors during regular prayer times.
Getting There: al-Hanabaleh Mosque (جامع الحنابلة) is located in the Damascus (دمشق) district of al-Salhiyeh (الصالحية), to the far northwest of the old city on the slopes of Jebel Qasioun (جبل قاسيون). It is about a twenty-five minute walk to the mosque from the city center. See the map below for the exact location.
Coordinates: 33°31’52.00″N / 36°17’22.00″E
Transliteration Variants: al-Hanabali Mosque, al-Hanbaleh Mosque, al-Hanbali Mosque
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