July 06, 2023
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A Tour Around Qatar's Most Iconic Mosques

With nearly 2,000 minarets piercing the sky across Qatar, mosques are essential to Qatari culture. A mosque is a place of prayer for Muslims (people who follow the religion of Islam). The Arabic word for mosque, "masjid", translates to "a place to prostrate". In Islam, prayer provides a relationship between the believer and his Lord, while prostration symbolises total submission to God - generally viewed as worship. But more than a place of prayer, mosques are also a focal point for Muslim communities; they are at the core of education and intellectual life, play an essential role in cultural and political life, and have significant societal consequence. 

To the outside world, mosques can seem shrouded in mystery; their significance lost in misunderstanding. However, in an increasingly small world, understanding between faiths is growing ever important in our desire to have peace and harmony between different cultures and facilitate international commerce. In many countries where Islam prevails, mosques are opening up to non-Muslim guests, giving them a chance to understand Islam and experience a flavour of the respective culture. Qatar is one such nation that encourages visitors to explore its culture, including visiting some of its most iconic mosques.

The Layout of a Mosque

Before visiting a mosque, it is worth having an understanding of the architecture and features that you will be introduced to:

While mosques differ from country to country, region to region and come in all shapes and sizes, every mosque is intended to resemble the original mosque built by Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him) in Madina in 622 CE. Several elements from the original structure can be found in every modern mosque. 

Externally, mosques have minarets, probably the most recognisable and strongly associated feature of a mosque. These towering structures invite the public to pray through Azan (the Islamic call to prayer). Most mosques also feature one or more domes. While not a ritual requirement like the mihrab, the dome does possess significance as a symbolic representation of the vault of heaven

Internally, each features a mihrab, a wall inset that denotes the direction of Qibla (Kaaba, the building at the centre of Islam's most important mosque, the Masjid al-Haram in Makkah (Mecca), and the direction Muslims face while praying). Most mosques have a minbar (or pulpit) from which an Imam (Islamic scholar) may give a sermon or discourse. Typically, each mosque has an ample rectangular or square prayer space. Bigger mosques have separate prayer spaces for men and women with different entrances. Ablution fountains or other washing facilities are located in mosque entryways or courtyards as part of the endeavours of worship to take Wudhu (ablution/ritual purification) before all prayers. Mosques are also often ornamented with straight lines of geometric motifs to help ensure that Muslims pray while standing shoulder-to-shoulder in straight rows.

Mosques have developed significantly over time. While many are still simple structures, many are now a more complex blend of traditional design and modern architectural feats. However, the simple beauty and tranquillity of the original mosque remain.

Iconic Mosques of Qatar

Few locations in the world combine cultural heritage and contemporary architectural brilliance like Qatar. If you're planning a trip to Qatar, here's a list of the most magnificent mosques you should see. Not all allow visitors to enter; those that do provide a fascinating insight into Islam and Qatari culture and those that don't are still worth visiting for their aesthetic beauty.

Imam Abdul Wahhab Mosque

Image: Creativity Lover/Shutterstock.com

Imam Abdul Wahhab, commonly known as the State Mosque, is the biggest in Qatar. And is open to the general public, or as the mosque's caretakers would say, guests of any religious affiliation are welcome!

The original mosque, built by Sheikh Jassim bin Mohammed Al Thani, the founder of Qatar, in honour of his father, was rebuilt and opened in 2011. The sandstone facade is generally simplistic in design, with repetitive geometric patterns, arches and half-moons; a blend of traditional and modern Arabic architecture. However, the roof of the building has quite an astonishing number of domes - sixty-five smaller domes above the mosque's external quadrangle and twenty-eight larger domes above the centre hall - and a single minaret looms over the building like a lighthouse.

The mosque, which can accommodate over 30,000 worshipers, has three major entrances and numerous subsidiary entrances, with ablution spaces for men and women. The mosque itself is spread over three floors. It has separate prayer halls for men and women, three libraries, halls for Quran memorisation, and a large peaceful courtyard at the centre of the building. The cavernous prayer halls, while simple in design to promote a feeling of tranquillity, also accommodate elaborate chandeliers and plush carpets, giving a sense of opulence. Colourful glass-cut windows are found on the periphery of the mosque and are a vision to watch when sunlight passes through them into the adjacent rooms. 

Located in Dafna, the mosque is built on higher ground, providing guests with a stunning view of the Doha skyline. 

Location:

Al Mohandeseen Street, Doha

Facilities include: 

  • Separate prayer space for men and women
  • Separate ablution spaces and washroom facilities for men and women
  • Libraries
  • Parking for over 300 cars
  • Accessibility for the disabled

Msheireb Mosque 

Image: No.8/Shutterstock.com

Situated in close proximity to the Msheireb Museums, the award-winning Msheireb Mosque is another place of worship in Qatar open to visitors.

The mosque, which can accommodate 600 worshippers, has been designed to emulate the simplicity of Qatari mosques and the heritage features of Islam while incorporating modern architectural elements. The result is an uncomplicated but truly stunning building. Plain white, with simple lines, high elongated windows, tall elongated doors and a tall, slim minaret give the building a sense of elegance and tranquillity. This feeling continues into the inner sanctum of the mosque. Indeed, the Msheireb Mosque and its courtyard were designed to be an urban sanctuary, a tranquil spot to worship away from the distractions of the neighbouring areas. A stone wall surrounds the courtyard, creating a beautiful patio. A pool in the middle provides a feeling of peacefulness and reflection before the access to the prayer area. Once inside the mosque's walls, you are embraced by a sense of calm. Simple lines and plain colours dominate, but geometric patterns adorn the walls, doors, windows and ceilings - some of which let in natural light and create designs and motifs on the surfaces below.

The orientation of the building, natural shading and ventilation keep the inside cool, the openings in the ceilings and walls let in natural light, and with the central water feature, a comfortable, sustainable environment for prayer and worship has been created in keeping with traditional design.

Location:

Msheireb, Doha

Facilities include: 

  • Separate prayer space for men and women 
  • Parking space
  • Accessibility for the disabled

The Blue Mosque, Katara

Image: Creativity Lover/Shutterstock.com

The Katara Blue Mosque is one of the most spectacular monuments in the Katara Cultural Village and may also be entered by guests.

The mosque's design is similar to the majority of Islamic places of worship with a minaret, a dome and prayer mihrab. However, the shape and facade, designed by female architect Zainab Fadil Oglu, were inspired by Istanbul's Dolmabahce Palace. But that isn't the main thing that catches your attention when you visit the mosque; it is the stunning blue exterior. Predominantly made up of blue mosaic art, using small hand-painted ceramic and glass tiles, the effect is mesmerising and makes this mosque one of the most instagrammable in Qatar. The mosaic effect includes Arabic calligraphy and Islamic style motifs, and 24 K gold components adorn the mihrab, minaret domes and calligraphic panels. 

Visiting the mosque at any time is guaranteed to show the building in its best light. Nonetheless, at sunset, when the light reflects off the gold, tiles and glass, it really is a sight to behold.

Location:

Katara Cultural Village, Doha

Facilities include: 

  • Separate prayer space for men and women 
  • Separate ablution facilities for men and women
  • Shared parking space with Katara Cultural Village

Website: https://www.katara.net/en/visiting/venues-landmarks/the-masjid-of-katara

Fanar (Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zaid Al Mahmoud Islamic Cultural Centre)

Image: Ebonyeg/Shutterstock.com

Located in the Corniche, Fanar mosque, part of the Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zaid Al Mahmoud Islamic Cultural Centre, is one of the most prominent landmarks in the country and most definitely open to guests. 

The mosque, located along the Corniche next to Souq Waqif, is easily recognisable due to its distinctive spiral minaret, which is a delight to see when lit up at night. This mosque has been aptly named with the word "Fanar", which in Arabic translates to "lighthouse". Not only is Fanar an architectural beauty, but it is also the best place to visit to understand Islam. Fanar was built by the Qatari Government to showcase Qatari culture. Here, you may learn about Islam and the Qatari culture while appreciating its distinctions and Muslim values. Aside from learning more about Islam and Islamic culture (including through mosque tours and listening to special Friday sermons hosted in English), you can also learn the Arabic language and participate in cultural exchange events such as coffee mornings, mosque tours, special dinners, and so on.

Location:

Abdullah Bin Jassim St, Doha

Facilities include: 

  • Separate prayer space for men and women 
  • Separate ablution facilities for men and women
  • Friday sermon delivered in English

Website: https://www.binzaid.gov.qa/

Other information: Fanar organises mosque tours, offers Arabic classes - speaking and writing, Arabic calligraphy classes, ladies only coffee mornings, and events promoting the traditional Qatari culture.

Education City Mosque (Minaratein)

Image: Sirio Carnevalino/Shutterstock.com

Located in Education City, the Education City mosque is another shining example of contemporary creativity in the Middle East and one that visitors are more than welcome to visit.

The mosque, which opened in 2015, is a wonderful blend of modern abstract architecture and religious features. The main building, which flows in a circuitous route around a central courtyard, rests upon five large columns representing the five pillars of Islam and featuring embossed verses from the Holy Qur'an. Two minarets, which point towards Mecca, soar into the sky from the main building and serve as iconic landmarks. The minarets are also embossed with verses from the Holy Qur'an. Inside the mosque, the ceilings also feature Quranic verses and are dotted with tiny lights that twinkle like stars. 

Interestingly, the mosque's design was influenced by the Qur'an's emphasis on the significance of knowledge to achieve enlightenment. And, since the building which houses the Education City Mosque also houses HBKU's College of Islamic Studies, the mosque was designed to symbolise the link between the two. As such, all learning spaces within the building eventually lead to the Mosque. 

Practically, the mosque's main prayer hall and outdoor grounds can accommodate 1,800 people.

If you are visiting the mosque, it is especially dramatic during the golden hour when the sun’s rays fall on the building showing off every intricate detail.

Location:

Education City,  Ar-Rayyan

Facilities include: 

  • Separate prayer space for men and women 
  • Separate ablution facilities for men and women
  • Translation in various languages of the Friday sermon 

Website: https://www.qf.org.qa/community/education-city-mosque

Other information: Exhibitions, Quran Memorization Classes and lecture series are often organised at the Education City Mosque. While at the EC Mosque, you could also visit the Quranic Botanic garden, which showcases and preserves plants, referenced in the Holy Qur'an, and Qatar's native flora.

Abu Manaratain Mosque

Image: Imran Khan's Photography/Shutterstock.com

The Abu Manaratain Mosque in Al Wakra souq is a great venue to visit if you are interested in traditional architecture and construction. The original mosque was built in 1940 and was a simple structure with thick walls made from overlapping pieces of raw coral, rock and limestone to insulate against heat and maintain a cool environment inside and a roof coated with compressed mud. The Qatari Government renovated the mosque in 2004, retaining the original design and features, including a small pool for ablutions, which was originally filled with water from a well in the adjacent courtyard. 

Strangely, the mosque's name, Manaratain, means two minarets, but this mosque only has one - reportedly, many believe that the mosque's design may have changed over time, but the truth is now lost in the annals of time.

You cannot access the building, but exploring the outside gives you a sense of how latter-day mosques were built.

If you have time to spare, you may also want to visit more contemporary-designed mosques such as Hamad International Airport Mosque, Al Manaa Mosque in Lusail, and Aspire Mosque in Al Waab. Or traditional mosques such as Old Simaisma Mosque in Simaisma, or other Instagram-worthy mosques such as The Golden Masjid in Katara.

Things To Note Before Scheduling A Visit To A Mosque

  • It is free to visit mosques in Qatar, and no reservations are required. However, you will not be allowed to visit during prayers. It's advisable to go at least 35 minutes after the Azan (call to prayer). Friday mornings and early afternoons should also be avoided as this is the main day/time for congregational worship. To help you plan your visit,  check the timings of daily prayer in Doha. It is also worth noting that the Fanar centre organises mosque tours and will be able to provide in-depth information about the mosques visited, help you to plan your visit and ensure your entry into the mosques of your choice.
  • Dressing modestly is a must if you intend to visit Qatar's mosques: men should be covered at least until below the knees, and women need to cover their heads, body, and legs. In most of the mosques discussed, women may use complimentary abayas and hijabs/scarves as required.
  • As with other places of worship, food is not permitted inside.
  • Visitors should also be decorous and courteous during their visit.
  • In order not to disrupt the peace of the mosque, keep your mobile phone on silent mode when within the mosque premises.

Main image: Dr Ajay Kumar Singh/Shutterstock.com

Published: June 15, 2022
Last updated: July 06, 2023
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