5 facts about Moscow’s new central mosque

Ahead of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice) on September 23, a new central mosque was thrown open to the public after a special ceremony in Moscow.

1. One of the largest mosques in Russia


Workers finish the exterior of the Moscow Cathedral Mosque. Source: Valery Sharifulin/TASS

The central Moscow mosque (Moscow Cathedral Mosque) was demolished and rebuilt and is now one of the biggest in the country. Its minarets are 72 meters tall and its central dome is 46 meters high. It will be the second largest Muslim prayer facility in Russia after the Salawat Yulayev mosque, which is being built in Ufa.

The new Moscow mosque has nearly 20 times as much space as the old building and will be able to accommodate up to 10,000 people. The mosque has seven elevators, air conditioning and is disabled-friendly.


2. $170 million in construction costs


The main prayer hall of the Moscow Cathedral Mosque. Source: Valery Sharifulin/TASS

The reconstruction of the mosque cost $170 million, with most of the money being donated by Russian businessman and senator Suleyman Kerimov in memory of his father. The list of donors also includes Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who donated $26,000 on behalf of Palestinian children.

While Turkey has donated a minbar, the pulpit from which the imam delivers Friday prayers, and a mihrab, a semicircular niche in the wall that indicates the direction of Mecca.

The walls and ceilings have traditional Russian ornamental inscriptions, which were carved by Turkish craftsmen.

The dome and pavilions are covered with 12 kg of gold leaf. The architects decided to cover the domes of the mosque with gold to blend in with the Moscow skyline, which is dominated by golden domes of its churches.


3. Location in the historical center


The Mosque is located in the historical neighborhood called Meshchanskaya sloboda, appeared in Moscow in 18th century. Source: Valery Sharifuddin/TASS

The plot of land in Vypolzov Lane, where the Moscow Cathedral Mosque is located, was purchased by Tatar merchants in 1902. The original mosque was built in 1904 and remained at this site until it was demolished in 2011 as part of the refurbishment project that started in the spring of 2005.


4. Controversy over the demolition of the old mosque


The demolition of the original mosque provoked an outcry from the general public and city conservationists alike. Rustam Rakhmatullin, coordinator of Arkhnadzor, an influential Moscow conservation group, described it as “an act of barbarism exacerbated by administrative arbitrariness.”

Several organizations and Muslim leaders condemned the decision to demolish the old mosque, accusing the Russian Council of Muftis of unlawful actions and “the destruction of historical heritage.”

The Council of Muftis said reconstruction was necessary since the old building had partially caved in and was no longer safe.


5. Moscow continues to face a shortage of mosques


Muslims filled the streets around Moscow Cathedral Mosque during celebrations of Uraza Bayram (Eid al-Fitr). Source: Sergei Savostyanov/TASS

According to various estimates, during major religious holidays, up to 100,000 people gather outside the central mosque alone. This leads to overcrowding of nearby streets and spaces.

“I am glad that Moscow will now have a big and modern mosque,” Albir Sharafutdinov, a 39-year old practitioner of Islam told RBTH.  “Yet I think it may have been more useful to spend that money not to build one huge mosque but a couple of smaller ones in other parts of the city.  It takes an hour or an hour and a half to get here from a suburb.”



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