Here we are with him. Ahmad is from Gaza, but is studying medicine in Damascus. Thankfully none of his family was hurt in the conflict with Israel which had just ended a couple weeks prior to our trip. He said only an aunt lost her house, but structures could be replaced. People cannot. So he was thankful. I greatly enjoyed having him with us for the next few hours.
(Ahmad is another very popular name in the Muslim world)
A mihrab (Arabic: محراب pl. محاريب) is a niche in the wall of a mosque that indicates the qibla, that is, the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca and hence the direction that Muslims should face when praying. The wall in which a mihrab appears is thus the "qibla wall."
The men and women do not pray together. The men were up front for the prayer while the women and children were back here.
A few more facts about the Umayyad Mosque:
The prayer hall consists of three aisles, supported by columns in the Corinthian order. It was one of the first mosques (the other being al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem) to have such a shape and this way, the visitors could see the mihrab, the alcove indicating the direction of Mecca (the qibla), and each other more easily.
The interior of the mosque is mainly plain white although it contains some fragmentary mosaics and other geometric patterns. It is thought that the mosque used to have the largest golden mosaic in the world, at over 4.000 m². In 1893 a fire damaged the mosque extensively and many mosaics were lost, although some have been restored since.
January 31, 2009