Islamic Archaeology

Islamic archaeology involves the recovery & investigation of the material remains of past cultures, that can illuminate the periods & descriptions in the Qur’an, & early Islam. Here are 25 heritage & archaeological sites, connected with Islamic art & architecture…

Uch Sharif, Pakistan Founded by Alexander the Great Uch was a centre of political & cultural activities. It is home to myriad of mosques and shrines. The most popular are those of Bibi Jawindi, Baha’al-Halim & Jalaluddin Bukhari – & are listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site.

Samarra Archaeological City, Iraq A powerful Islamic capital city that ruled over the provinces of the Abbasid Empire - from Tunisia to Central Asia for a century. The 9th-century Great Mosque & its spiral minaret are among the remarkable architectural monuments of the site.

Selimiye Mosque & its Social Complex, Turkey Sinan, the most famous Ottoman architect in the 16th century, believed the complex was his best work. It is considered the most harmonious expression achieved of the Ottoman külliye, a group of buildings constructed around a mosque.

Minaret & Archaeological Remains of Jam, Afghanistan The 65m-tall Minaret of Jam dates to the 12th century. Covered in elaborate brickwork with a blue tile inscription it is noteworthy for the quality of its architecture & decoration reflecting the regional artistic tradition.

Old City of Sana'a, Yemen Situated in a mountain valley the city has been inhabited for more than 2,500 years. In the 7th & 8th centuries it became a major centre for the propagation of Islam. This heritage can be seen in the architecture built before 11th century.

The Mosque of Ibn Tulun, Cairo, Egypt, 879 One of the oldest mosques in Egypt as well as the whole of Africa surviving in its full original form & is the largest mosque in Cairo. It features ancient architecture styles of Egypt, being created from carved stucco and wood.

The Great Mosque of Xi'an, China The oldest Mosque in China, it was built in 742. Unlike the Mosques around the world with domes and minarets, this Mosque is built in a Chinese pagoda architectural style. There are also Arabic inscriptions within the Mosque.

Al-Zaytuna Mosque, Tunisia Also known as Ez-Zitouna Mosque, and El-Zituna Mosque, is a major mosque at the center of the Medina of Tunis. The mosque is the oldest in Tunis, built in the 8th century & covers an area of 5,000 square metres with nine entrances.

Shopan ata Underground Mosque, Mangystau, Kazakhstan Carved inside a limestone hill, it became a mosque in the 10th century. Shopan ata is famous for his miraculous actions that happened during his life & after death, which attracts many pilgrims to to visit his necropolis.

Anjar, Lebanon The city of Anjar was founded by Caliph Walid I at the beginning of the 8th century. The ruins reveal a very regular layout, reminiscent of the palace-cities of ancient times, and are a unique testimony to city planning under the Umayyads.

Historic Cairo, Egypt Tucked away amid the modern urban area of Cairo lies one of the world's oldest Islamic cities, with its famous mosques, madrasas, hammams & fountains. Founded in 10th c. it became the new centre of the Islamic world, reaching its golden age in 14th c.

Tuo Kayu Jao Mosque, Jorong Kayu Jao, Batang Barus Nagari, Indonesia Existence of the mosque was already recorded since 1599, making it the oldest mosque in Solok Regency and among the oldest surviving mosques in Indonesia.

Abbasid palace of Ukhaider, Karbala, Iraq A large, rectangular fortress erected in 775 AD with a unique defensive style. Constructed by the Abbasid caliph As-Saffah's nephew Isa ibn Musa, it represents Abbasid architectural innovation in its courtyards, residences & mosque.

Samarkand – Crossroad of Cultures, Uzbekistan This historic town is a crossroad & melting pot of the world's cultures. Founded in 7th century B.C. as ancient Afrasiab, Samarkand had its most significant development in the Timurid period from the 14th to the 15th centuries.

Masjid al-Qiblatayn, Zeila, Somaliland, 7th century Built after the hijrah, the migration of the early followers of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to Abyssinia. Now mostly in ruins, it is one of the oldest mosques in Africa & contains the tomb of Sheikh Babu Dena.

Ummayad Mosque, Syria One of the oldest Mosques built in 634 after the conquest of the Arab on a former Basilica site dedicated to Yahya (the prophet). It has withstood many dynasty & ruling periods. The Mosque is visited by tourists for its beautiful architecture & history.

Herat citadel, Afghanistan Dates back to 330 BC when Alexander the Great & his army arrived to Afghanistan after the Battle of Gaugamela. Also part of the architectural works were undertaken by Shah Rukh, who commissioned the tilework that can still be seen on several towers.

The Mosque of the Companions, Massawa, Eritrea. early 7th century CE Did you know? This was the first mosque built in the continent of Africa. It is believed to be the first mosque on the African continent.

Quseir Amra, Jordan Built in the early 8th century, this well-preserved desert castle was a fortress with a garrison & residence of the Umayyad caliphs. The most outstanding features of this small palace are the reception hall & hammam, both richly decorated with murals.

Constantine (Cirta), Algeria Constantine in Algeria is one of the world’s oldest cities. It became the capital of the Numidian Kingdom under the name Cirta. Destroyed by Maxence in 311CE, it was rebuilt shortly afterwards by Emperor Constantine who named it after himself.

Historic Centre of Cordoba, Spain Cordoba's period of greatest glory began in the 8th century after the Moorish conquest, when some 300 mosques and innumerable palaces and public buildings were built to rival the splendours of Constantinople, Damascus and Baghdad.

Masjed-e Jāmé of Isfahan, Iran An illustration of the evolution of mosque architecture over 12 centuries starting in AD 841. The oldest preserved edifice of its type in Iran & prototype for mosque designs in Central Asia. It is an adaptation of the layout of Sassanid palaces.

The Cheramaan Perumal Juma Mosque, Methala, Kerala. Built in 629 CE, it is the oldest convert mosque in the Indian subcontinent which is still in use.

Hala Sultan Tekke, Cyprus Aside from Ottoman monuments, such as mosques, Cyprus is home to Hala Sultan Tekke which is a holy place for Muslims. It is the tomb of the holy lady Umm Haram, the aunt of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The tomb reflects early Islamic influence in Europe.

Taj Mahal, India Commissioned in 1632 by Shah Jahan. It was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for being "the jewel of Muslim art in India & one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world's heritage". It’s regarded as the best example of Mughal architecture.