A series of intimate, 10-minute portraits, explores the lives and beliefs of six young people whose usual places of worship are beautiful and historic mosques across the Muslim world. The films accompany them as they leave their homes and families, follow them as they travel to Saudi Arabia, and share their responses to the culmination of their journey of a lifetime – the pilgrimage to Mecca, where the prophet Muhammed was born.
Within decades of the death of Muhammed, Islam spread fast and its history can be traced through the flowering of exquisite Muslim architecture. Over the next few hundred years, fabulous mosques from Spain to Iran, and from Turkey to Mali formed a focus of Muslim life, as they continue to do today. The Seven Wonders of the Muslim World starts its journey at six of these locations and completes it at the mosque towards which all practising Muslims turn when they pray.
The seven wonders
1. The Grand Mosque in Mecca is the largest mosque in the world. At its centre is the Kaaba, a cubic building covered in a gold-embroidered black cloth towards which Muslims turn as they pray. Every year, millions of people perform the Hajj – the pilgrimage during the 12th month of the Islamic year – and many others make the pilgrimage at other times of year, which is called the Umrah.
2. The Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, Islam’s third holiest city is situated next to the Dome of the Rock. This iconic golden dome can be seen from all over Jerusalem. Al-Aqsa, dates from the late 7th century, making it one of the oldest mosques in the world.
3. The Alhambra in Granada, Spain, which dates from the 13th century, was designed by Muslim architects and built by the Muslim rulers of El Andaluz, or Andalucia. It was inspired by Qur’anic descriptions of paradise as an oasis, with trees, fountains and buildings.
4. The Blue Mosque in Istanbul, lined with blue tiles and reflecting the Byzantine church architecture of 400 years ago, expresses the sumptuousness of the Ottoman Empire and represents the zenith of Muslim architecture.
5. The Great Mosque of Djenne in Mali is the tallest mud-built mosque in the world. Its thick walls and many roof supports make it dark and simple inside. Every Friday, people in this huge but poor country come into the city to pray here.
6. The Imam Mosque in Esfahan, Iran, is magnificent in its design and decoration. Built in the 16th and 17th centuries, it was a stunning statement of Persian imperial power, and incorporates a pool, colleges and communal space, as well as the mosque itself.
7. The Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, Pakistan was built in 1673 and is a wonderful example of Mughal architecture. The building’s openness is in line with the Islam of the Indian subcontinent, which has traditionally been accommodating to all sects.