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Lonely Planet review
On the northern edge of the souq is the Great Mosque or Umayyad Mosque, the younger sibling (by 10 years) of the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus. It's also known as Al-Jamaa Zacharia after Prophet Zacharia, the father of St John the Baptist. Started by Caliph Al-Walid (r AD 705-15), who earlier founded the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, the work was completed by his successor Caliph Suleiman (r AD 715-17).
However, aside from the plan, nothing survives of the original mosque as the building has been destroyed and rebuilt countless times. Miraculously, the mosque's freestanding minaret has managed to survive in exactly its original form, as built from 1090 to 1092, although it does have a pronounced lean as a result of an earthquake. Standing 45m high, it's majestic, rising up through five distinct levels, adorned with blind arches, to a wooden canopy over a muezzin's gallery from where the call to prayer was announced.
While it's not possible to climb the minaret, visitors are allowed inside the mosque. There's no admission fee but footwear must be removed and women must hire an abeyya (hooded cloak) to wear.
Entrance is directly into the courtyard, the floor of which is decorated by black-and-white marble geometric patterns. Under a strong sun, the reflected light is so harsh it hurts the eyes, while the hot marble scorches under shoeless feet.
Inside the prayer hall is a fine 15th-century carved minbar (pulpit). Behind the grille to the left of this is supposedly the head of Zacharia. The padlocks fastened to the grille are placed here temporarily by locals who believe that a few days soaking up the baraka (blessings) from the tomb will give them strength.