With its brilliant-white walls, ebony-black domes and towering minaret, this 19th-century mosque is a dazzling sight. The best time to visit is during Friday-afternoon prayers, when the entire building and courtyard are filled with people. A recent addition to the tiled courtyard is a series of retractable shades, offering all-weather protection for worshippers. A headscarf is required for women.
The first section of the mosque was built by the Dutch in 1879 as a conciliatory gesture towards the Acehnese after the original one burnt down. Two more domes – one on either side of the first – were added by the Dutch in 1936, and another two by the Indonesian government in 1957. The mosque survived intact after the 2004 earthquake and tsunami, a sign interpreted by many residents as direct intervention by the Divine. During this time the mosque served as an unofficial crisis centre for survivors, and bodies awaiting identification were laid on the public square in front of the mosque.