Image by The Ali Mir Getty Images
The eye-popping Shah Faisal Mosque, nestled at the foot of the Margalla Hills, is one of Asia's largest and reflects an eclectic blend of ultramodern and traditional architectural design styles. Topped by sloping roofs (a stark contrast to the traditional domes found on most mosques), the main prayer hall and courtyard is said to hold around 100,000 people. Most of its cost (pegged at about US$120 million today) was a gift from King Faisal of Saudi Arabia.
Designed by a Turkish architect, Vedat Dalokay, and built between 1976 and 1986, the mosque's geometric design (modelled on a desert tent) and clean lines make the impressive scale hard to discern until you are up close. The four 88m minarets (an old urban myth is that the ever-paranoid CIA demanded to inspect them, fearing they were missiles in disguise!) tower over the prayer hall. Inside, the ceiling soars to 40m and the air hums with muffled recitations. The mausoleum of the late President, Zia ul-Haq, is adjacent to the mosque.
Visitors are welcome, but non-Muslims are requested to avoid prayer times and Fridays. Leave your shoes at a counter before entering the courtyard and remember to dress conservatively (women should bring a head scarf). To get here, jump off an intercity bus at 8th Ave or catch a taxi (around Rs 80 from the Blue Area).