Hailed as a great gift, the most southerly mosque in Europe and being one of the largest Mosques in a non Muslim country, Ibrahim-al-Ibrahim Mosque, was in fact a gift to Gibraltar and its people, from the late King Fahd Al-Saud. Gibraltar was of course vastly influenced by the Moors, who at one time held control of the Rock, and their contributions to the city cannot be undermined.
Many of the greatest attractions of Gibraltar or those sites which serve to bring in the greatest numbers of persons to view them are Muslim, or Moor in origin, and include in their numbers castles, mosques or other buildings. In many cases, these buildings have been razed through warfare, or destroyed to pave the way for other buildings. Such is the case with the mosque that stood once where now stands the Cathedral of St Mary the Crowned.
During the reign of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, it was decreed that Gibraltar must have every single thing stripped away from it that might remind it of its past connections with the Muslims.
Such was the history of Gibraltar’s past, and the mosques, churches and libraries were in fact the casualty of such harsh decrees, yet so too were the people who lost much as those things were taken from them.
Gibraltar could not however be so easily swayed from remembering its past, and although many items of the Moors were destroyed during the Great Siege, several of the structures that were inspired by the Moors still remain, and are visited enthusiastically by travelers to Gibraltar.
One example of this is the remaining Moorish castle, or more correctly, the remnants of the Moorish castle, which are several buildings, multiple towers, gates and walls whose origins are lost to us, but which were said to have been built by the conqueror Tarik Ibn Ziyad probably at some time during the eighth century.
Ibrahim-al-Ibrahim Mosque sits atop a flat ground on Europa Point, and to the side of it a large underwater cistern that purportedly dates back to the Muslim Moors reign over Gibraltar.
Oddly enough, the area of the cistern has come to be called the Nun’s well. Although there are few reasons why this should be so. One local explanation is that the early nuns who were walking from the Shrine of Our Lady of Europa used the cistern.
One map, unearthed has actually verified this legend of sorts, by naming the cistern as an underground water tank that was a “bathing place for ye Nuns ot Nostra Senora D: Europa”. The water for the cistern enters the tanks through the limestone rocks from a geo fault in the cliffs nearby.
The new mosque which is situated at Europa Point actually has several names, among them, Mosque of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Fahd bin Abdulaziz al-Saud Mosque, and the Ibrahim-al-Ibrahim mosque.
The Ibrahim-al-Ibrahim Mosque, among the most often visited places in Gibraltar is, as previously mentioned, was a gift from the late king of Saudia Arabia. The mosque took about two years in the building and cost in the region of about five million pounds to construct.
From the outside the complex appears to be simple in nature, however the actual design of mosque is quite complex. Its ground floor of 985 square metres, is comprised of six classrooms, a conference hall, a library, a kitchen, toilets, housing for the caretaker, its own morgue, some offices for administration purposes, and lastly the Imam´s house.
Above the ground floor, the main prayer hall is found. Its decoration is nothing short of breath taking, with its ceiling comprising of nine solid brass chandeliers, all manufactured in Egypt. Eight of them hang in various parts of the prayer hall, with the ninth, weighing in at two tons, showing off its beauty right below the dome in the centre of the hall. The 480 metre squared prayer hall is covered by an enormous single piece woven carpet, along with imported Italian marble, covering all the halls supporting columns and its main altar, the Kabila.
The Ibrahim-al-Ibrahim Mosque was inaugurated on the 8th of July of 1997, a ceremony that included many members of the Saudi royal family as well as many other distinguished guests, making use of over sixty limousines along with some extreme security measures. The brother of the late King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, HRH Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, and HRH Prince Abdulaziz Bin Fahd Bin Abdulaziz, the King’s youngest son, were present on the day.
A six metre high brass crescent boasts the top of the mosques minaret, which reaches 71 metres from ground floor to the top. All the amazingly designed brass lamps, also come from Egypt, all following the same design style as the chandeliers, the enormous dome, and the ceiling of the prayer hall. A women’s prayer hall is located on a mezzanine level floor, along with a nursery, that both overlook the main prayer hall. A large Masharabia screen separates the view between the two prayer halls. As with the brass structures mentioned before, all the wooden doors, which are made of thick solid teak and adorned with brass, so too come from Egypt.
The fully air-conditioned Ibrahim-al-Ibrahim Mosque is used regularly by Muslims of Gibraltar for offering prayer, and is open to visitors during the day. About seven percent of the Gibraltar residents are Muslims.
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