Close to the N1 highway in Midrand between Johannesburg and Pretoria, with views of Sandton and Johannesburg in the distance, stands the magnificent Nizamiye Turish Masjid. And magnificent it truly is. The mosque is the biggest in the Southern Hemisphere and was built as an Ottoman structure and modelled on the Selimiye Camisi mosque in Edirne, Turkey (completed in 1574 and today a Unesco World Heritage Site). The project was the brainchild of Ali Katircioglu (known as “Uncle Ali”), a 74-year old, retired Turkish property developer, who initially wanted to take it to the United State of America. After struggling to find a suitable site he was advised by a friend to rather bring the project to South Africa.
I would have loved to have seen the inside of the mosque, but only had time to snap a couple of pictures from outside. Inside will have to wait for another visit. The Mosque has a main dome (covered with 48 tons of lead) that is 31m high and 24m wide as well as a further 4 half domes and 21 smaller domes. Inside the mosque there is authentic Turkish ceramics on the walls and calligraphy on the ceiling. The dome is patterned with Turkish art and the custom made carpet below it is a reflection of it. The 4 minarets are 55m and only three metres in diameter but contain two concrete spiral staircases, running one above the other – one up, one down. The mosque also has 232 stained glass windows.
Up to 6000 people can be accommodated per service in the central men’s prayer hall and women’s prayer gallery. On special occasions the mosque is lit up in luminescent green and purple at night which is something I didn’t get to see otherwise there would have been a picture of it up here. Except for the mosque itself, the complex also houses a clinic, a four-storey sama (school) for 850 learners and an arasta (row of shops and restaurant).
The mosque has truly changed the landscape of Midrand and has become a landmark that can’t and shouldn’t be missed.