Islam is the most spread religion among believers of Kyrgyzstan. 80% of the population is Sunni Muslim. In 1960, less than half of a population was Muslim, but due to ethnodemographic processes after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the growth of funding in Muslim-development, the number of Muslims grew exponentially. In the 1990s, there were only 40 mosques, and now there are over 2600. In this article, we will examine 4 beautiful mosques, that can give an insight into a diverse cultural heritage of Kyrgyzstan. These mosques had different architectural and ethno-demographic influences.
Sulaiman-Too Mosque is located in the outskirts of the Sulaiman-Too Mountain (considered to be a sacred mountain and a pilgrimage destination), right in the center of the oldest city in Kyrgyzstan, Osh. This city has many prominent mosques, but Sulaiman-Too Mosque is one of the newest and the most notable ones around. The first thing that you would notice is that it is a huge building, the tallest in the area. It can accept up to 20 000 visitors. It consists of a praying hall, a conference room, and a library. It was built in 2012, with private funding from Arab philanthropists. This mosque has a simple, elegant design with marble bricks and engravings in minarets. On the other side of the Sulaiman-Too Mountain, there lies the oldest mosque of the Osh city - Ravat Abdullah, dating back to the 16th century.
In the 1880s, Dungans, the Chinese Muslim ethnic group, fled to Karakol city because of the war. They have built an old wooden mosque in 1910, to serve the Dungan community in Karakol. Designed by a Chinese architect, the building is entirely constructed without a single nail. The images on wooden construction reflect pre-Islamic, Buddhist background of the Dungan people. Instead of a minaret, there is a wooden pagoda. The colors used in the building also reflect the Dungan symbolism: red to protect from the evil spirits, yellow to attract wealth, and green to invite happiness.
Located in Naryn, the most Kyrgyz city of Kyrgyzstan, the Azreti Ali Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque, was built in 1995 by a local deputy. It is a central mosque of Naryn. Standing at the 2000 meters above the sea level, the city of Naryn has the smallest number of non-Kyrgyz population in the country. The ornaments of the mosque are traditional nomadic embroideries called oymos. The blue color of the building also can indicate the shamanic background of Kyrgyz people. Additionally, blue was considered the color of heaven in Tengriism.
Imam al Sarakhsi Mosque, the new central mosque of Bishkek, was built by Turkey's religious authority for 25 million dollars. The construction has lasted for 6 years. The biggest mosque in Central Asia includes the area of 3,5 ha, and each of its minarets is 70 meters high. It can contain 28 000 visitors. The mosque is built in the Ottoman Empire architectural style and resembles the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. The ornaments inside were hand-painted.
Located in Central Asia, at the intersection of diverse cultural influences, Kyrgyzstan is a country with a rich heritage. Visiting these 4 mosques can give you the insights to not only our historical background but also our current affairs.
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