Grand Omari Mosque (Beirut)
Before being eclipsed by the Mohammad al-Amin Mosque, the Omari Mosque was Beirut’s central mosque. It takes its name from the caliph Omar Ibn aI-Khattab. It was built on the ruins of an ancient Byzantine church that was in turn built on the ruins of Roman thermal baths. The Crusaders transformed the mosque in 1150 into a cathedral dedicated to St. John, before the Mamluks definitively turned it into a mosque in 1291, becoming the grand mosque of the city during the reign of Sultan Al-Ashraf Khalil.
The mosque's interior sandstone walls are decorated in Mamluk and Ottoman inscriptions. Inside the mosque, a golden steel cage, a gift from Sultan Abdul Hamid II to Beirut, encircles a shrine for John the Baptist. The mosque's Mihrab, a semicircular niche in the wall indicating the qiblah, is located on the eastern side, and bears distinct ancient Greek engravings. Three hairs purportedly from Prophet Muhammad were apparently preserved in the southwestern side of the mosque, though they disappeared during the Civil War years when the mosque was variously taken over by combatants.