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One of the Kazan most significant cultural and religious attractions is the Kul Sharif Mosque that was built recently to replace the mosque of the Khanate of Kazan when in 1552 Ivan the Terrible conquered the city. Kul Sharif was the Imam (monarch) at the time of invasion and acted like a true hero to protect his people, so the new mosque was named in his honor.
The Mosque is a part of the Kazan Kremlin – a big cultural and historical complex considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is one of the biggest Muslim places of worship in Europe and the main mosque of Kazan. Muslims from all over the Europe come to the Mosque to worship and participate in its services. Besides being a vital religious landmark, Kul Sharif Mosque is an important cultural center as it holds a great collection of both modern and ancient books.
Kul Sharif Mosque design
At first, around the 16th century, the Mosque was the biggest gem in the crown of Kazan Khanate with its splendid minarets and rich, astonishing mosaics and other decorations. It was a huge, amazing library. The Mosque has received its name in honor of the last Imam of Kazan – Seid Kul Sharif – a person who not only ruled the Khanate, but was also a brave defender of his Motherland. It is said that the Mosque was decorated with eight minarets – more than any other mosque in the world, facing the eight parts of the world. It was destroyed by the order of Ivan the Terrible, when he invaded Kazan.
The Mosque today
The Kul Sharif Mosque was recently rebuilt – construction took 9 years; it lasted from 1996 to 2005 and ended just in time for Kazan millennia jubilee. All construction work was done using the money people donated – over 40,000 contributors gave money to the mosque and all of their names are listed in a book. This Mosque is more than just one building: it is a vast complex that includes the mosque itself, an administrative building, and a memorial monument as well. All these lie on the territory of about 19 thousand square meters. The mosque is open daily and it is free to visit, however, as with all places of worship in Russia, there are some rules visitors must follow. For instance, women need to cover their heads with a scarf or a hat before entering. The website of the mosque has a list of rules on the main page, so it is always best to check them before you go.