Jami' al-Uwaysi
Tripoli, Lebanon
"History and Inscriptions:

One of the later Mamluk mosques of Tripoli, al-Uwaysi is also one of the least well documented. It carries none of the customary founding inscriptions, but a waqf document tells us that it was built by a Muhi al Din al Uwaysi in A.H. 865 (A.D. 1460-61). The mosque has retained his name in both official and popular usage, but we know nothing more either about the building or its founder.

The minaret, however, does have a two-line inscription on a marble plaque set above the door to the balcony, stating that the mosque was renovated in the days of Sultan Sulayman al-Qanuni (the Ottoman Suleyman "The Magnificent") in the year A.H. 941 (A.D. 1534) by Haydarah, the amir of the Citadel and of the city. The inscription reads as follows:

"Built in the days of Sultan Sulayman, in the days of the governor [nayib] of the Citadel and of Tripoli, 941 Haydarah, may God protect him at all times."

Description:

The Uwaysiyyah mosque is situated on the right side of one of the narrow streets that descend from the Citadel. While the minaret and the dome are visible from a distance, the mosque is not readily identifiable from the street. It is entered through an alley that runs off at an angle and leads to an inner courtyard and the mosque proper. There the mosque is properly oriented and has a fac,ade on the court. Obviously by the time al-Uwaysi built his mosque, the city had already become crowded; the builder could have neither a full street location nor a correct orientation toward Mecca from the street, so he had to resort to this alley tactic. The simple inner facade on its marble-paved courtyard consists chiefly of the large axial entrance to the mosque and a mihrab for outside prayer.

The building has no elaborate facade on the street. It is entered through a rectangular opening placed in a large frame that sets the entrance off from the rest of the wall. The frame has a border of knotted interlace with a rectangular projection at the lintel level. Above the door is a horizontal rectangular plaque formed by an inlayed border of marble with a positive-negative pattern pointing inward, very likely the place intended for the founding inscription that was never made. Just to the right of this entrance is an outside mihrab topped by a row of fish-scale motif containing various decorations at the door level. This facade also has a small window, whose opening is decorated by a floriated stucco trefoil motif reminiscent of Andalusian windows.

The floor plan of the Uwaysiyyah is simple. It consists of two rooms, both with mihrabs, connected by a small door: a main square prayer room (approximately 10 by 10 meters) covered by a very large dome, and a smaller vaulted room to its right.

The main prayer room has a dome that spans the whole area and consists of a cupola resting on a sixteen-sided area of arches, each with its own window, which in turn rests on an octagonal area of four open arches and four corner squinches. The breadth of the dome is unusual for its time and gives the impression that a simple domical structure has been blown up to very large proportions. This is particularly noticeable in the four corner squinches that here become large, concave areas. Domes of such a size were only later to become popular in Ottoman architecture.

The mihrab on the qiblah wall is a plain niche with reused marble colonnettes with capitals at each side, set in a rectangular frame. The frame consists of a simple carved stone molding on its three sides, ending at the bottom with a circle on each side, as on the facade of the Qadiriyyah.

Above the mihrab and within the frame are two fan-like projections, which according to local tradition are supports for a wooden shelf that once held oil lamps. In between these fan projections the central stone of that course of masonry is decorated on its two ends by a low relief of a fleur-de-lys pattern. The stone above the mihrab, like the stone above the door, has no inscription.

The built-in stone minbar is set to the right of the mihrab. It is heavily decorated the most decorated element in the mosque with interlace and star-shaped ablaq patterns over its entire surface. Whether it is contemporary with the structure or a later addition is unknown.

Finally, the Ottoman minaret is a tall, cylindrical shaft (Mamluk minarets are either square or octagonal), resting on triangular buttresses. It has a circular balcony, wider than the shaft and resting on a band of muqarnas which looks like superimposed rows of fish scale. From the balcony rises a small, cylindrical shaft with a conical dome resting on two rows of fish scale."

(Source: Salam-Liebich, Hayat, 1983. The Architecture of the Mamluk City of Tripoli. Cambridge: The Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture.)
Location
Hayy al-Hadadin, Tripoli, Lebanon
Images & Videos
Documents
Events
1460-1/865 AH
Style Periods
1250-1517
Variant Names
Jami' al-Uwaysi
Uwaysi Mosque
Variant
Jami' al-Uwaysi
Variant
Jami' al-Uwaysiyya
Variant
Uwaysiyya Mosque
Variant
Building Usages
mosque
religious