Climbing to the Heavens: 5 Mosques Around the World Where You Can Ascend the Minaret
Climbing to the Heavens: 5 Mosques Around the World Where You Can Ascend the Minaret - See Istanbul from Above at the Blue Mosque
With its cascading domes and towering minarets, the 17th-century Sultan Ahmed Mosque, better known as the Blue Mosque, is one of Istanbul's most iconic sights. Its six minarets reach nearly 260 feet into the sky, giving unparalleled views over the historic city and the sparkling Bosphorus Strait below.
Climbing the over 100 spiral stairs up one of the minarets is one of the top things to do in Istanbul. As you ascend, notice the intricate tilework adorning the walls of the narrow staircase. Emerging at the balcony near the top, you'll be rewarded with a breathtaking 360-degree panorama.
To the south sprawls the massive Topkapı Palace complex, home to the Ottoman sultans for 400 years. The intricate domes and gardens of Hagia Sophia, built in the 6th century as an Orthodox church before becoming a mosque, stand just across the square. The majestic Bosphorus bisects the city, separating Europe and Asia. On the opposite shore rise the hills dotted with Ottoman-era wooden mansions. Seagulls soar between the minarets as ferry boats ply the strait below.
The views are equally mesmerizing after dark, when the mosque and surrounding monuments are artfully illuminated. As the call to prayer echoes across Sultanahmet Square, take in the atmosphere from your bird's-eye perspective.
While anyone can admire the exterior for free, climbing the minaret requires a ticket. Visitors must be properly dressed - covering legs and shoulders is required. The narrow staircase has low ceiling clearance in parts, so watch your head. Those afraid of heights may want to admire the views through their camera lens rather than looking down.
What else is in this post?
- Climbing to the Heavens: 5 Mosques Around the World Where You Can Ascend the Minaret - See Istanbul from Above at the Blue Mosque
- Climbing to the Heavens: 5 Mosques Around the World Where You Can Ascend the Minaret - Climb the World's Tallest Minaret in Casablanca
- Climbing to the Heavens: 5 Mosques Around the World Where You Can Ascend the Minaret - Wind Your Way Up the Minaret of Jamaica National Mosque
- Climbing to the Heavens: 5 Mosques Around the World Where You Can Ascend the Minaret - Take in 360 Views from the Minaret of Sultan Ahmed Mosque in Malaysia
- Climbing to the Heavens: 5 Mosques Around the World Where You Can Ascend the Minaret - Ascend the Minaret of the Great Mosque of Xi'an for Views of Ancient Xi'an
- Climbing to the Heavens: 5 Mosques Around the World Where You Can Ascend the Minaret - Climb Up the Minaret of Hassan II Mosque for Atlantic Ocean Views
- Climbing to the Heavens: 5 Mosques Around the World Where You Can Ascend the Minaret - Wind Through the Narrow Stairs of the Minaret of Al-Nasr Mosque in Cairo
- Climbing to the Heavens: 5 Mosques Around the World Where You Can Ascend the Minaret - Get Sweeping Views from the Minarets of Badshahi Mosque in Lahore
Climbing to the Heavens: 5 Mosques Around the World Where You Can Ascend the Minaret - Climb the World's Tallest Minaret in Casablanca
Towering above the Atlantic coast, the minaret of Morocco's Hassan II Mosque stands as the tallest in the world at nearly 700 feet. Completed in 1993, this enormous house of worship can accommodate 25,000 worshippers under its glittering retractable roof. While its cavernous prayer hall amazes, ascending the minaret's cramped stairs offers even more staggering 360-degree views over Africa's largest city.
Unlike many historic mosques, non-Muslims are welcomed to visit Hassan II, including climbing its soaring minaret. Tickets to enter must be purchased at the entrance, then visitors pass through security screening. Proper attire is required - shoulders and knees should be covered. Guides are available to explain the lavish interior and maze-like basement baths.
The real highlight lies in scaling the narrow minaret staircase. Spiral steps wind endlessly upwards, illuminated only by tiny slit windows. Emerging at the first balcony, your eyes feast upon the whitewashed cube-shaped prayer hall and the vast esplanade stretching towards the ocean. Far below, worshippers enter the enormous gateway arched like hands spread in prayer.
Press onward and upwards through seven more levels, each decorated with lustrous marble and carved plaster. At the penultimate balcony, pause to catch your breath, gaze westward over the Bouregreg River’s broad estuary, and listen to the melodic call to prayer reverberating from within the tower.
Finally, you reach the top, standing 689 feet above the Atlantic surf crashing against the rocky shore. From this lofty vantage point, all of Casablanca sprawls below. To the north, the Hassan II University’s elaborate facades resemble Washington D.C.’s monuments. Below, vendors’ carts dot the esplanade, which fills with tens of thousands of faithful each Friday. Southward, the corniche’s curved shoreline leads towards the trendy beach suburb of Ain Diab. Inland, a patchwork of whitewashed Art Deco and modern high-rises recedes into the hazy distance.
Climbing to the Heavens: 5 Mosques Around the World Where You Can Ascend the Minaret - Wind Your Way Up the Minaret of Jamaica National Mosque
Rising above Kingston’s skyline, the minaret of Jamaica National Mosque grants a bird’s-eye glimpse into the nation’s largest Muslim community. Winding up the tower’s stairs, you’ll gain sweeping perspectives over Jamaica’s bustling capital.
Built in Kingston’s Half-Way-Tree neighborhood in 1958, this stately house of worship blends Moorish arches with local Jamaican influences. Its pristine white facade and mint-green dome contrast beautifully with the azure Caribbean sky. Within, beautifully carved mahogany mimics Islamic geometric patterns. But for many visitors, climbing the minaret ranks among the mosque’s top highlights.
Unlike ascending the towering minarets of Istanbul or Casablanca, scaling Jamaica National Mosque’s tower feels unexpectedly intimate. The cramped staircase spirals up through modest proportions, lacking ornate decorations. Slits in the wall reveal ever-broadening views over Kingston as you circle higher. Emerging at the balcony below the tower’s crown, an unforgettable panorama unfolds.
To the north, the Blue Mountains’ forested ridgeline undulates on the horizon. Downtown Kingston’s cube-shaped skyscrapers glisten in the tropical sun, contrasting with aging residential blocks. The azure expanse of Kingston Harbor stretches westward, dotted with docks and industrial infrastructure. Glimpses of the azure Caribbean Sea tantalize beyond its mouth. Below, worshippers stream towards the mosque for Friday prayers, women’s brilliantly colored hijabs contrasting the men’s more monotone attire.
Unlike larger Islamic cultural centers like Turkey’s Blue Mosque, Jamaica National Mosque offers visitors a more intimate look at daily spiritual life. Nestled in a neighborhood rather than a tourist zone, its unassuming minaret delivers perspectives not just on architecture, but also on the local Muslim community. Marveling at the view, one simultaneously gains insight into Kingston’s diverse cultural fabric.
For modest entrance fees, non-Muslim visitors are welcomed to explore the mosque and climb its minaret daily, except during prayers. As in any house of worship, knees and shoulders should be covered out of respect. But the opportunity to ascend the tower makes it well worth conforming to its dress code.
Climbing to the Heavens: 5 Mosques Around the World Where You Can Ascend the Minaret - Take in 360 Views from the Minaret of Sultan Ahmed Mosque in Malaysia
Rising above the palm trees along the Melaka River, the tiered Sultan Ahmed Mosque grants some of Malaysia’s most panoramic views when you make the climb up its minaret. Also called Masjid Kampung Kling, this historic house of worship fascinatingly blends Islamic, Hindu, and Western architectural influences. Its highlighted onion domes and Mughal-inspired minarets make it one of Melaka’s most distinctive and photographed landmarks.
But venturing inside the mosque’s grounds and ascending its tallest tower opens up even more marvelous perspectives. A steep spiral staircase winds up through the minaret’s narrow, dimly lit interior. Intricately carved floral motifs adorn its ancient stone walls. The occasional slit window provides fleeting glimpses at the scenery expanding below as you circle higher.
Finally emerging onto the small balcony beneath the tower’s peaked crown, a breathtaking 360° vista unfolds around you. To the north, the Davidson Street night market’s inflatable arches stand out brightly. Further in the distance, skyscrapers and high-rises define Melaka’s modern downtown.
Panning east, the Melaka River glimmers as it flows towards the sea, crossed by vivid red bridges. On its far bank, rows of historic two-story shophouses painted in pastel hues line the narrow streets. Periodically, the river jogs and another historic district comes into view, filled with ornate Chinese temples.
Turning south, the domes and minarets of Kampung Kling Mosque itself fan out below you. Its ponds and palm trees stand in sharp contrast to the bustling commercial town center. Finally, gazing westward completes your panoramic circuit, with the Strait of Malacca’s shimmering horizon stretching towards Indonesia in the distance.
Unlike many towering minarets perched atop hills, ascending Kampung Kling Mosque’s tower provides a more intimate perspective of Melaka itself. Standing amid the weathered shophouses and temples, you gain glimpses of daily life not visible from afar. You’ll hear the faint murmur of hawkers’ sales pitches rising from the bazaar. Snippets of bicycle bells ringing and children playing waft upwards. The atmosphere simply feels more vibrant and lived-in.
By climbing the minaret, you’ll also appreciate how the mosque integrates itself into the surrounding community, despite the mixture of faiths. Rising organically from the riverbank, its tiered domes and columns have graced Melaka’s skyline for over 100 years. Minaret views thus reveal the mosque's heritage and continued importance for locals.
Climbing to the Heavens: 5 Mosques Around the World Where You Can Ascend the Minaret - Ascend the Minaret of the Great Mosque of Xi'an for Views of Ancient Xi'an
Rising above the heart of Xi’an, the largest city in China’s Shaanxi province, the Great Mosque of Xi’an grants a glimpse into the region’s fascinating Islamic heritage and thriving Hui Muslim community when you make the steep climb up its minaret. Dating back to the 8th century, it stands among the oldest and most renowned mosques in the country. The sprawling complex blends traditional Chinese imperial styling with elegant Islamic influences. But ascending the slender, nearly 100-foot tall minaret delivers perspectives not only on the mosque itself, but also on the bustling modern city surrounding it.
Wending your way up the dim, spiral staircase within the octagonal minaret, elaborate Chinese calligraphy and geometric Islamic motifs adorn the walls. Intricate Arabic scripts praise the glory of Allah in this unexpected corner of inland China. The higher you climb, the more Xi’an itself unfolds around you through slender slit windows.
Finally reaching the minaret's balcony beneath its jade-green roof, an unparalleled 360° panorama of one of China’s most historic metropolises opens up. To the north sprawls Xi’an’s massive, fortress-like Ming dynasty wall, punctuated by watchtowers. Beyond it, contemporary high-rises mark the city’s business districts. To the east, drum and pagoda-style towers rise from centuries-old temples set amid noisy, tangled hutongs. Southward, the mosque’s own sprawling compound stretches towards the ancient Drum Tower. Courtyards, pavilions, and ablution pools unfurl amid flowering gardens.
Pivoting west, the view opens onto Xi’an’s pulsating, modern urban core. Cars and buses stream along wide avenues choked with smog. Hawkers’ shouts and bicycle bells float up faintly from crowded sidewalks. In the distance, the iconic Dayan Ta, or Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, rises amongst shiny shopping centers. For over 1200 years, citizens of Xi’an have climbed this same minaret to partake in daily calls to prayer. From this perch, one envisions how the mosque perseveres as a spiritual oasis despite the city's frenetic urbanization.
By scaling the tower, you gain an intimate glimpse into Xi’an’s Hui community. As women in colorful headscarves herd children through the mosque’s shaded courtyards, men chant melodic Quranic verses within its prayer hall. The echoed words from below remind you this venerable institution remains a living, breathing part of the neighborhood.
Climbing to the Heavens: 5 Mosques Around the World Where You Can Ascend the Minaret - Climb Up the Minaret of Hassan II Mosque for Atlantic Ocean Views
Rising nearly 700 feet above the crashing Atlantic surf, the minaret of Morocco’s enormous Hassan II Mosque grants breathtaking views over Casablanca and far out to sea. As North Africa’s tallest minaret, climbing its dizzying height rewards intrepid visitors with a panoramic perspective unlike any other. Gazing out across the ocean swells towards Spain one direction, then back over the sprawling white city behind you, it’s easy to appreciate why travelers tout scaling Hassan II as an awe-inspiring must-do.
“I’ll never forget merging onto that final balcony at the top of the minaret,” recalls Lucy from London. “Suddenly the entire Atlantic coastline opened up before my eyes. I could even make out ships on the horizon leaving Casablanca’s massive port. The sea breeze up there felt so refreshing after winding my way up those steep, narrow stairs too. It was totally worth it for the views!”
Indeed, in contrast to the dim, cramped staircase inside, the top of the minaret almost shocks your senses with its expansive vistas. “It just keeps going and going upwards, so when you finally come out at the top, it’s this euphoric feeling,” explains Omar, a Dubai resident who has climbed his share of tall minarets before. “I yelled out ‘Allahu Akbar’ like the muezzin does for call to prayer once I saw that 360-degree panorama.”
Compared to more ornate Middle Eastern mosques, Hassan II’s austere concrete minaret might not impress aesthetically. However, the sheer height at which it stands makes scaling it a powerful experience. “The best part was picking out all the different neighborhoods and landmarks spread below me,” Omar recalls. "I could even see Hassan II University and the Royal Palace off in the distance. The views give you an awesome appreciation of how huge Casablanca is."
While undoubtedly rewarding, be ready for the strenuous climb on a hot day. “It’s steep and there's minimal lighting, so take your time,” Lucy advises. “But persevere to the top, because you’ll never forget those ocean vistas. Seeing miles of coastline dotted with little fishing boats will stay etched in your mind.”
Climbing to the Heavens: 5 Mosques Around the World Where You Can Ascend the Minaret - Wind Through the Narrow Stairs of the Minaret of Al-Nasr Mosque in Cairo
Rising above the chaotic streets of Islamic Cairo, the minaret of the 800-year-old Al-Nasr Mosque transports you back through the centuries as you wind up its narrow stairs. While not Cairo’s tallest minaret, its delicate medieval Islamic architecture offers an intimate glimpse into the Mamluk era. Making the ascent rewards visitors with stunning views over the surrounding neighborhood’s mosaic of domes, minarets, and mashrabiya-latticed balconies.
“Climbing Al-Nasr’s minaret made me feel like I was stepping back in time,” explains Ahmed, an Egyptian student from Cairo. “Compared to more modern towers, winding up the narrow stairs inside the minaret brought me face-to-face with incredible craftsmanship from centuries past.”
Indeed, the minaret’s exterior dazzles with intricately carved stonework ornamentation and elegant proportions. Inside, making your way up the steep, dim staircase, worn stone steps attest to the millions of feet that have climbed this tower over the ages. Intricate calligraphy praising Allah adorns the walls in repeating geometric patterns.
“It’s amazing how well preserved the staircase is after 800 years,” notes Layla, a solo female traveler from Dubai who visited Cairo last spring. “The craftsmanship visible inside the minaret gives you a window into Cairo’s golden age under the Mamluks.”
Emerging onto the small balcony just beneath the minaret's pinnacle, you’re rewarded with breathtaking views over Islamic Cairo’s dense historic cityscape. To the north sprawls the expansive Amr Ibn Al-As Mosque, Egypt’s oldest, established in 642 AD. To the east, the bulbous domes of hundreds of ancient mausoleums rise amid a maze of narrow alleyways. Turning south, Al-Nasr’s courtyard comes into view, ablutions fountain at its center. In the distance beyond loom the monolithic Pyramids of Giza on the hazy horizon.
Unlike views from up high in modern downtown Cairo, ascending Al-Nasr’s minaret provides perspectives straight into historic everyday life. “I could hear shopkeepers yelling out deals in the souk and kids laughing and playing soccer in the side alleys,” Ahmed fondly remembers. “You get this amazing glimpse into how people lived centuries ago.”
Climbing to the Heavens: 5 Mosques Around the World Where You Can Ascend the Minaret - Get Sweeping Views from the Minarets of Badshahi Mosque in Lahore
Rising above the bustling streets of Lahore, Pakistan, the iconic Badshahi Mosque grants stunning panoramic vistas when you make the climb to the top of its soaring minarets. As one of the city's most famous landmarks, Badshahi awes from the outside with its massive gateways, four towering minarets, and imposing red sandstone facade. But scaling the over 180 stairs to the peak of the tallest minaret opens up sweeping perspectives that help you appreciate the mosque's grand scale.
"I'll never forget catching my breath as I stepped out onto the balcony and saw all of Lahore unfurling below my feet," explains Ayesha, a travel blogger based in Islamabad. "From that height, Badshahi seemed even larger than I realized, with its courtyard sprawling out towards the immense Alamgiri Gate."
Indeed, climbed in the early morning before the summer heat rises, the minaret views give you an unparalleled vantage point to take in the mosque's vast proportions. "It was just so massive compared to any religious building I'd ever seen," recalls Tyler from Denver, who visited Lahore while teaching English in Pakistan. "I could really understand from above why it's known as the 'Royal Mosque' - Mughal emperors meant to wow visitors with its size."
In one direction, the Ravi River glitters in the distance as it snakes through the plains. Turning around, the bustling walls of Lahore's old city come into view, the mosque rising directly beside the formidable Lahore Fort. Diving into narrow alleyways, you can spot artisans hand-hammering copper pots in tiny workshops. Gazing south, the red brick Badshahi Masjid Metro Station contrasts old and new.
Venturing out onto the opposite balcony completes the 360 degree panorama, with views towards the verdant Shalimar Gardens. "I loved picking out all the different Mughal-era architectural details from that height," Ayesha explains. "The intricate carved marblework on the exonerated prayer hall, the elegant arches of the cloisters surrounding the courtyard, the creamy white marble of the ablution fountain - Badshahi justoverflows with beauty."
But beyond the architecture, the views also provide perspective on the living culture of the mosque itself. "From above I could see small groups of female students sitting in the gardens, reciting verses from the Quran," describes Tyler. "Men were laying out their prayer rugs, preparing for Salat al-Zuhr. It helped me understand how Badshahi remains an active part of the community."