Abdel-Wahed El-Wakil graduated from Ain-Shams University in Cairo, where, from 1965 to 1970, he lectured in the Department of Architecture. El-Wakil has acknowledged the importance of Hassan Fathy to his design development. Since 1971 El-Wakil has been in private practice as an architect.
(Source: Architecture and Community: Building in the Islamic World Today. The Aga Khan Award for Architecture. Millerton, NY: Aperture. 1983.)
Qiblatain mosque is part of a larger programme of mosque construction initiated by the Ministry of Hajj and Awkaf. Under this programme, a series of large and small mosques were built, each of which referred to traditional architectural language and vocabulary as their source of inspiration. The site of the mosque is of particular religious significance to Muslims worshippers praying at Qiblatam are said to have first changed their direction of prayer from the qibla in Jerusa1em to the qibla in Mecca in accordance with Divine Will. The design, ornamentation and detailing of the new mosque is aimed at enhancing the sense of history and sanctity, and at creating an appropriate atmosphere for meditation for millions of pilgrims visiting the site every year.
The triangular shaped site is situated to the west of Medina. The land is largely flat with a slight slope in the southeast corner and an 83m frontage to the adjacent main road. The existing 30 year old, reinforced concrete structure was demolished to clear the site for the new mosque.
Qiblatain mosque can accommodate up to 2000 worshippers. The mair prayer hall adopts rigid orthogonal geometry and symmetry which is accentuated by the use of twin minarets and twin domes. Living accommodations for the Imam, the Muezzin and the caretaker are discreetly grouped it one block to the west of the main structure. The difference in level at the southeast corner of the site has been exploited to incorporate a sub-basement level which serves as the ablutions area for worshippers. To the north, where the ground level is lower, the prayer hall is raised one-storey above ground level. Entry to the prayer hall is from the raised courtyard, also to the north, which can be reached by stairs and ramps from the main directions of approach. The prayer hall consists of a series of arches which support barrel-vaults running parallel to the qibla wall. These vaults are interrupted by two domes which establish an axis in the direction of Mecca. The main dome to the south is raised on a drum of clerestory windows which allow light to filter into the interior directly above the mihrab. The second, false dome is linked to the first by a small cross-vault to symbolise the transition from one qibla to another. Below it, a replica of the mihrab found in the lower chamber of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem reminds onlookers of the oldest extant mihrab of Islam. Externally, the architectural vocabulary is inspired by traditional elements and motifs in a deliberate effort to offer an authentic image for an historic site.