This major takiyya complex located on the banks of the Barada River was built on the ruins of Qasr al-Ablaq by the Ottoman Sultan Süleyman I or Sulayman al-Qanuni (1520-1566) between 1554 and 1560. The complex is composed of a large mosque on the southwest side of a courtyard, flanked by a single line of arcaded cells, and a soup kitchen across the courtyard to the northwest, flanked by hospice buildings. A separate madrasa was added to the southeast of the takiyya complex by Selim II (1566-1574) and is linked to the takiyya complex with a souk. Both the takiyya and the madrasa courtyards are landscaped with trees around a central pool. The entire complex is aligned northeast-southwest, pointing towards qibla.
The mosque is formed by a wide portico and a sixteen meter square prayer hall that is covered with a large Ottoman dome. The portico is composed of three domed cells wrapped with a sloping lead roof carried on twelve columns. Its marble and granite columns carry diamond-cut and muqarnas capitals. The portal niche, centered on the portico façade, is topped with an elaborate muqarnas crown and framed with a band of geometric motifs.
Inside, the dome displays a ring of apertures along the elongated base and is covered with lead on the outside. Four arches that extend from the thick walls support the dome. The transition zone from dome to wall is formed by using circular stone triangulations without any muqarnas. The mihrab is located below a series if muqarnas formations and is defined by marble mosaics, while the minbar is made of white marble. There are plaster windows with colored pieces of glass on each of the four walls that open up towards the gardens. The exterior walls of the mosque are built of alternating rows of black and white stones. Colored marble facings were also used on the portico façade.
Two tall cylindrical minarets rise atop the east and north corners of the mosque's portico wall. They are made of white stone and crowned with conical roofs. Both minarets have a balconies supported by stone muqarnas for the muezzin to sound the prayer call.
At either side of the mosque are rows of six arcaded cells, equipped with fireplaces and covered with domes taller than the domes of the mosque portico. Located across the courtyard, the soup-kitchen also consists of a line of six equal-size cells, enlarged into a room at the center with two vaulted bays projection northeast. It faces the courtyard with a portico of twelve small domed bays. Placed lengthwise at either side of the soup kitchen are identical hospice buildings, composed of fourteen domed cells arranged in two rows. The hospice and the soup kitchen share a private courtyard behind the soup kitchen that is accessed with two gates from the main takiyya courtyard.
The unifying ornament in the complex is a decorative program composed of green and blue geometric plates over doors and windows. The entire complex was restored in the 1960s by the Directorate General of Antiquities.
Rihawi, Abdul Qader. Arabic Islamic Architecture in Syria, 239-247. Damascus: Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, 1979.
Exterior view of the western end of the complex as seen from a nearby modern pedestrian bridge. In the foreground the brick street outside and exterior walls of the compound are visible, as well as the gardens, multiple domes and circular minaret of the structures.