The Jamia Masjid (popularly known as the Shah Jahan Mosque) is located in the city of Thatta, the erstwhile capital of the Sindh (Pakistan). The mosque is known to have the most elaborate display of tile-work in the Indo-Pakistan sub-continent. It was built during the post-storm reconstruction of the city, as a token of gratitude from Shah Jahan for the hospitality he had received in Sindh while rebelling against his father, Emperor Jahangir.
The car pulled up next to a few streetside vendors. The owner of the cart immediately outside my window was selling little souvenirs. He gave me a hopeful glance. A fruit wala next to him was swatting flies from bunches of green bananas neatly arranged in rows.
The driver handed the old caretaker twenty rupees. He rushed back to swing open a rusty cast iron gate. We walked through to find ourselves in a large garden. A little basic by traditional Mughal standards, but its lush green lawns were an oasis amongst the built up sprawl that had emerged all around. The piercing car horns from the hustle and bustle behind us made it difficult to imagine how this place might have looked and felt 400 years ago.
Every last drop of water in the fountains had dried up. I walked under the palms to the other end of the garden where the entrance to the masjid was tucked away under a blue tiled archway. The building itself was not very high or impressive. A white dome glistened in the sun. I left my shoes to the side and stepped in. I walked past the outdoor courtyard for ablutions, rounded the corner to my left — and froze. The wonder of the Shah Jahan Masjid hits you like that. Without warning.
My eyes did a double take and then grew wide as I slowly walked in. The ceiling rose to a height that you could not see from outside, and the entire chamber was covered top to bottom in the most dazzling array of blue tiles. The starry night sky right above my head was a tribute to the heavens. Around every corner and through every walkway, another architectural surprise.
The pictures speak for themselves.
Though a traditional feature of many Islamic buildings, the modest first impression followed by awe and wonder within was the perfect encapsulation of my three years in Pakistan.
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