Afghanistan’s Blue Mosque, or the Mausoleum of Iman Ali, is among the most famous sights to visit in Afghanistan. Located in the loud and chaotic streets of Mazar-i-Sharif, most refer to it as an escape. The city is the fourth largest with at least 300,00 occupants; in the winter, however, this can change as families from places like Bamiyan attempt to escape Afghanistan’s harsh weather.
The Mosque itself is nicknamed the Blue Mosque because of its pale blue appearance which dominates the design. If you have travelled through the rest of Central Asia, you would recognise similar colours and architectures, of course paying legacy to its Silk Road roots.
Initially, the Mosque was built in the 1100s but was destroyed by Genghis Khan himself under the Mongols in the 1200s. Thankfully, it was rebuilt in 1481. In more recent times, it pays tribute to Ali Abdul Mazari, who was murdered by the Taliban in 1995.
Unfortunately, entering it is not accessible for everyone (we will get back to that).
The significance of Afghanistan’s Blue Mosque
The Blue Mosque is, without a doubt, the most sacred mosque in the country, playing a vital role in all social and religious life. It is a Sunni Muslim dedicated Mosque containing the remains of Ali ibn Abi Tali, Sunnis regard Ali as the Fourth Rightly guided caliph. As a result, many pilgrims would annually make a pilgrimage to the site to celebrate Nowruz – the Taliban, since 2022, have banned the celebrations (a continuing theme).
Can women enter Afghanistan’s Blue Mosque?
The short and firm answer is – no.
Since the takeover by the Taliban in 2021, one of their first policies to remove women from public life was to ban them from entering the blue mosque this also extends to foreign women.
How about men?
Men who are also non-worshippers are also banned, making entering the grounds almost impossible now. They can however visit the groups and what a sight it is, on our most recent trip the group got some pretty amazing photos.
Both men and women can walk around the perimeter of the blue mosque, but trying to get a photo through the large walls and wires is very difficult!
Is it worth visiting Afghanistan’s Blue Mosque if you cannot enter?
This is a good question. Getting to Mazar-i-Sharif is quite an adventure; you can choose the long and arduous drive or take a flight of approximately 50 minutes. The journey to the town is centred around visiting the Blue Mosque, even if you cannot enter. If you want to visit the blue mosque for a good photo or to enter as a women or non-worshipper, it is not worth it, but it is a must if you want to learn about what it means to the locals and Islam. Even though I have yet to enter the premises, the opportunity to be in the presence of people on their way to prayer and to be in a place of such significance is a deeply profound experience. We believe a trip to Afghanistan’s Blue Mosque is a must as it is essential to look beyond war and tragedy and take in the long history. Do not forget It has been an important cultural centre for many centuries regardless of who is in power.