Al Atawlah Heritage Mosque – Al Atawilah, Saudi Arabia - Atlas Obscura

Al Atawlah Heritage Mosque

Al Atawilah, Saudi Arabia

This 900-year-old mosque was restored using traditional techniques and materials.  


As the name suggests, Al Atawlah Heritage Mosque is a historical mosque. It was built in the 12th century, which means it does not date back to the early days of Islam and is one of the few that has not undergone thorough restructuring.  This may be due to a combination of factors. First of all, it is very small, and second, it is not in the proximity of a major pilgrimage destination.

The mosque is located on the outskirts of Al Atawlah Heritage Village. Cobblestone alleys meander through a cluster of abandoned and semi-abandoned buildings currently under renovation. Efforts are being made to preserve the architecture of this old hamlet. The mosque is part of these efforts, and it is well worth it.  

The mud plastering covers irregularly shaped stones that form the core structure of the building, while juniper timber was used for the columns and ceiling. Although an electrical system was put in place, it is quite unobtrusive, and the traditional style of the electrical lamps harmonizes well with the uneven lines of the structure —the low-voltage bulbs are also a good choice. The two conspicuous niches in the wall are the mihrab, indicating the direction of Mecca, and the minbar, where the imam stands to give the sermon. 

The masterful stonework that marks the exterior of the mosque extends also to the minaret, which towers over all other nearby buildings and can work as a landmark for finding Al Atawlah Heritage Mosque.  

The restoration of this mosque is part of a larger project aimed at uncovering, studying, documenting, and protecting heritage architecture throughout Saudi Arabia. 

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May 12, 2023

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