Sri Lanka’s Red Mosque, or Jami Ul-Alfar Masjid, is one of the architectural wonders of the world. Situated in the bustling Pettah district, one of the oldest parts of the city of Colombo, its tall minarets are seen from almost every street, towering over the hustle and bustle of the busy neighborhood streets.
It is said that the Red Mosque has been a landmark for sailors approaching the port of Colombo ever since it was built in 1908, and upon looking at it you can easily imagine that being true. The mosque’s distinct red-and-white pattern, whether swirling or spiraling or alternating, is quite mesmerizing. The domes are built in the shape of pomegranate (unlike the traditional onion shape), and the colorful brick patterns are meant to convey the same image.
The Red Mosque, also known as Rathu Palliya in Sinhala, and Samman Kottu Palli in Tamil, was built in what is called Indo-Saracenic style, and is reminiscent of the Jamek Mosque in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (constructed around the same time).
Words cannot convey how exciting it is to see the mosque’s tall minarets and domes from the streets of Pettah, with its busy markets, shops, and bazaars. Pettah literally means “outside of the fort” and has for centuries been a trading outpost. Pettah is a curiosity, with narrow streets and shops overflowing with anything you can think of. But nothing compares with seeing this magnificent structure rising above it all.
Know Before You Go
It's possible for women to enter and look around as tourists, just please note that you will need to cover your hair and arms and legs. Be respectful of religious customs if you plan to enter and enjoy this architectural wonder.