ilyasi masjid abbottabad history

Oldest and Largest Mosque in Abbottabad – Ilyasi Masjid Abbottabad History

Ilyasi Masjid is the oldest and largest mosque in Abbottabad. There is also a small hill with walking trails right behind the Ilyasi Mosque. The weather is pleasant in summer so people from all over Pakistan come to visit Abbottabad and Nawan Shehr.

Nawansher is also home to a beautiful cricket ground managed by the Pakistan Cricket Board and the Abbottabad Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education (BISE). Nawanshehr has its own old bazaar which is famous for its Chapli Kebab. And while you are at Ilyasi Masjid, you must not miss the famous Pakoray of Ilyasi Masjid. 

Architecture of Ilyasi Masjid

The ivory-white facade of the Ilyasi Mosque stands solitary amidst the vibrant green valley of Abbottabad.

Ilyasi Masjid Abbottabad History

Constructed between 1927 and 1932, the mosque sits at an elevation of over 1250 meters. The city of Abbottabad was established in 1853 and takes its name from Major James Abbott, the inaugural British Deputy Commissioner of the area.

In his farewell, he confessed that “…he adored the place from the first sight – and was happy that his coming hither was right! After the creation of Pakistan, the city retained its importance as a military city. The primary training academy of the Pakistan Army is still located in the Kakul area. 

Location of Ilyasi Masjid

To reach the Ilyasi Mosque, a lengthy, winding road runs alongside the Kakul Academy’s border. This route meanders from the affluent city center through various quaint markets, eventually reaching the small village of Nawan Shehar. Nestled at the base of the hill, the grand mosque spans across 5 canals, offering a distinctive perspective of Abbottabad city.

The mosque’s design integrates elements from Islamic, British, and Sikh architectural styles, forming a distinctive fusion. Its defining characteristic is the towering minaret, easily identifiable from a distance. Adjacent to the minaret are domes and narrow staircases leading to water reservoirs, surrounding a vast open courtyard. Positioned to the left is a capacious prayer hall, while to the right stands a madrasa.

A series of smaller cupolas on the rooftop balance the structure’s façade. The mosque’s walls are adorned with intricately detailed excerpts from the Quran and reverential Persian verses praising the Divine. The building’s geometric cement lattice allows bright natural light to filter through the side columns, imbuing the mosque with a sense of spiritual and mystical ambiance.

The mosque is built over a natural stream of water that flows down from the hill above. Cold, refreshing glacial water gushes from two pools in front of the mosque. Next, it is led through two dozen open gargoyles and runs continuously for almost a year. This unique feat of engineering helps keep the shiny white marble floor cool and provides water for washing practices.

In the past, water was much more abundant, but now, sometimes when it does not rain for a long time, the water flow decreases and at the height of summer, this natural stream also dries up. 

Tourist Attractions at Ilyasi Masjid, Abbottabad

The stream near the mosque is steeped in local folklore and legend, believed to possess healing qualities for various ailments, from skin to muscle and respiratory conditions. An anecdote suggests that initially, Christians intended to construct a church at this location, but local opposition led to the establishment of the mosque instead.

Surrounding the mosque is a vibrant and lively bazaar, a reflection of this communal spirit. Notably, numerous shops offering pakoras, a beloved South Asian snack, dot the area. Each asserts itself as the original and oldest vendor of Ilyasi pakoras—spicy fritters made with potato, onion, and other vegetables coated in gram flour and served with mint chutney.

Over time, indulging in these hot pakoras has become a customary ritual for visitors to the Ilyasi Mosque, almost as integral as the act of prayer. Some trace the origins of the first Ilyasi pakora shop back to 1956.

Occasionally, a place becomes significant due to its unique qualities, historical background, or emotional connections. The Ilyasi Mosque, nestled in the serene city of Abbottabad, embodies all these facets and more. It stands as a jewel delicately placed in the picturesque Abbottabad valley.

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