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as I mentioned in my introduction to Kazan, Catherine the Great (reigned 1762 to 1796) allowed Islam to be practiced. the Mardjani Mosque was built first (1766-70) by the czaritsa's Russian architect: it has historical value, but it does not have the usual elements of a typical mosque and is rather plain.

the Qolşärif (Qolsharif), on the other hand, is the most beautiful mosque I have ever seen. its predecessor that stood there 500 years ago was destroyed by Ivan the Terrible when he took the Tatar territory under his rule. the new mosque was completed ten years ago, at the time Kazan celebrated its millennium.

the mosque is situated on an honorable spot — the open square of the Kazan Kremlin, where it watches over the city. it has eight minarets with crescents turned to Mecca, the direction in which Muslims pray. 

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