Hala Sultan Tekke

Larnaca, Cyprus

Hala Sultan Tekke or the Mosque of Umm Haram is composed of a mosque, mausoleum, minaret, cemetery, and living quarters for men and women. The term tekke (convent) applies to a building designed specifically for gatherings of a Sufi brotherhood, or tariqa, and may have referred to an earlier feature of the location. The present-day complex, open to all and not belonging to a single religious movement, lies in a serene setting on the shores of the Larnaca Salt Lake, which appears to be an important site also in prehistory.

During the second half of the second millennium B.C, the area of the Hala Sultan Tekke was used as a cemetery by the people who lived in Dromolaxia Vizatzia, a large town a few hundred metres to the West. Radar surveys have demonstrated that the city was one of the largest in the Late Bronze Age (roughly 1600-1100 BCE), maybe as large as 50 ha. Another archaeological investigations conducted by the Department of Antiquities under the women's quarter of Hala Sultan Tekke have revealed building remains dated to the late Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic periods (6th - 1st century BC). Several finds indicate that the site might have been used as a sanctuary but the limited scale of the investigations precludes definite conclusions about its use.

Most accounts establish a connection between the site and the death of Umm Haram during the first Arab raids on Cyprus under the Caliph Muawiyah between 647 and 649, which were later pursued throughout the Umayyad and the Abbasid periods. According to these accounts, Umm Haram, being of very old age, had fallen from her mule and had died during a siege of Larnaca. She was later buried where she died. According to Shia belief, her grave lies within Jannatul Baqi cemetery in Madinah, Saudi Arabia.

During the Ottoman administration of Cyprus, a mosque complex was built in stages around the tomb. The tomb was discovered in the 18th century by the dervish called Sheikh Hasan, who also built the first structure here. Dervish Hasan managed to convince the administrative and religious authorities of the site's sacred nature and with the permission he received, he built the shrine around the tomb in 1760 and had it decorated. The wooden fences around the tomb would have been built by the 19th-century Ottoman governor in Cyprus, Seyyid Elhac Mehmed Agha, which were replaced by fences in bronze and two doors by his successor Acem Ali Agha.

In another account, Giovanni Mariti, who visited Cyprus between 1760–1767, wrote that the shrine was built by the Cyprus governor he names as Ali Agha. According to Mariti, until 1760 they used the stones of a standing church in a ruined village nearby as construction materials. In another source, it is mentioned that the construction of the mosque was initiated by the Cyprus governor Seyyid Mehmed Emin Efendi in classical Ottoman style, and it was completed in November 1817.

Above the entry gate to Tekke garden is an Ottoman inscription dated 4 March 1813. Sultan Mahmud II's monogram appears on both sides of the inscription and reads, 'Hala Sultan Tekke was built by God's beloved great Ottoman Cyprus governor'. The garden itself was designed by a pasha and came to be known as 'Pasha garden'. The complex of buildings adjacent to the Tekke was known as 'Gülşen-Feyz' (the rose garden of plenitude or of enlightenment). To the north (left) of the entrance there used to be a guesthouse for men. On the right side of the entrance, there was another guesthouse of which one block was reserved for men (Selamlik) and the other for women (Haremlik). It was a custom for visitors to take the oath of dedication to serve the Hala Sultan Tekke if their wishes were realized. The domed mosque is square-shaped with a balcony and was built in yellow stone blocks. The minaret was repaired in 1959.

Umm Haram's tomb is located behind the mosque wall of the qibla (in the direction of Mecca). A further inscription dated 1760 is found here. Aside her, there are four other tombs, two of them former sheikhs. Another important tomb is a two-leveled marble sarcophagus, carrying the date 12 July 1929. The tomb belongs to Adile Hüseyin Ali, who was the Turkish wife of the Hussein bin Ali, Sharif of Mecca of the Hashemite House, himself a grandson of the Ottoman grand vizier Koca Mustafa Reşid Pasha and a descendant of Muhammad. At the eastern corner of the mosque and the Tekke, there is a cemetery, which was closed to burials at around 1899. A number of past Turkish administrators are buried here.

Opposite the mosque, there is an octagonal fountain, which was built around 1796-1797 by the then governor of Cyprus Silahtar Kaptanbaşı Mustafa Agha. The information on the construction is recorded on the marble inscription located on the fountain. On another inscription dated 1895, which was recently discovered in the Tekke's garden, it is written that the infrastructure for bringing in the water was built upon the instructions of the Sultan Abdülhamid II.

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Address

Tekke Road, Larnaca, Cyprus
See all sites in Larnaca

Details

Founded: 1600-1100 BC
Category: Religious sites in Cyprus

Rating

4.4/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Silviu Gheorghe (4 months ago)
The church itself is interesting, but the surroundings are better. The salt lake is quite a unique find.
Muhammad ud-Deen (6 months ago)
Beautiful place of worship. Well managed and serene peaceful grounds.
Karina Giel (6 months ago)
The location is amazing and very beautiful. Still don't forget it's a muslim tomb so don't expect a lot of decorations - architecture is modest and typical for the religion. Remember to wear clothes that cover your arms and knees! Otherwise you won't be let in.
Tomasz Tkaczuk (6 months ago)
Beautiful place and a lot of cats
Muhammad Uddin (7 months ago)
Beautiful, peaceful place. Was well managed and looked after.
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