The genius behind the mosque


Many have marvelled at the architecture of the Faisal Mosque that is considered to be the national mosque of Pakistan but only a few know the genius of the person who designed the mosque. Given below is a brief introduction to Vedal Ali Dalokay, the renowned Turkish architect and former mayor of Ankara, whose pencil etched the Faisal Mosque on paper long before it was etched in the Margalla Hills.

Early life
Vedat Ali Dalokay was born in Elazığ, Turkey on November 10, 1927 to İbrahim Bey from Pertek. He completed his elementary and secondary education in the same city. Then he left for Istanbul for a university degree and graduated from the Faculty of Architecture of Istanbul Technical University in 1949. Later in 1952, he completed his post-graduate studies at the Institute of Urbanism and Urban Development of Sorbonne University in Paris, France.

Along with numerous national award-winning projects in Turkey, Dalokay has been awarded internationally for the Islamic Development Bank (1981) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and perhaps his most famous project, the Faisal Mosque (1969) in Islamabad, Pakistan.
His design for the Kocatepe Mosque in the Turkish capital, Ankara was selected in the architectural competition but, as a result of controversial criticism, was not built. Later, a modified design was used as a basis for the Faisal Mosque in Islamabad.
In 1973, he was elected the Mayor of Ankara from the CHP. Dalokay had served until the 1977 local elections, when another CHP member, Ali Dinçer was elected to replace him.
He was the award winner of Turk Dil Kurumu (the Institute of Turkish Language) in 1980 for his story book for children titled “Kolo” which was later translated into German, French and English. The book won several literary awards including “The Best Story book of the Year 1980” and is a marvellous gift to the children of the world full of love, warmth and sensitivity. He writes:
“Dearest, it is the will of our creator, when I die, I know it will take less than a year for me to become a handkerchief of soil…May death come nicely, smoothly, without pain, without suffering…I shall go on living in the yellow beads of wheat, dearest; I shall dissolve in the baby white milk, I shall be the greening in the almond trees that you planted, I shall be in the light in your eyes…. I shall be heard in the call of the red partridge, in the buzzing of the bees; I shall be floating in the cloud that brings the fertility, in the blowing winds, in the crazy River; I shall be in the every note of the earth”
Dalokay was a man of colorful and poetic personality. Though lucky enough to marry his ideal lady in 1957 who bore close resemblance to a sketch drawn by him during his youth, this first marriage ended in a divorce after three children. He remarried in 1977 and had two children from the second marriage. His life, which was full of achievements, ended in a tragic car accident on 21st March 1991 while he was travelling to Kirikkale at the age of 63, along with his second wife and the youngest son. Dalokay lies buried in his favourite city, Ankara. He is remembered by his family members and colleagues as charismatic, versatile, impulsive, hard working, honest, sincere, determined, trustworthy but also unpredictable and egocentric. A loving father, he became a role model for his children to study architecture. His eldest daughter Belemir Guzer, a landscape architect, is running her father’s office as “Dalokay & Guzer” and is committed to keeping his name alive

Dalokay won the Aga Khan Architectural Award with this project. The mosque’s architecture is modern and unique, lacking both the traditional domes and arches of most other mosques around the world.
The mosque’s relatively unusual design fuses contemporary lines with the more traditional look of an Arab Bedouin’s tent, with its large triangular prayer hall and four minarets. However, unlike traditional masjid design, it lacks a dome. The minarets borrow their design from Turkish tradition and are thin and pencil like.
The shape of the Faisal Mosque is an eight-sided concrete shell inspired by a desert Beduoin’s tent and the cubic Ka’ba in Mecca, flanked by four unusual minarets inspired by Turkish architecture. The architect later explained his thinking to design school students:
“I tried to capture the spirit, proportion and geometry of Kaaba in a purely abstract manner. Imagine the apex of each of the four minaret as a scaled explosion of four highest corners of Kaaba – thus an unseen Kaaba form is bounded by the minarets at the four corners in a proportion of height to base. Shah Faisal Mosque akin to Kaaba. Now, if you join the apex of each minaret to the base of the minaret diagonally opposite to it correspondingly, a four-sided pyramid shall be bound by these lines at the base side within that invisible cube. That lower level pyramid is treated as a solid body while four minarets with their apex complete the imaginary cube of Kaaba.” The entrance to the mosque is on the east, where the prayer hall is fronted by a courtyard with porticoes.

Vedat Dalokay died in a traffic accident on March 21, 1991, in which his wife Ayça (age 44) and son Barış (age 17) were also killed.


  1. It has stood the test of time very well, it still looks contemporary and modern. It's such a shame though that it no longer adequately fulfils the role for which it was designed, i.e. host worshippers in bearable conditions. One would think that the people who have inherited this architectural marvel would at-least air-condition it properly during the hot summer months. In my second year visiting Pakistan during Ramadan and offering my tarawih prayer in it, the stifling humidity in it seems to have worsened. One would have thought that the country's flagship masjid would be better looked after, but it isn't.

    Contrast this with the masjids in the UAE for example, the smallest to the largest are immaculately kept. Masjid Al-Haram in Makkah is well cooled, and Masjid-e-Nabwi, one feels a chill when entering it.

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