Ok, what we are looking at is the Sayyeda Zainab mosque, just outside of Damascus, Syria. Sayyeda Zainab was the one who carried the story of the Martyrdom of Hussein from Karbala to the world. Meaning, she was the survivor who escaped from the land of modern day Iraq and told the people of the eastern Mediterranean what happened.
This is a big deal in Shia Islam. Remember that although the Shia regard Ali to be the rightful successor to the Prophet Mohammad, Hussein, and his Martyrdom, left the most lasting impression on the Shia.
While there is no such thing as a "Sunni" or "Shia" mosque in Islam, the tomb/mosque of Sayyeda Zainab is clearly built in a Persian kind of Shia style. (We can debate this in the comments if you want.) Upon my visit, however, I did see a lot of Sunni Muslims in attendance.
The Sayyeda Zainab mosque in located in a heavily populated Iraqi suburb of Damascus. And to me, it represents an overwhelming cultural unity and tolerance between Sunnis and Shias. It is not about secretarianism, but about paying tribute to a great woman. (You don't hear this in the Western press much. Do you?)
And just as a funny point I thought I'd throw into this post, someone outside the mosque --in Arabic--asked me if I knew where the charity office of Muqtada al-Sadr was? Keep in mind that Sadr is the radical Shia cleric who was violently anti-American during the Iraq War. And also, keep in mind that Islam isn't an Arabian religion anymore. In fact, I think proof to this claim is that the people around the mosque just assumed I was a Muslim paying my regards. And hey, the truth isn't that far off. Well, with the respects at least.
Click below on the pictures to enlarge.
(Me and my half-grown beard standing inside the tomb. See? People paid no special attention to me as being a non-Arab wearing a "Lost.." California surfing T.)
(One of the silly "extras" you get at many Iranian funded mosques these days is an outside propaganda museum for Hezbollah. From an anthropological perspective, it is interesting to note that the religious center is also the place where such nationalist/Islamist resistance is shown/sold. Other than that, you’re going to have to draw your own conclusions on this one. Cool stuff though, eh?)