The Enigmatic Manara Mosque of Crater, Aden

In the heart of Crater's historic district, the solitary minaret of the Manara Mosque rises as a silent witness to centuries of change and turmoil. This solitary structure, a remnant of a once grand mosque, serves as a poignant reminder of Aden's rich and layered history. Its stoic presence amidst modern developments speaks volumes of the city's evolution, from a bustling medieval port to its current status. The Manara Mosque's minaret, with its tales and legends, continues to captivate those who walk the streets of Crater, offering a tangible link to a past filled with splendour and spirituality. Its resilience through the ages stands as a testament to the enduring spirit of Aden and its people.

The Origins and Architectural Legacy

The Manara Mosque, according to some historical accounts, was believed to be constructed between AD 1397-1597 by a woman from the Bani-Ghassan tribe, at great cost. This massive mosque, now just represented by its minaret, was once a significant spiritual centre in Aden. The Portuguese invasion sketches of Aden depict the minaret as part of the mosque, confirming its historical presence and significance.

Located opposite the basketball stadium, near a small park adjacent to Crater's Post Office, the minaret is a notable landmark. Its zig-zag staircase of 86 steps, leading to the muezzin’s platform, was where the call to prayer, the azan, resonated five times daily. The base of the minaret, subject to debate among scholars regarding its construction period, was indeed present in a photograph circa 1935. This refutes claims that it was built post-1940s.

The "Pisa of Aden"

The minaret, with a noticeable tilt, earned the nickname "Pisa of Aden." It underwent several repairs, including one in 1950, as noted on a commemorative plaque. The minaret was once considered unsafe to ascend, reflecting concerns about its structural integrity over the years.

The Mosque's Extent and Historical Importance

Researchers suggest that the Manara Mosque, also known as "Aden Jame-Al-Manarah," extended from the current Board of Commerce building to the Al-Hubaishi football ground. This theory is supported by the discovery of Islamic-patterned arched pillars near the football stadium during the 1960s, indicating the mosque's proximity.

Portuguese drawings from 512 AD, featuring the mosque and its minaret, also depict three tombs, aligning with Islamic traditions of burying the dead near mosques. This evidence hints at the mosque's expansive footprint and its integral role in the community's spiritual life.

Diverse Theories on Its Founding

The mosque's founding is a subject of debate among historians. While some attribute its construction to the Umayyad Caliph Omar ibn Abdul Aziz, others credit the Persians residing in Aden. Additionally, Prince Hussain bin Salamah's renovations in 426 Hijri, adding two west wings, further contributed to its development.

Confusions and Confluences

Adding to the historical puzzle, Abul Feda mentions a large jami' masjid built by Omar bin Abdul Aziz before AD 718, situated near the regimental barracks on the Crater foreshore. Its proximity to the Manara Mosque has led to some conflating the two structures' histories.


Today, the Manara Mosque, primarily known through its remaining minaret, embodies Aden's rich and multifaceted history. It stands as a testament to the city's religious, cultural, and architectural heritage, despite the mysteries and uncertainties surrounding its past. As the only remnant of the "Big Mosque," the Manara minaret continues to captivate historians, locals, and visitors alike, symbolizing Aden's enduring legacy and the passage of time.