Terrace of the Red Mosque, Colombo

What’s So Special About The Red Mosque, Colombo?

The Red Mosque in Colombo, Sri Lanka, is known by several names. Al Kami Ul Alfar, Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque, Rathu Palliya (Sinhala), and Samman Kottu Palli (Tamil). However, the pilgrimage site is most commonly known as the Red Mosque. It is a popular attraction residing on the second cross street in Pettah Market, Colombo. The mosque attracts large numbers of worshippers and tourists from around the world due to its vibrant red and white exterior. Every day hundreds or thousands of people flock to this destination to offer their prayers and admire the structure’s architectural beauty. 

If you are curious about what is unique about the mosque and want to know about it, you have come to the right place. This article covers all the information you need before visiting the mosque. Allow us to take you through it.

Red Mosque, Colombo

Red mosque, Colombo - exterior architecture
Exterior architecture

The History Of Red Mosque

Prayer Hall

During the 1900s, several South Indians of Islamic heritage arrived in Sri Lanka for business purposes. Most of them lived in Pettah and required a place to offer their daily prayers and Jummah on Fridays. To solve this problem, H. L. Saibo Lebbe began building a two-storey mosque. In 1908, the designer and builder incorporated a clock tower, and in 1909, he finished constructing the complete mosque. 

Newly extended portion of the mosque
Newly extended portion of the mosque

The Red Mosque, or Al Kami Ul Alfar, is the oldest in Colombo. At the time, the mosque could accommodate about 1500 people. However, due to the population explosion, the mosque required expansion. Thus, in 2017, after over 100 years, the traditional section of the mosque was expanded. Today the mosque harbors about 10,000 to 15,000 people at a time daily, even when it is fully packed on Fridays. The newly-built section of the mosque is differentiated in Sandal color paint from the older one.

Why Red In Color?

Interiors of the red mosque, Pettah Market

The complete mosque is painted in only two colors: Red and white. The structure is said to resemble the insides of a pomegranate. The dome is also carved carefully to resemble the fruit.

If you notice closely, all the red and white paintings are colored with only four patterns – straight lines, checks, spirals, and jagged styles. Another interesting thing is that the mosque itself faces the Holy Mecca.

Entrance

Red mosque ground floor -near entrance

Entry gates 1,2, and 4 are used for male worshippers, while gate number 5 is allotted for female worshippers. All visitors and tourists (both male and female) can enter the mosque through gate number 3.

Any type of bag inside the mosque premises is strictly prohibited. The visitors can carry handbags but not big ones. You must drop your luggage at the counter near the entrance or the tourism office at gate 3.

Remove your footwear and keep them at the dedicated stand before entering. It is important to note that visitors cannot enter the mosque without a guide.

How To Reach?

Red mosque seen from the roads of Pettah Market, Colombo
Red mosque seen from the roads of Pettah Market, Colombo

The best and easiest way to reach the Red Mosque is by walking from the Colombo Fort railway station. Hop on a bus from your place of stay and step down at Colombo Fort railway station. Mark the red mosque on google maps and start walking towards your destination. You could also choose to reach the Red Mosque by tuk-tuk.

Note: Uber and PickMe services are available in the region.

Dress Code

As you may know, Islamic places follow strict dress codes, and so does the mosque. Therefore, visitors to the mosque are requested to dress modestly.

All men must wear full pants, and women should cover their heads, arms, and legs. If you fail to meet any of the standards mentioned above, you will be given a hijab (for both men and women) at the mosque’s entrance.

Note: Camera and mobile phones are allowed inside the premises.

Timings

The visiting hours are between 9:30 AM and 5:30 PM from Saturday to Thursday. However, on Fridays, the visiting hours are only from 3 PM to 5:30 PM.

The ladies prayer hall is open between 9 AM – 7 PM from Saturday to Thursday and is closed from 11 AM to 2:30 PM on Fridays.

Male Muslim worshippers can visit the mosque anytime between 4 AM and 10 PM.

Entry Fee

There is no entry fee for visitors and tourists. However, a guide is mandatory (free of charge) to accompany you inside the premises who explains different sections of the mosque, including the interiors and the daily activities occurring in the mosque. After the tour, you can donate a few bucks if you wish.

Parking Facilities

No parking is available at the entrance or in the narrow streets of Pettah. So plan accordingly.

Restroom Facilities

Separate washrooms for both men and women are available.

Network Availability

Since the mosque is located in Colombo, it has excellent connectivity and signal strength from all network providers available nationwide.

The Red Mosque Tour

You get to see both the traditional and modern sections of the mosque. If you’re an architecture enthusiast, you’ll love the Indo-Saracenic style design. 

Red mosque terrace with tombs

The terrace offers views of the mosque and gives you a closer look at the tomb. You can also see the narrow streets of Pettah and witness the market bustle with pilgrims, tourists, and the common folk. Besides these, you can also look at the Colombo Port nearby. The guide will take you through all the sections inside the mosque and even offer detailed descriptions that enhance your experience. If you get the chance, visit the ladies’ prayer hall, too, as the interiors are truly exquisite. The entire duration of the tour takes about 30 minutes.

View of the Red Mosque from terrace
View of the Red Mosque from the terrace

Only very few mosques in the world allow entry to visitors, and the Red Mosque is one among them. Don’t miss the opportunity and experience the marvelous architecture inside. You can also educate yourself about the ongoing activities and daily rituals.

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