Najaf Dispatch: Inside the Imam Ali Shrine

BY Larisa Epatko  September 1, 2010 at 2:00 PM EST
The Imam Ali Mosque was first built in 977 over the tomb of Ali, the cousin of the Prophet Muhammad. Photo by Larisa Epatko

The Imam Ali Mosque was first built in 977 over the tomb of Ali, the cousin of the Prophet Muhammad. Photo by Larisa Epatko

NAJAF, Iraq | The Imam Ali Mosque is considered the one of the holiest sites in Shia Islam. The NewsHour recently visited the shrine during Ramadan and watched as crowds grew throughout the evening.

People gathered to pray, eat picnics in the rug-covered outdoor patios and meet with their families and friends.

At night, the Imam Ali Mosque lights up and pilgrims flood the gates for prayer and community. Photo by Larisa Epatko

At night, the Imam Ali Mosque lights up and pilgrims flood the gates for prayer and community. Photo by Larisa Epatko

Built in 977 over the tomb of Imam Ali, the mosque was reconstructed twice. After the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the mosque was the site of several attacks and used as a base by militia members.

Each year, millions of pilgrims come to Najaf, Iraq, to visit the Imam Ali Mosque. Photo by Larisa Epatko

Each year, millions of pilgrims come to Najaf, Iraq, to visit the Imam Ali Mosque. Photo by Larisa Epatko

The gold-domed shrine underwent its latest renovations two years ago. The surrounding streets are lined with hotels for pilgrims, who travel from all over Iraq and beyond to pay their respects.

See all of the NewsHour’s 2010 reports from Iraq.