A recent ride took me to the Islamic Center of Washington is a mosque and Islamic cultural center, and is located at 2551 Massachusetts Avenue in northwest D.C. (MAP), just west of the bridge over Rock Creek. When it opened in 1957 it was the largest Muslim place of worship in the Western Hemisphere, with some 6,000 people attending prayers there each Friday.
The center was originally conceived in 1944 when the Turkish ambassador Münir Ertegün died and there was no mosque in which to hold his funeral. The Washington diplomatic community played a leading role in the effort to have a mosque constructed. Support came from most of the Islamic nations of the world which donated funds, decorations, and craftsmen to the project. Support for the project also came from the American-Muslim community. The site was purchased in 1946 and the cornerstone was laid on January 11, 1949. The building was designed by Italian architect Mario Rossi and was dedicated on June 28, 1957, with President Dwight D. Eisenhower in attendance. The main prayer hall of the center is covered by Persian carpets dedicated by the late Shah of Iran. The center continues to be controlled by a board of governors made up of various ambassadors. Around the building are arrayed the flags of the Islamic nations of the world.
In addition to the mosque, the center contains a library and classrooms where courses on Islam and the Arabic language are taught.