Dresden’s Tobacco Mosque

Jun 22, 2023 0 comments

The ‘Tobacco Mosque’ in Dresden, Germany, by the city’s main railway line, is a fascinating structure. The impressive building with a 60-feet-high glazed dome and minarets stands out from the otherwise Baroque architecture found in Dresden’s historic old town. But despite its appearance, the building is not a mosque; it’s a former tobacco and cigarette factory.

The building was built between 1907 and 1909 by Jewish entrepreneur Hugo Zietz, who founded the Yenidze Tobacco and Cigarette Factory in the late 19th century. The company was named “Yenidze” after the Ottoman town in Western Thrace from which the tobacco was imported. This town is currently called Genisea and is located in modern Greece.

Credit: Jörg Blobelt/Wikimedia

Initially, Zietz had difficulties acquiring permit for the construction of the factory because of architectural restrictions on building factories in Dresden's town center at the time. So, in 1907 he hired architect Martin Hammitzsch to help him bend the rules. Hammitzsch designed the factory after the Mamluk tombs in the Cairo Necropolis, using red and grey granite blocks to recreate the stripes of ablaq masonry commonly used in traditional Islamic architecture. The resulting structure looked like a mosque with tall minarets, which were actually chimneys.

The Yenidze's remarkable design stood in stark contrast to Dresden's iconic Baroque architecture, which led to significant disapproval initially. Martin Hammitzsch was even excluded from the chamber of architects as a result of his draft for the Yenidze. But when Zietz threatened to pull his business out of the city, the authorities relented.

Related: Dampfmaschinenhaus: A Mosque Shaped Pump House in Potsdam

The building was completed two years later, with the illuminated words “Salem Aleikum” (peace be upon you) in Arabic emblazoned on its side to greet train passengers commuting between Prague and Berlin.

The factory's "Salem Aleikum" and "Salem Gold" cigarette brands quickly became popular with smokers all over Germany. However, the Yenidze Tobacco and Cigarette Factory didn’t exist for too long. Just 15 years after the factory opened, the business was sold to the Reemtsma group which operated until 1953, after which the building was abandoned. During World War 2, the building narrowly escaped destruction.

In the 1990s, the building was renovated and reopened as an office facility in 1996. A restaurant was established inside the glazed dome that provides a 360 degree view of the city.

Credit: QCA7/Wikimedia

Credit: Alex DROP/Flickr

Credit: Jörg Blobelt/Wikimedia

Credit: VSchagow/Wikimedia

Credit: René Venus/Wikimedia


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