What Is a Mihrab in Islamic Mosque Architecture?

What Purpose Do Mihrabs Serve?

Men line up for prayers in front of the mihrab (prayer niche).
Men line up for prayers in front of the mihrab (prayer niche). David Silverman / Getty Images

A mihrab is an ornamental indentation in the wall of a mosque that marks the qiblah, the direction to which Muslims turn in prayer. Mihrabs vary in size and color but are usually shaped like a doorway and decorated with tiles and calligraphy. In addition to marking the qiblah, the mihrab traditionally helped to amplify the voice of the Imam during congregational prayer, although microphones now serve that purpose. The mihrab, also known as a prayer niche, is a common element of Islamic mosque architecture throughout the world.