RANDOM Times •

To survive, you must tell stories…(“,)

Yenidze, Dresden’s iconic tobacco mosque, and its story of deception.

3 min read

The beautiful German city of Dresden is famous for the Baroque architecture that runs along the banks of the quaint Elbe River, but there is one exception that stands out: the iconic Yenidze building, the “tobacco mosque”.

Featuring clear oriental architectural elements of mosques and the famous Alhambra Palace of Granada, it has been towering over Dresden’s Friedrichstadt neighborhood for over a century.
At 62 meters (or, if you prefer, 203 ft) tall, featuring 600 windows of various styles, and boasting an impressive glass dome, it would be one of the largest mosques in the world but, despite its appearance, the Yenidze is not, and actually has never been a mosque at all.
For most of its existence, in fact, it has operated as a tobacco factory and its unusual design was chosen both as homage to the Oriental origin of the tobacco processed here, but also a clever way to vend the rules on architectural restrictions in Dresden’s city center.

Hugo Zietz, a Jewish Dresden-based tobacco tycoon, wanted to construct a cigarette factory to process the tobacco his company imported from the Ottoman Empire.
He originally set up his company, Oriental Tobacco and Cigarette Factory Yenidze, in 1886, but due to strict architectural restrictions regarding the construction of factories in central Dresden, he found it extremely difficult to build a production facility in the area. Its name, “Yenidze,” derives from the place in present-day Northern Greece where he had his main tobacco-growing fields.
And thus, after two decades of failed attempts to persuade the local government, Hugo decided he was better off bending the rules.
In 1907, the Jewish businessman commissioned 29-year-old architect Martin Hammitzsch to design a factory that didn’t really look like one.
The construction was inspired by the Mamluk tombs in the Cairo Necropolis, with red and grey granite blocks to recreate the stripes of ablaq masonry, colorful mosaics and Moorish geometric patterns, and even chimneys designed like minarets.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing, though, because many architects view the factory as a stain on the city’s famous baroque history that had earned Dresden the nickname “Florence on the Elbe”.
The backlash was so severe that Martin Hammitzsch was excluded from the chamber of architects after he submitted his draft and the city council threatened to reject Hugo construction permit.
But then he threatened to move his business somewhere else, and the local authorities backed off.

By 1909, the Yenidze Tobacco Factory was complete and even featured the illuminated words “Salem Aleikum”, “peace be upon you” in Arabic, on the side for train passengers commuting by.
Soon, the “Salem Aleikum” and “Salem Gold” cigarette brands became some of the most popular in Germany and the factory became known not by chance as the “tobacco mosque” because of its distinctive look.

Either way the architecture of the Yenidze building has always been the subject of controversy in Dresden, as some still see it as kitschy, at least when compared to the city’s many Baroque masterpieces, but today it is considered an integral part of the city’s landscape.
And, above all, that is quite the success story, considering that it miraculously survived the terrible carpet bombing of 1945, during World War II.

About its role, 15 years after its inauguration, the tobacco mosque was sold to the Reemtsma Tobacco Group, which operated it until 1953.
It sat in isolation for several decades until being completely restored in 1996, and the building is currently owned by the Berlin-based EB Group, after being bought in 2014 from Israeli millionaire Adi Keizman.
Now It operates as an office facility with a restaurant set up in its large dome, where visitors can enjoy a 360-degree view of Dresden.

Images from web – Google Research

Random-Times.com | Volleytimes.com | Copyright 2025 © All rights reserved.