Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Mosqued in Mystery

“Your surprises wear disguises

All of your truths masquerade around on Hallow's Eve

So I'll never know what you show to unfamiliar faces” – Matt Costa

The UAE is an Islamic country. People here have religious freedom, BUT one must remember that the government and laws support the state religion of Islam (or the other way around depending on how you look at it). Non-Muslims are free to worship their own religions, but this freedom is limited… and does not apply the same way to Muslims. The result is a fascinating environment for religious practices.
One of those fascinations is Mosques. Here, they are everywhere. There are more mosques here than chapels in Provo. They seem to come in many shapes and sizes, but most include at least one towering minaret and they all broadcast the call to prayer 5 times a day. We can often hear the call from the mosque about a block or so from our house. Some are small and simple, while others are huge and extravagant. On our 20 minute drive to church, we pass several mosques that rival or exceed the size of the Laie Temple. Not only can they be big, but they are also beautiful, and they are all a bit mysterious.
Anyone can hear the call to prayer (it is in Arabic though, so we don't understand it) and see white robed men going in and out for their worship. But, in most cases, only Muslims are allowed to enter the mosques. Since we can't go in, it has been a captivating mystery to wonder what the mosques look like and what goes on inside. Of course there are lots of places on the internet that offer good information like here... so it really isn't a mystery, but reading about it isn't quite the same as actually going inside.
Come to find out, the Sheik Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi is open for the public on certain days and times. We went with some friends a little while ago to check things out and solve the mystery.
The first word that comes to mind is IMPRESSIVE. It is Huge and beautiful. A few tidbits of info:
  • It is one of the top 10 largest mosques in the world
  • Women are loaned an abaya and head scarf so they are appropriately modest
  • Men are required to wear long pants
  • The artwork was amazing... and most of it was inlaid stone, mother of pearl, or something precious
  • It contains the largest continuous rug in the world. Some 35 tons of it
  • It is technically still under construction. They hope to be finished sometime in 2012.
Anyway, the visit was really neat. It was cool to see a mosque from the inside instead of the just the outside. Plus, it was fun to see Yvonne dressed properly ;)
Here are a few photos of our visit.

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