I have lived in a Moslem country and visited many places with mosques, but I had never had the opportunity to tour one. In an effort to promote understanding, some mosques in UAE now offer tours. I toured Jumeirah Mosque and found the tour so interesting and informative. Prior to the tour, we were offered crepes with date syrup and the creamiest, silkiest, nicest cream cheese I have ever tasted. There was also fresh dates and tea and coffee. The Arabic coffee did not resemble coffee as we know it at all. I was expecting dark and thick, and this was more like tea. Appropriate clothing was provided free of charge for tour guests. Women were expected to have heads, shoulders and knees covered, men needed to be covered from above their navel to below their knees.
Our guide explained there are 5 Pillars of Islam and Moslems are expected to:
- Declare their faith
- Pray 5 times a day
- Charity – they are expected to donate 2.5 % of their savings annually
- Fast – during the month of Ramadan they do not eat or drink during daylight hours. This is to teach patience, and act as a reminder there are people in the world who do not get to eat every day
- Haj – once during their lifetime they are to make a pilgrimage to Mecca
She went on to explain that the first 2 are mandatory. The other three depend on each person’s situation.She had a young man come in and show their prayer ritual – it takes 2 minutes. Men are expected to go to the mosque if possible, women are not.
She also explained the dress code. The Koran simply says that women should dress modestly. They consider women’s hair very sensual, and so for that reason, it is kept covered. The abayas are a loose long coat and she says they are cool to wear, and no one can see what is being worn underneath. She said her daughter has, more than once, attended university classes wearing her pjs under her abaya. She went on to explain in most countries wearing a veil is a personal choice, and the main reasons for wearing it have nothing to do with modesty etc. Women wear a veil to prevent their faces from getting sunburned, and to keep the sand out of their mouth!
Jumeirah Mosque was very typical to UAE, not too large and quite understated. In Abu Dhabi, I visited Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Mosque. It is the burial place of the first President of UAE and is breathtaking. It cost more than half a billion dollars to build. It is Italian marble with floors and pillars set with semiprecious stones. One of the chandeliers weighs 12 tons and it took 1200 women over a year to weave the 5700 sq. meter carpet.
I now have a whole new understanding of the Moslem Religion.