i never tire of sacred spaces, from any religion, and while i’ve toured many mosques, none has come with such an excellent tour. i’m still, hours later, thinking about how much i learned about the basics of Islam (well, just a scratch on the surface, but so much more than i knew before) this morning.
the mosque was built in 1987 — so it’s certainly not historic by any means — and easily recognizable due to its size. the dome is made out of fiberglass from a local company, but other materials were imported from around the world, including an Austrian chandelier, marble and travertine from Italy, and teak doors from India. note that tours are compulsory and it’s open from 9 AM to visitors on every day but Friday. rules for visiting are here, but basically, no shorts (as expected).
we got there a little after 9 and stopped by the reception desk to check in. nothing formal, but basically, “where are you from and what language do you speak”. we waited in the adjoining Islamic Center library for our tour guide.
there’s water available but mostly i enjoyed the strong air conditioning (especially after spending the morning walking around the ruins of the Bahrain fort).
we started in the courtyard and made our way inside:
the guide — who it was quickly apparent, is more than a docent but an actual scholar of Islam — was excellent, explaining to us (just us two — tourism in the summer heat is pretty much nil) not only the history of the mosque but a lot about the tenets of Islam, how Islam as a religion functions, basic rituals and beliefs, comparisons to other world religions, and its history. i really have never learned so much about a religion in such a short amount of time. absolutely amazing.
another bonus was that today, a Tuesday, there were oral tests for muzzins — the people who do the call to prayer you hear in the Muslim world. there was a screened-off section in the back of the room where you could hear people doing calls to prayer in front of (i assume) masters of the art, grading them.
you can see them waiting for their test here:
from the balcony
be sure to go up the stairs in the courtyard to the balcony, where you can get a great view of the interior!
back in the reception area, you can grab a bunch of stuff if you’re interested in Islam — while i’m not religious by any means, i’m definitely going to at least skim through some of these just to learn a bit more about the world around me. note that the bottom left pamphlet was written by our tour guide! seriously, she was the best. THE BEST.