Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Grand Mosque

It is difficult to describe the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi and do it real justice.  If it is only the 3rd largest mosque in the world, I'd like to see the others.  With space for 50,000 worshippers, this is huge.  And impressive.  And obviously very well planned out -- this aspect took 5+ years to complete, building commenced in 2006 according to our tour guide and even though it opened a couple of years ago, there are still bits unfinished.

The front entrance

The facts and figures about it are staggering.  But if you spend $3 billion on it, I guess you need to have something to show for it at the end of the day.

It is also very well organised.  Raised up by 10 or so feet, the mosque is designed to be seen from all directions and placed as it is near one of the many island bridges, it is well positioned to receive worshippers from all over.  It also means you can have massive underground car parking.

Sartorial do's and don'ts

As Viv and I were in tourist garb, we both were asked to don appropriate and more respectful wear.  In Viv's case, this meant the all black Abaya and in my case the all white head to toe Kedura or Dish Dash.  The day was warm for sure but not much more than mid-70's but Viv said it was quite warm in the Abaya.  I cannot imagine what it would be like in mid-summer when temperatures hit the 50's Celsius and you have to stay outside in the courtyard because the air conditioned inside is full.  But summer time is when some of the muslim feast days are so that must be an issue.

Imagine it jam packed and 50 celsius!  Oh yes, I forgot.  Its marble.

The ruler had set out to build the mosque not only as a place of muslim worship but also as a demonstration of friendship and learning to all religions as he wanted to encourage people from all over and with all beliefs to visit and learn more about Islam with a view to dispelling the misconceptions people have about the religion when all they see or hear on global media are terrorist outrages supposedly carried out with a religious purpose.

For my part, I have read a little but clearly not enough.  A bit like when Viv and I came out of the Buddhist Temple at the City of 10,000 Buddhas in California. I had my pre-conceived notions and both times they were built on insufficient knowledge.  I do plan to read more about this and hopefully learn more.

The inside of the mosque despite the massive chandeliers, immense Persian carpet and other wonders, is quite sparse when compared with the gilt everything in Roman Catholic churches and cathedrals.  No statues or fancy seating.  The Imam sits on a pretty basic chair and thanks to a state of the art sound system projects his voice all over the mosque, inside and out.

A place to wash your feet etc pre-service

A throw-away chandelier in the ante-room

Amazing designs and work on the walls

The biggest Persian carpet in the world ... and the biggest chandelier too.

A bit closer view...

The service itself sounds pretty similar in format to the Catholic church in that there is a church year that it follows so that the topics covered follow a specific sequence.  At any given point in the year therefore you know what to expect.  However as the muslim year is 11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar, the big feast days change all the time year to year.

So much to read about, learn and hopefully digest.

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