One of the reasons I love the Jumeirah Mosque is because of its location. It’s in an older neighborhood and I like the rustic charm of the area. When most streets in the area look like this:
It’s nice to see a little of this:
I’ll trade the sterile perfection of most streets for some of those beautiful doors any day!
Of course, this being Dubai, just when I was trying to photograph a bit of grit, this rolls on by: (typical!)
The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Understanding organizes tours of the Jumeirah Mosque so a friend and I visited one weekend. (Hi Yuri!) This activity is usually something tourists or recently landed expats do, but it took four years of living in Dubai before I finally managed to visit. I had driven by or photographed the mosque many times so I couldn’t wait to see inside because it’s the only mosque in Dubai open to the public. As with other activities organized by the SMCCU, it was well-organized, informative and an enjoyable experience.
Before entering the mosque, you can enjoy a bit of coffee and borrow a pashmina if you need one.
Like my earlier visit to the SMCCU for the Emirati breakfast, however, I wish the presenter had been Emirati, or at least from the Gulf. I’d appreciate hearing more from local voices, but the British woman (who converted to Islam some years back) was a very informative and polished presenter.
Construction on the mosque began in 1976 and it was completed in 1979. Dubaians affectionately consider the mosque a historic landmark and it’s featured on the 500 dirham note.
The presenter explained a bit about Islam, including a description of the five pillars of faith and the different styles of dress.
Most of the points she highlighted were things I knew having lived in Dubai for a while, although I did learn a little something about the men’s ghutra (the headscarf worn by men – it has several different names like keffiyeh or shemagh). She explained how generally speaking the look is more formal when it’s worn straight and draped around the shoulders, and more casual when it’s tucked in and folded around in a turban-like manner. She compared the “turban” type look to a pair of jeans. This made sense in hindsight because often younger guys wear them in this way. The different colors don’t hold much significance anymore, but some fabrics are heavier than others.
I know the way Muslim women dress gets a lot of attention, but I’ve always been more fascinated by the men’s clothes. We women are accused of applying make-up in the car, but I saw men arranging their ghutra countless times while driving – they are just as guilty as we are of primping! Here are some variations:
Want to learn how to tie one yourself? Check out this you tube video. :) I like the part when he talks about how the style at one point was to have many layers showing, but now fewer are acceptable. This is something I would have never noticed as a westerner.
As far as women go, the following pictures/captions (courtesy of the BBC) show different variations of how head coverings are worn. As it states, the shayla is the most common for Gulf women to wear. It looks deceptively easily to casually throw on a pashmina to make it look like that, but I learned on multiple occasions it is not!
In the pictures below the presenter describes and displays the different types of face coverings you may see in the Gulf.
In terms of the prayers and service at the mosque, the woman explained how many mosques have carpets with stripes on them so that people can easily line up to pray in an orderly manner. The interior of the Jumeirah mosque can hold around 1,500 people.
She explained how people line up shoulder to shoulder, poor next to rich, emphasizing equality. I found this interesting because many Emiratis love to flash their bling. They may be in a black abaya or white kandora, but more often than not you’ll also find a flashy watch, designer stilettos or fancy handbag to go along with it. The more expensive and the more ostentatious – the better. I wondered how this extravagant lifestyle, not to mention the extreme social stratification found in Dubai, is reconciled with this theme of equality in Islam.
In terms of content, she said all imams at all mosques in the UAE are told what to cover for the week so that their message is consistent across the country. And of course she emphasized that Islam does not condone or promote violence.
Overall it was really interesting and I’m grateful that I was able to attend the tour before leaving. Check out the SMCCU website for details on this and other worthwhile activities. A few pics of the mosque follow.
For pics of mosques in my neighborhood, visit the old post, Pillar of Faith.
To read about the mosque down the street from my house in Dubai, visit the old post, The Soundtrack of our Life in the Middle East.
**I am certainly no expert on this stuff, so if anyone needs to correct something I wrote – please leave a note in the comments.