glorious buildings


[Sacré-Cœur Basilica, Paris]

When you travel in Europe you have probably noticed that often the largest and most lavish buildings (historically) are the churches and cathedrals. In some cases you can even see where the style of the building has changed over its years of construction, sometimes a couple of hundred (like the Cathedral in Toledo Spain for instance). The inside of the building (originally) would have been decorated with the finest ornamentation and craftsmanship of the period, sadly in some cases this has not stood the test of time, or been impervious to vandals and invading forces. But nevertheless, the idea was to offer a glorious place of worship for the masses. Well that and probably to show off a little bit in some cases, but “if you got it flaunt it” right?


[Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris]


[Cathedral of Toledo, Spain]

The desire to glorify God, and provide a place of worship, is of course the same here in the Middle East. The Mosques that I have seen, and visited where possible, are lovingly built with amazing attention to detail – from the beautifully crafted marble interiors complete with intricate mosaics (on the columns in the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi for instance) to the window etchings and lattice-work on the outsides. I am often amazed at how different they can look despite the fact that the design encompasses the same basic components, namely minarets and domes.


[Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi]


[interior of new Dubai Mosque (source: The National)]

A new Mosque is currently being completed in the Al Safa area of Dubai. In fact I had noticed the four minarets appearing over the rooftops in the area – it had looked (to me, and some kids apparently) a little like the fairytale castle at the beginning of a Disney movie – probably because the roof tiles are blue and the shape of the minarets is quite unusual. All was revealed this weekend in the newspaper, the Al Farooq bin Al Khattab Mosque and Islamic Centre is to be completed in time for Ramadan. Inspired by the Blue Mosque in Istanbul it will have capacity for 2,000 worshippers (only slightly smaller then than the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi) and will also be open to non-Muslims – one of only 3 Mosques in the UAE that are. The Blue Mosque took 7 years to complete, but the Al Farooq Mosque will have taken only a year. Quite impressive going. The interior displays Moroccan craftsmanship (wood panels and mosaics) under a 30m central dome where a magnificent chandelier, fitted with energy saving light bulbs, will hang suspended from a metre pole. Blue stained glass windows will ensure the interior is always cool and calming.


[Al Farooq Mosque, Dubai (source: The National)]

At the other end of the spectrum sits the 200-year-old Imam Salem Al Mutawa Mosque in Khorfakkan, Sharjah. This small white building of stone, with its distinctive tower, has featured on the back of the 5 Dirham note since 1982. The Blue Souq, another Sharjah landmark, takes pride of place on the front of the note, ensuring both the religious and merchant histories of the Emirate are represented. Now part of the national heritage, this Mosque (originally called Al Jamaa Mosque) lay crumbling and abandoned for three decades until the Sharjah Dept of Culture renovated and reopened it under a new name.


[Mosque in Sharjah (source: The National)]


[5 AED note showing the 2 landmarks]

I may not be very religious myself, but I am always impressed and a little awed by these monuments to people’s beliefs. Which is your favourite?

More pictures of the new Mosque can be seen on The National’s website.

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