On January 8th, my study abroad group visited the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, which is the largest mosque in all of the United Arab Emirates. It can fit over 40,000 visitors at a time. The materials used to build the structure come from all over the world including Italy, Macedonia, and India.
You might remember this as the mosque Rihanna got kicked out of for her racy photo shoot.
We arrived at the mosque and immediately had to separate by gender. There were two changing rooms. If you weren’t already covered, as a woman you had to change into an abaya/hijab combo that they provided for you. As long as the men were mostly covered they could enter right away.
Here is a nice little chart taken from directly from the mosque’s website on “mosque manners”.
The garb that they gave us to wear was a super comfy, stretchy, pajama material, and I’m pretty upset that I didn’t get to take mine home.
Once we got into the open mosque courtyard, the mood in the group changed. I think as a unit we were overwhelmed. It was probably the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. It was sobering. Marble and gold covered the entire structure. Hand-crafted art covered the floors and walls. My garbage iPhone 6 photos will not do it justice. We of course heard the afternoon call-to-prayer, but at this point we were so used to it playing throughout the city over loudspeakers that we could tune it out.
Click through the gallery below to see photos that I took.
When we went inside the actual mosque we had to remove our shoes. I was wearing my favorite Calvin Klein heels and was sad at first that I had to part with them, but then I remembered that we weren’t in America anymore and there’s no chance that some scumbag would steal them. In fact, my Calvin’s are pretty much like Skechers in the UAE, a country where everyone wears Louboutin’s under their abayas.
There were people from all over the world visiting the mosque. It’s quite a large tourist attraction. I understand why. Look at this chandelier. I didn’t even want to swing on it. I just wanted to stare at it and think about how little and insignificant my life is.
Now, I don’t want to get political.. but I’m going to because this is my blog and I’m a brat. I am a young, American female. I spent the good portion of an hour walking around a mosque where people practice Islam. Nobody tried to kill me. Nobody tried to kick me out. Having this experience has given my somewhat of a fresh perspective in our current political climate. They welcomed us. They were hospitable. They wanted us to immerse ourselves in their culture and learn about their religion, even if it’s only with a secular approach– So we did.
I would go back. In fact, I want to go back. I wont be converting any time soon, but I think it’s important to study and understand other religions. It can actually help you to better understand your own beliefs.