“Make us as famous as you can,” Latifa says in a broad English accent after welcoming us inside Dubai’s Jumeirah Mosque.
Her statement is a response to a question on everyone’s mind who has an eager finger on a camera shutter. Photography is indeed permitted and encouraged inside the mosque.
It is a Sunday morning and inside the masjid, a group is gathered for a tour of Dubai’s only mosque that accepts non Muslim visitors. The tour is an initiative by the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding with the aim to promote cultural understanding and offer an insight into the Islamic religion.
Like other women, I have removed my shoes before entering this place of worship and covered my head with a long black scarf. Although I have travelled to the Middle East before, this is my first time inside a mosque.
The Jumeirah Mosque was built in 1976 in a style that is prevalent in Syria. It can hold up to 1300 people and is often packed on Fridays which is the holy day for Islam.
Latifa, our hostess, is originally from the UK and has converted to Islam and is now living in Dubai. She takes us on a cultural and religious journey, encouraging interaction and questions.
Her style is informative even entertaining in parts. She answers all our questions, addresses any concerns, even discusses topics that can be deemed sensitive. Her openness and candour are welcomed by the captive audience.
She introduces us to the five pillars of Islam.
1. Shahada – Faith: This is the declaration of faith, ‘there is no god except God’ or la ilaha illa Llah.
2. Salat or Salah – Prayers are performed 5 times a day, before sun rise, around noon, between 3.00 and 3.30 pm, at sunset and early in the evening around 7.30 pm – 8.00 pm.
3. Zakat or Zakah: Charity, which involves a yearly payment of 2.5% of one’s capital to the less fortunate.
4. Sawm: Fasting, which occurs once a year from first light until sundown during the month of Ramadan.
5. Hajj: Pilgrimage to Mecca. It is said that Muslims should participate in the Hajj at least once in a lifetime but they can’t borrow money to visit the holy site in Saudi Arabia.
Islam follows the Lunar calendar which varies with the seasons which makes the holy month of Ramadan and the feasts of Eid El Fitr (at the end of Ramadan) and Eid Al Adha (festival of sacrifice) vary from year to year.
Latifa also explains about the clothing we have all seen in Dubai where the men wear white and the women dress in black Abayas. She tells us that it is a cultural look and a personal choice that is adapted by the Emiratis.
She demonstrates the use of this Bedouin mask and explains how it is used in the desert to shield the mouth from sand. Its blue purple die is also useful in reflecting the sun’s rays and providing protection.
An electronic version of the Koran.
At the end of the tour, we are given plenty of time to take photographs, ask questions in small groups
and pose for photographs like these girls who were given black abayas to wear over their short skirts.
As much as Dubai offers gigantic shopping malls, soaring architecture with 7 star luxury hotels, fun desert safari tours and glitz reminiscent of Las Vegas, this is a tour that is well worth the time regardless of any beliefs, spiritual, religious or otherwise. It does not preach nor is it aimed to convert but merely offers an insight into the religion and culture of the host country. Go with an open mind and embrace the experience and architecture.
Jumeirah Mosque Tour Visitor Information
- Tours are usually run at 10am on Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday then on Sunday and Thursday from mid-September. Best to confirm with your hotel.
- Getting there by taxi is the easiest way. Taxis are fairly inexpensive and can be hailed everywhere.
- There is no need to book for the tour. Just assemble at the front of the mosque.
- Women need to be covered, eg, long skirts or trousers, long sleeves and a scarf to cover the head.
- Men should wear trousers and shirts. T-shirts are acceptable but not singlets.
- If you’re not suitably attired, you’ll be given a scarf or a black Abaya to wear during the visit.
- You need to take off your shoes before entering the mosque.
- Entry is 10DH at the door.
- The visit lasts for approximately 1.5 hours.
- Photography and video are allowed and you have ample time at the end to take photographs.
- Jumeirah Mosque tours are run by by the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding.
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