Have you ever either felt like or actually been the overwhelming minority somewhere? Be it gender, race, religion or something else entirely? Dubai, although a very global and multi-cultural city (actually, more so than I have perhaps seen anywhere else in my life thus far), is a predominantly Muslim country. As mentioned in a previous post, the veil for many women here is ubiquitous and at certain times of the day, you can hear the call to prayer either in shopping centers, airport, or faintly from a nearby mosque (approximately noon, 3PM, 6PM and 730PM – I can assure you I am never up/hear the 4:51AM call to prayer).
Given my minority, visitor, and student of continual curiosity status here in Dubai, I wanted to learn more; Barr, our relocation agent, and other expat blogs from Dubai had all encouraged visitors to visit the Sheikh Monhammad bin Rashid Centre for Cultural Understanding (their motto is the title of this post) to gain a bit of knowledge and perspective about Dubai. Obviously, I now wholeheartedly agree or else I wouldn’t be writing this post!
My visit (this time – there are quite a few different tours you can take, and I will be hopefully trying each of them!) included a trip to the Jumeira Mosque, a demonstration and explanation of the prayer, and an overview of the Islamic faith. The guide made a disclaimer from the onset that there were no stupid or offensive questions – she wanted everyone to understand their traditions and beliefs in a pure and honest way. Yall, I really appreciated this openness and candor – she can’t have had some easy questions over the past few years about Islam and Muslims, and to be 100% prepared to kindly and honestly answer anything that may come her way, takes a lot of poise, grace and faith. I’ll give you a little peak into a few things I learned during my time at the mosque, some shots I took (selfie!), and my recommendation, if you’re so inclined, to read No God but God by Reza Aslan (I am only about 1/3 of the way through so far, but have learned so much so far – and he writes non fiction in a very readable manner).
- There are 5 calls to prayer each day: Fajr: dawn, Dhuhr: noontime, Asr: late afternoon Maghrib: sunset/twilight, Isha’: evening
- The veil and abaya and how/if you want to wear it, as well as the color, is completely up to you as a woman; typically, this is culturally dictated (by how your ancestors wore theirs, where in the world you practice Islam, etc)
- The Imam is similar to a priest/rabbi, and calls the prayers and delivers a “talk” at the Friday worship
- The 5 pillars of Islam are: declaring there is no god by God (monotheism) with Muhammand as God’s messenger, ritual prayer 5 times a day, fasting/self control during Ramadan, charity (giving 2.5% of one’s yearly savings to the needy), and Hajj, which is the pilgrimage to Mecca, at least once in a lifetime if you are physically and monetarily able.
- Mecca is in Saudi Arabia, the black “box” in Mecca is the Kaaba – and there is nothing inside of it – this is where Muslims go on their Hajj
- Muslims believe in Jesus’ existence as a prophet of God, as well as Adam, Abraham, David, and the like
In other news, we are FINALLY moving into our new apartment today! It was a marathon afternoon of Ikea-ing and packing, but we’re ready – I think? I hope! These past few weeks in hotels has been lovely, but I know Barr and I are both ready to have a place to call “home” again (though no place could really be home without our little furry baby, Dash!) There may be some radio silence until we get internet on Sunday, but until next time…have great weekends!