All mosques must meet new design rules, says Abu Dhabi
ABU DHABI // All mosques in the emirate must now meet set standards determining their size, type, location and design.
The new Government rules aim to improve the appearance and quality of places of worship.
Hygiene, cleanliness and maintenance will also be covered by the regulations of the Urban Planning Council (UPC) and the Mosque Development Committee (MDC).
The rules will ensure "an appropriate number, size, type and design" of mosque is found in communities across the emirate.
"Mosques are important public facilities that play a crucial role in everyday life in Abu Dhabi," said Falah Al Ahbabi, general manager of the UPC.
"The adherence to the MDC regulations will not only define the urban character of the city but will also preserve Abu Dhabi's Emirati, Arab and Islamic identity."
New mosques will have to promote "Emirati vernacular design to celebrate Emirati culture and design".
The rules will cover the entrance, sahan (courtyard), riwaq (arcade or portico open on at least one side), the prayer hall and the mihrab (arched niche in the wall). All mosques now fall into one of four population density areas - "highly urban", "urban", "suburban", and "rural" and should provide at least 1.85 square metres of prayer space per worshipper.
Mosques should be within a 350-metre walking distance for all people in the catchment area.
Existing mosques will be destroyed and rebuilt or upgraded.
"In the past it was a 'one size fits all' and density was not taken into account. Now we have a mechanism for that," said Ali Alzahid, senior associate planner at the UPC.
"The fundamental change we will see architecturally is that ablution facilities will no longer be attached to the toilet facilities.
"We have divided mosques into essentially a shoe zone and a non-shoe zone. The toilets will be in the shoe zone so worshippers do not have to share slippers or flip flops to better hygiene.
"In looking at the way mosques are used, we have tidied up the floor arrangement."
Another new rule is that at least 15 per cent of the prayer hall should be for female worshippers.
Musallas - or prayer rooms - in public building such as hospitals, offices, schools and in shopping malls should be a 50/50 split for female and male worshippers. All new non-residential buildings will require a musalla.
New mosques must meet a minimum two-pearl rating out of a possible five pearls under the Estidama green building system, and must have water-saving taps and use natural light, where possible.
A plan for a green mosque complex on Saadiyat Island is under way by an Emirati architect, Suhail Mohammed Suleiman.
Because the design of each mosque must reflect Emirati culture and heritage, with a focus on traditional Arabian architecture, six prototypes have been drawn up to inspire future building work, Mr Alzahid said.
The rules follow a 2011 Government survey of all mosques that gave each a rating of between 1 (excellent) and 5 (poor).
Some mosques with a rating of 4 and 5 will be destroyed and rebuilt in accordance with the new regulations, Mr Alzahid said.
Other mosques will be refurbished over time.
The standards, which cover all aspects of the planning, design and operation of mosques across Abu Dhabi, will differ depending on the density of the neighbourhood.
"Owing to the population growth and urban expansion witnessed by the emirate, the importance of planning, locating and developing mosques based on community needs has gained paramount importance and the unveiled MDC regulations are a concrete step in that direction," Mr Al Ahbabi said.
Updated: June 26, 2013 04:00 AM