Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Nahyan Mosque opened in 2011 and its minaret and overlapping tiles are typical of many mosques found in Morocco
Mosques of the UAE: Quiet Abu Dhabi community mosque attracts a multinational congregation
Birds perch on its tiles, the palm trees outside sway in the gentle afternoon breeze, while a Moroccan-inspired minaret dominates the low-rise buildings surrounding it – welcome to Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Nahyan Mosque.
It's a place of worship in the Al Nahyan neighbourhood of Abu Dhabi, a quiet area of villas, small baqalas and a popular public park. The community mosque is representative of so many others across Abu Dhabi city. During the day, people can see “gone to pray; back soon” signs in some corner shops as a quiet trail of people walk to the place of worship.
This mosque opened in 2011 and its square minaret and overlapping roof tiles are typical of many mosques found in Morocco. A row of arches dominates the front entrance, while a warm glow emanates from the lanterns hanging from the walls.
“The people who worship at this mosque come from across the world,” said Ahmed Abdulla, an Emirati who was leaving the mosque after prayer one Tuesday afternoon. “Anyone can come here if they are respectful.”
The Sheikh Hamdan mosque is one of more than 4,800 mosques in the UAE. But whether big or small, they all serve the same purpose. Adil Khoqali, who has lived in the UAE for six years, is of Sudanese and Dutch heritage and has just arrived to pray. “I’ve been coming to this mosque for about six years,” said Mr Khoqali, who lives nearby.
“A mix of people come here and most live around the area. They are from India, Pakistan, Sudan, Africa, the UAE, Jordan, Morocco and elsewhere. Some stop their cars just to pray,” he said.
“It is the home of Allah – it’s important to pray here with others; it’s important to come together.”
As the sun begins to set, an iftar tent for 350 people is also coming to life and adds to the community service ethic. The workers slice chilled melon that’s just arrived from Mina Zayed fruit and vegetable market. They also arrange cartons of laban, dates and a small plastic container of cool water for each person who will break their fast. Outside on the grass verges, they unfurl mats for any extra people.
Shinaj Abdul Gafoor is from Kerala, India and has been praying at the mosque for five years.
“I live nearby and I love to come here to pray,” said Mr Gafoor, 38. “I love the atmosphere and how the imam recites the Quran. The mosque is not too crowded, it’s respectful, calm and quiet.”
The peacefulness inside the mosque reflects the area. Delivery men from local corner shops pass by on their bikes, families take advantage of the cooler evening air and head to Delma Park, and the rush hour traffic on busy Delma Road has long subsided.
“It’s very helpful for residents to have such a mosque,” said Mr Gafoor. “There are lots of mosques in the UAE – it is a blessing and many are within walking distance. It’s a religion open to anyone and is a wonderful experience.”
Sitting on a bench underneath one of the arches and using his prayer beads is Adim Mustapha. The Nigerian expatriate comes from the Delta States on the country’s southern coast. “We have small mosques as it is mainly a Christian region. The prayer hall and minarets are small there,” said Mr Mustapha, who has walked 15 minutes to pray.
“I like the scenery and it’s also exercise for me to walk here. It’s good to have these mosques here and what matters is praying in a group. It can be more beneficial,” he said.
By 6pm as the evening Maghrib prayer approaches, the trickle of people has steadily increased. Inside, worshippers read the Quran and pray while the sunlight casts shadows across the carpet.
“Whether it’s a small or large mosque, they are all houses of God,” said Emirati Mr Abdulla.