x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Sikh community to get new centre in Dubai

The UAE's Sikh community is preparing to move into a new place of worship.

Jasvinder Singh and Amanjeet Singh outside a Sikh gathering at Jumeirah Beach Residence.
Jasvinder Singh and Amanjeet Singh outside a Sikh gathering at Jumeirah Beach Residence.

DUBAI // The Sikh community, which has so outgrown its place of worship people have begun holding religious gatherings in their homes, is looking forward to a new centre opening in the coming months.

Work on the US$20 million (Dh102m) Gurunanak Darbar project, which is located on 25,400 square feet of land opposite the St Mina Coptik Orthodox Church at Jebel Ali, is almost complete.

Until the centre is open, Sikhs in the UAE will continue to share the Shiva and Krishna Mandir temple complex in the Old Souk in Bur Dubai with the country's Hindus. The structure is more than 50 years old.

Harvinder Singh, a chartered accountant who has lived in Dubai for four years, said people were eager for better facilities.

"It may have been suitable 20 or 30 years ago but it's not the case now," he said. "The hall is simply too small to cope with the numbers of people who want to attend services.

"Everyone is hoping things will get better once the new gurudwara opens in Jebel Ali in a few months."

The plot was donated by Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Makhtoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai. Once done it will have space for 900 people and become the new focal point for the 50,000-strong Sikh community in the Emirates, able to accommodate a variety of functions including weddings and festivals.

"The existing temple is quiet small," said Amanjeet Singh, 28, a bank manager who has been in Dubai for more than three years. "You can only get about 40 people in there at most, so many members of the community miss out when it comes to attending religious festival."

The Sikh building, or gurudwara, has been so overloaded that between 30 and 40 families have begun holding religious functions in their homes.

"The trouble is that the Bur Dubai temple is the only one in the entire country so people from other Emirates use it as well and it's just not good or big enough anymore," said Mr Singh. "The functions in family homes usually involve the singing of religious texts and the playing of the tabla drums.

"We tend to also meet up for special occasions like Vaisakhi, our annual harvest festival, and also when someone is celebrating a birthday and they want a religious service to mark it."

nhanif@thenational.ae