Take a trip to the Al Noor Mosque

The first mosque in the emirate to allow non-Muslims

This place of worship has come around to share its religious values with the ones interested in familiarising themselves with a different culture. Al Noor Mosque stands out, for its initiative of cultural exchange and for its architecture at the same time.

The neighbourhood of Khalid Lagoon on Buhaira Corniche, where the Al Noor Mosque is located, is an unhackneyed one. Towering buildings with shiny outer surfaces abound the spick and span surroundings. The infrastructure and settings around this area in Sharjah, are all very contemporary, yet this mosque of Ottoman-Turkish architecture beautifully blends in.

Sharjah, the third largest emirate of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is also the country’s cultural capital. It has come to be known for its synthesis of modern manners and culture, which can be witnessed everywhere, including in this mosque.

Completed in 2005, the Al Noor Mosque was built by order of the wife of the ruler of Sharjah, Sheikha Jawaher Bint Mohammed Al Qasimi. It is one of the more than 600 mosques in the emirate and the first one to allow in and entertain non-Muslims and tourists.

“It is an initiative of the government and lets tourists experience something unique. They not just get to visit a mosque, but also learn a lot through the interactive sessions conducted inside,” Shada Mekazi, a tour guide at Sharjah Tourism, tells me as I wrap the abaya (loose, cloak-like overgarment, traditionally worn by Muslim women) lent to me before entering the mosque.

There are guided tours in the mosque for tourists, to familiarise them with the nuances of Islamic culture and religious practices in the UAE. This session, which is held every Monday, except on public holidays, at 10:00 AM, can be a nourishing one for a curious mind. Cameras and questions are welcomed – part of the cultural synthesis Sharjah takes pride in.

A cultural confluence can also be noted in the architecture of the mosque. While it boasts of a Turkish-Ottoman architecture from the outside, its interior design is influenced by the Sultan Ahmed Mosque or as it is popularly known, the Blue Mosque in Istanbul.

Bold and delicate in its size and design, there is also meaning put into the construction of the mosque. It is flanked by two graceful minarets at its entrance that stand tall at a height of 52 meters, and are distinguishably visible from a distance.

“The minarets are used to call for the prayers, which are offered five times a day. The concept was devised in the seventh and the eighth century. Before that, someone used to climb on top of the roof and call out loud. Now each time there is a prayer, it can be heard from the minarets for they are equipped with sound systems,” explains Alia, who is leading this guided tour of the mosque. “Literal meaning of minarets is the lighthouse, a purpose it continues to serve,” she adds.

The tour also explains in detail about the architecture of the mosque, highlighting its features. “There are 34 domes in here, the central one being the biggest, and reaching a height of 31.5 metres,” shares Alia.”The marble used in the mosque was brought from Italy and India,” she says smiling while attending the group of Indians I am travelling with.

At the end of the tour, we are offered the classic combination of Arabic coffee and dates as refreshment, and also as part of the cultural exchange. Gulping down the mildly roasted and only slightly bitter beverage and savour the sweetness of the dates, I learn yet another facet about life in the UAE.

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