Tuesday, 18 November 2008

The Great Mosque and the World's Largest Carpet

My first time in a mosque! I have to cover my hair with a headscarf and wear an abaya so basically I'm in all black with only my round face showing and black sunglasses. The mosque is absolutely stunnning. It was first envisioned by Sheikh Zayed, the George Washington of this place, to have a Taj-Mahal- like mosque with an international feel to it. And it works! The mosque is made of material from all over the world. On the outside is a huge courtyard surrounded on four sides of arched corridors with high columns. The columns, floor and domes are made from marble imported from Greece and Italy, and inside the columns are handcut flowers and stems. Amy would appreciate this place. Its unfathomable the effort that went into this place for there are hundreds upon hundreds of columns with golden-palms at the top. The mosque is still largely in construction but nonetheless is a jewel.
Our tourguide's name is Fatima and she shows me how to wear my abaya and to tie my headscarf to cover my entire head of hair. At the far end of the mosque is the ablutions area with Chinese-imported hunks of green jade marble. She explains that they wash themselves throroughly before praying. There are walls of beautiful Turkish tile and Malaysian glass. Upon entering the dome, we take our shoes off and enter the entrance hall with a huge chandelier above, 9-ton glass doors from Italy and Greece. On the walls, the flower wines are in relief-style, or pressed out from the wall. Such intricate detail. The inside is even more breathtaking....
I am standing on the world's largest carpet, made by 1,200 Iranian women in over 2 years. It was so huge that to be carried over to Dubai, it had to be cut into 2 and transported in 2 airplanes. Iranian weavers were brought over to roll it out, cut around the columns and re-sew it back together. Amazing. There is not a blank wall to be seen; there is intricate detail everywhere. The doem above is covered in Arabic calligraphy with verses of the Koran. Straight ahead is what looks like a giant flaming candle, curved into the wall and made out of gold-covered glass tile. thsi is where the holy imam stands, facing Mecca and reciting the prayer. On the wall surrounding him is the Arabian writings of the 99 names of Allah. To be all these names, you are said to be perfect.
Above our heads is the world's largest chandelier, weighing over 11 tons (!) Kind of scary to look up and see this massive structure above your head. The mosque can hold up to 50,000 people - 20,000 alone on the carpet, and those outside in the court. Outside is a smaller structure where Sheikh Zayed is buried...Fatima tells us that there are three imams rotating everyday for- forever! Reciting verses from the Koran and praying for his soul. I say to Fatima- "Forever?" and she replies he deserves more than that. Whoa.
Craig and I get stranded outside for about half an hour with no taxi. We finally jump in with a South African couple touring Dubai and heading to the Marina Mall. The woman has the cutest little voice and reminds me of a babushka! Her husband has an Uncle-Bill like personality and travels the world. They tell me and Craig about South Africa, the bush and how we must come.
The rest of the day is spent driving to get a McArabia (so good) and lounging in the pool alllll day. Diane joins us later for tequila sunrise cocktails and more fabulous conversation. I find I am more at ease in conversation with her without Craig around. We talk about politics, worldviews and living in different places. We stay in the pool until 7pm, my fingers all pruney from the water.

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