I love visiting big and beautiful mosques while travelling; there is something about these architectural cocoons of faith and devotion that draws me to them like an angel to heaven. Perhaps it has to do with the stunning colourful patterns in which they are normally decorated, the serenity that surrounds them, or maybe the little star or crescent that crown their central domes. Don’t you find that charming?
Sometimes they are not even in our guidebook, but I always ensure to do my homework by checking if the city we are visiting has one worth exploring. Never mind the fact that we might have to get out of our way to reach them, venturing off the beaten track is becoming a special interest of mine, which constantly pays off. In a way it is an all win deal, where we go far from the crowds especially if we are travelling in high season, and at the end we are usually rewarded with an unexpected pleasant surprise…
The truth is, I am awfully curious for witnessing with my own eyes the durability of old mosques that withstand the test of time, how they still look as gorgeous as if built last night, and how they always manage to remove me from a cloudy state of mind into a calm space. I imagine how many people over the years walked into them, and felt exactly the same. It is quite a comforting notion!
What are you curious for when you travel?
New and well-designed mosques enchant me in the same way. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi does that every single time I visit it, which is why I never say no to accompanying our international guests there if they ask.
What is your favourite mosque in the world?
On our last day in Italy, there was one last place that I wanted to see before leaving. The Moschea di Roma (The Mosque of Rome) is the largest mosque in the country and home to the Italian Islamic Cultural Centre. It wasn’t listed in our top 10 book, hence it was a bit of a task finding the place and figuring the best way to get to it.
I wasn’t sure about the address, but I thought it would be hard to loose such a big building, though in such a big city. The hotel concierge advised us to take a taxi to avoid spending too much time getting lost, just few hours before catching our return flight home. That’s when the GPS on my iPhone came in handy once again; I located it on Google maps and the GPS lead us straight to it. I showed the map to the taxi driver, who didn’t speak much English of course; but luckily he was able to deliver us there in about 20 minutes.
We left the bustle behind and headed to the northern edge of the city, we found the moschea standing solo in a nice green space that was donated by the government back in the 70s.
A number of Muslim Arab nations funded the building of the mosque and the launch on the canter. 60% of the fund came from KSA I was told by one of the mosque’s guardians. The UAE has made a significant contribution it seems.
Lovely front yard with palm and pine trees on the sides, pointing up like praying hands
The mosque is open for public visits on Saturdays and Wednesdays, schools and universities are invited to bring their student for a tour and a presentation about Islam and the Muslim lifestyle. I would have loved to join a tour myself; unfortunately it was available only in Italian.
Don’t you sometimes wish you spoke every language in the world? What do you mean no way?!
Speaking of languages, one of the regular activities the center offers is Arabic classes for Italians and Muslims in Italy. I am not sure who teaches them, as the flyer I was given was again available in Italian only! So I guess you can contact this email address that was mentioned on it, for more information firstname.lastname@example.org
Italian children learning the actions of the Muslim prayer. I love seeing mosques that play an important role in bridging the gap between cultures and nations.
Blue is the dominating colour inside the mosque, the carpet, the chandelier lambs, mosaic stones, and the widows are mainly dressed up in shades of it. It truly feels like a calming piece of the sky was specially brought in to sooth the devouring worshiper.
The Italian Architect Paolo Portoghesi designed the 320,000 sq ft worship hall to allow soothing strands of light into the building, inspired by the Koranic verse “Allah is the Light of heaven and on earth”
” اللَّهُ نُورُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ“
This I would say is a medium size mosque, on a busy day it can hold up to 12,000 people. It was nearly empty when we visited, apart from a couple of school groups and their chaperons. The kids played around and made some noise, which Angel didn’t find very agreeable while he tried to concentrate through his “tahyat al masjid” prayer.
I am glad we took the time to visit, and the whole trip did not cost us more than a couple of enjoyable hours.
Have a lovely weekend