VISITING THE AL FATEH GRAND MOSQUE BAHRAIN
During a recent trip to Bahrain, I visited the Al Fateh Grand Mosque, one of the major landmarks in Manama. When traveling in the Middle East it is fascinating to see the stunning and extraordinary architecture of these places of worship, whether regal or more simple and modern. It seems that the countries are always competing with whose grand mosque is the largest and the most opulent. Interesting, because in the earlier days the mosques were simple and modest.
Design of the AL Fateh Grand Mosque
Al Fateh Grand Mosque was built in 1987 in honor of the founder of Bahrain. It is one of the largest in the world and can hold up to 7,000 worshippers at a time.
At first sight, the beige brick and stone façade is unassuming, especially if you have seen the ones in Abu Dhabi and Muscat before. However when inside, you do feel the opulence that characterizes the Middle-Eastern mosques.
The impressive central dome, made entirely of fiberglass, is the largest fiberglass dome in the world. The large carpet in the prayer hall was made in Scotland and the three-and-a-half-tonne Swarovski chandelier in Austria. The lustrous marble flooring came from Italy and the teak doors from India. The 952 large hand-blown glass globe lamps were made in France and the walls of the mosque are covered with Bahraini limestone. The construction was truly an international effort.
The premises of the Al Fateh Grand Mosque also house the National Library of Bahrain, which has an impressive collection of Islamic literature.
THE TOUR GUIDES GIVE AN EDUCATING INSIGHT INTO ISLAM
Besides pointing out the architectural features, the guides give the visitors an interesting and educating insight into Islam.
Muslims perform prayers five times each day. Before offering the prayer one must be in good shape and pure condition. First, wash the hands up to the wrists, three times, then rinse the mouth three times, cleanse the nostrils by sniffing water three times, wash the face three times, wash the arms including the elbows three times, rub the head with a wet hand from front to back, wipe the ears with wet fingers, and finally, wash the feet up to the ankles, three times beginning with the right foot. The whole sequence is not only meant to cleanse the body from dirt, but also to cleanse oneself spiritually.
The first worshippers to enter the prayer room start forming rows in the front lining up facing Mecca. A niche is set into the wall that indicates the direction of Mecca. When the imam leads the prayers he usually faces the niche which is designed in a way that the voice of the imam can resonate across the mosque. Worshippers line up in rows behind the imam, barefooted and shoulders touching—rich and poor, prominent and ordinary people all side by side. Prayer is performed by bowing and kneeling with the forehead touching the carpet.
TOURS OF THE AL FATEH GRAND MOSQUE
• Free tours of the Al Fateh Grand Mosque are offered six days a week, Sunday to Thursday, during the mosque's opening times from 9am to 4pm.
• Women are required to wear an abaya and cover their hair. Abayas and head scarves are available for free.
• Men are required to wear log pants, shirts with short sleeves are allowed.
• Visitors are required to remove their shoes before entering the mosque.