Sunday, September 13, 2009

A church and two mosques

On Friday, we had our first church experience in Abu Dhabi. For those of you not familiar with the week schedule here in the UAE, the weekend falls on Friday and Saturday, with Friday noon prayers acting as the time of communal worship for the Muslims. With a mosque next door, we have been able to observe from our balcony men flocking from all directions with their own prayer rugs to kneel toward Mecca.
The mosque becomes so crowded that dozens of men fill the surrounding courtyard, shaded or not.

Since Friday is the holy day for Muslims, most Christian churches here follow suit and hold services on the same day. With no Presbyterian option in Abu Dhabi, we decided to try the next closest deonomation theologically, the Anglican church, in this case, St. Andrews. As it turns out, all church buildings in Abu Dhabi are located in one designated section of the city, and most congregations (there are at least a hundred) share facilities, holding back-to-back worship services throughout the weekend. St. Andrews' compound, for instance, houses over 60 congregations from multiple denominations. We found it to be liturgically rich and diverse, with a few too many crying children (the nursery opens next week). We'll probably give it another shot.

On Saturday, we visited the Sheik Zayed mosque a little south of where we live. The Zayed mosque, or "Grand Mosque," on which construction still continues, is the sixth largest mosque in the world. We could attempt to describe the beauty and grandeur of this massive structure, but instead we'll let the pictures speak for themselves:
Shannon outside mosque.

Shannon inside mosque, wearing Abaya, looking a bit uncomfortable in the sweltering heat. All women must be fully covered while touring the mosque.

Sam dwarfed by a huge doorway.

Female ablution room - where Muslim women go to clean their hands and feet before prayer.

The halls are mopped constantly so that the white marble floors are spotless despite so many visitors.

Shoes are not allowed on the inner courtyard or inside the prayer room.


  1. Michaela and I were just looking at your pictures...they are amazing! I'm going to read what you wrote later.
    Eliana wants some milk...but I'll be back!

  2. What amazing photographs of the beautiful architecture. Wonderful photography, too. It seems so strange to see you in an Abaya, Shannon. I am thrilled to not only have gotten to talk with you by phone at length last Thursday, but to be able to "chat" with you online this morning and hear more details about things. I will be praying that the Lord's angels will go after your container and send it to you speedily with everything perfectly in tact. Meantime, I'll be scanning your blog frequently for more news, particularly about your trip to Switzerland. I hope you and Sam have a wonderful time on your 9-day "reward for making it through Ramadan!" Mom

  3. Jolie wants to know why you didn't buy a pink Abaya? Is there a reason why they are only black? I wish you could have seen her face :-)
    She said the mosque looked like a castle and said she would like to visit there, but not sure she wants to have to take off her shoes, "that's gross."

  4. the smile on sam's face is a little too big in the picture of both of you...