Yesterday we went to visit Abrahamic Family House – the architectural complex built in the Cultural District where all the houses of monotheistic faith are located in the same place.
WHY DO WE FIND IT IN THE UAE
The Abrahamic Family House is rooted in the UAE’s values of peaceful coexistence, diversity, and dialogue, and embodies the country’s longstanding history of bringing people and cultures together. From the earliest centuries of Islam, our region welcomed people of different ethnicities and religions from across the globe, driven at first by the expansion of trade and commerce.
It might come as a shock to people who never visited the country to learn that we have a rather tolerant government when it comes to practicing your religion. In the old part of Dubai, you will find Hindu Temple standing meters away from a Sunni mosque, and a Shia Mosque just around the corner. The Abrahamic Family house has however the first standalone synagogue.
TICKETS AND DRESS CODE
The tickets are free of charge, but better book in advance as there might not be a slot available at the exact time that you come in.
As one might imagine, when you visit religious places, you should be dressed appropriately. For the mosque visit, if you are a woman, you can borrow an abaya from the cloak room also free of charge, and if you are a man and happened to have come in wearing shorts, you can borrow an Emirati national dress – kandura.
We haven’t purposefuly chosen the date to be of religious significance for our visit of this place, but it happened to be just after the service on Easter Sunday. When we came in the reception area, we found a lot of worshipers going to the Church. Normally, if you are coming for a cultural rather than religious visit, you need to book tickets, but I understand that if you tell them that you are going for a prayer, they would let you in without booking.
After the Christian prayers, there was an Easter Lunch served and my Emirati buddy was contemplating if he should break his fast for today on the basis that he travelled and by the rules, is not obliged to fast any more. I thought to myself, that if Western News were showing this kind of content – the fasting muslim joins the Easter Celebrations – the whole world would be a better place.
As the Church had still a lot of people inside, we decided to start our visit with the mosque. In between the buildings there are courtyards and gardens – so we started in a garden, surrounded by dancing cranes, as there is still a lot of construction in the area.
In the UAE usually you are always welcome to any mosque, as long as you are properly dressed. The country has a “open hearts – open minds” policy, and if you need any water, or food, or shelter, the Imam would help you out with no questions asked.
Before entering the mosque, you should remove your shoes, and if coming to pray – you also are required to do ablutions (wash your feet, hands, and face). For a cultural visit, you should just remove your shoes and put them on a shoe rack in front of the mosque.
I always love visting the mosque for the enourmous sense of peace it brings upon me when entering. Very often the architecture is promoting the use of natural light, and when the sun is high, the shadow patterns inside are absolutely gorgeous.
The building felt so spacious but at the same time it was rather cosy. There is a special area for women to pray at when it is service time, which you can see at the back of the last photo, but women are allowed to pray in the main room as well if they wish to.
Until a few years back, you’d have issues entering the UAE if you had a stamp in your passport from visiting Israel. Nowadays, we have Jewish weddings and religious celebrations held in the country, and it is a totally normal thing.
I remember the first week when the countries normalized the relationships, I started seeing people with curls kipas on their heads roaming the streets. Of course, we did have Jewish people in the country before, but they did not have an official place to gather, and they celebrated their special moments behind the closed doors. Today, of course, it is very different.
I have never been inside a Synagogue before, but I got to tell you it looks very similar to a church with some minor particularities.
I have mostly been to a plenty of Catholic Churches when visiting Europe, some Protestant, some Lutheran, and Orthodox due to my origins… The St. Francis church in the compound is a Roman Catholic Church, conducting religious services every Sunday at 12 pm.
During our visit it was rather crowded still with people coming for Easter Sunday.
It also features lots of natural light and a beautiful vertical ceiling representing resurrection.
Otherwise, apart from learning about different religions, tolerance and co-existence, the place is calling for photographers with it’s play of lights and architectural quorks.
Hope you feel inspired to visit yourself.