Last week I visited a mosque for the very first time. So what? Say any readers who don’t know my background, but I have been living in Saudi Arabia for 28 years and am never very far away from these places of worship. However, as a non-Moslem it is forbidden for me to enter a mosque here. Last week, I spent an interesting 6 days in Muscat, Oman and before I went there one of the must dos according to a few friends was to visit the Grand Mosque there.
We organised it as part of a city tour and were lucky to meet Abdullah, our charming and knowledgable Omani guide. He made us feel very relaxed, told us many interesting things, answered our questions and gave us space and time to enjoy the different venues. The mosque was, for me, of special interest. As a woman I had to be vey respectfully dressed and before leaving the car park Abdullah made sure my hair and neck were all covered by my scarves- it was at this point I thought how silly of me to have left my abaya in the car in Jordan as that would have made my dilemma of suitable attire a bit easier that morning. Anyway, it was an amazing experience and like some of the magnificent cathedrals I have visited in Britain and mainland Europe I felt very humbled and experienced a great sense of peace whilst walking around inside, both the woman’s hall and the much larger men’s hall.
At the end of the visit we went to the hospitality area, where I met an extremely friendly and informative young woman called Marwa. We had a lovely chat over Arabic coffee, ginger tea and dates and at no time did I feel like she was trying to convert me! I would happily have stayed longer, but had to move on if we wanted to fit in a couple of other things before they closed at lunchtime. My first mosque was certainly no ordinary mosque but it will be long remembered just as much for the people who made the visit special rather than just the magnificent opulence and architecture.