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.
the inner courtyard and one of the 5 minarets.
my shoes in the rack outside the men’s hall.
chandelier and stained glass window in the woman’s hall.
Me, suitably covered, with Abdullah.
the magnificent chandelier inside the 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.
I’m not much of a gardener but I do like to try to grow a few things in our patch of garden. It’s been very rewarding recently to go out and pick a few salad leaves, herbs and tomatoes to add to the salad for our dinner, and know exactly how they’ve been grown and enjoy the lovely, fresh taste. A small area of the veg patch had got past it’s best and after some procrastinating it was time to take action. My husband kindly cleared the old tomato plants and I dug over the area, adding some of my homemade compost. After rummaging through my bag of seeds I thought I’d try some beet root. As I said, I’m not much of a gardener so apologies to any knowledgable gardeners reading this who might baulk at the idea of planting beet root in July in Saudi! Ignorance is bliss, as they say, and I will happily leave the results in ‘the lap of the gods’ or as they say locally- Inshallah.
When I went to get some shop bought potting compost to sprinkle over the seeds I was surprised to be met with this sight-
2 tiny gecko eggs:)
I don’t mind these small lizards at all. In fact I think they’re quite sweet and am happy to have them live around our doorway as I’m sure they do their best to keep the mosquito population down. My husband likes them too, but has told me a few tales of Saudis at work killing them because they’re dangerous. Intrigued, I looked it up and found that it’s all tied in with Mohammed’s teachings. In Islam, the house gecko is regarded as a pest and like other pests a carrier of disease. Which, I suppose, equates to how mice, cockroaches, ants etc. are regarded in my culture. Here is the link for the info I found- http://en.islamtoday.net/quesshow-152-607.htm
Have I changed my opinion of geckos? Although,yes, I can understand that geckos are possibly germ- carriers, I still think they’re cute and don’t really think that they should be killed so senselessly- but then I haven’t been brought up in the Islamic faith.