03 December 2004

God and Mammon

Today's trip took us from spirituality to consumerism, from Jumeirah Mosque to Bob's Antique Museum.

Unlike many places of the Muslim world, where mosques are open to the non-muslim public, there is only one mosque in Dubai which can be visited. The Sheik Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding has arranged a tour through the mosque's interior with a question and answer session on the subject of Islam. To our surprise a whole crowd had gathered in front of the mosque at 10 am this morning, rather than the few interested souls we had expected. We took off our shoes and the women donned their head scarves, then we were led into the mosque.

The space is simple and square, with few of the complex symbolic spaces of a church. There is a central carpeted area for prayer, a niche at the front, facing Mecca, for the imam, and a separate ladies' prayer room off to one side. Otherwise notable are some reading areas and the signs that show the next day's prayer times.

A volunteer from the centre explained the significance of the architecture to us and then went on to enlighten us on the basic ideas of the Muslim faith, the five pillars of Islam. We talked about the role of women, cultural differences between different Muslim cultures of the World, and the practicalities of prayer. V. interesting.


Inside Jumeirah Mosque

After a refreshment break we moved on to a haven of commerce by the name of Bob's, or the Antique Museum. Both of these names do no justice to this vast warehouse of tack, souvenirs and just general stuff. First of all it is impossible to find on a first visit, as it's in the back of an industrial estate in deepest Al Quoz, near the cement factory, the last place one would imagine shopping for curios. The entrance is in an alleyway, next to a mini-mosque, down a dusty road. But through it's humble portal one enters a huge space of rows and rows of shelves groaning with Indian, Arab, African items, from sculptures to vases, t-shirts to jewellery, pashminas to clocks, Christmas decorations and lamps and fluffy toys, picture frames, sheesha, wooden boxes, curtains, bellydancing costumes...

We shopped till we dropped.


Bob's Antique Museum

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