Of over 1,418 mosques in the emirate, Bur Dubai Grand Mosque, built in 1850 and then rebuilt in 1952 and 1999 in the style of the original Grand Mosque, is the oldest in Dubai.
Originally served as a Kuttab (an Islamic elementary school) where boys and girls learned to recite and memorise the Holy Quran, the mosque is located in the Grand Souq area in Bur Dubai, near the Ruler’s Court.
Accommodating up to 1,965 people, it boasts of Dubai’s tallest minaret at 70 metres. The minaret is the tower from which the call to prayer is broadcast.
Mohammed Jassim Al Mansouri, Head of the Engineering Section at the Department of Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities in Dubai, told Khaleej Times that the mosque, considered one of the largest in the UAE, is at the heart of Dubai’s religious and cultural life. Visitors can take photographs but cannot enter the mosque.
“The current Grand Masjid consists of 45 small and nine large domes with stained glass panels, sand-coloured walls and wooden shutters. The masjid is a superb example of a building from yesteryear, making it a notable landmark and important place of worship,” he said. “The new Grand Masjid’s sand-coloured walls and wooden shutters blend perfectly with the surrounding old quarter of Bur Dubai and is known for its size and elaborate design. The best time to see it is at night, when it is spectacularly lit up,” he added.
The mosque is done up in Persian style as it contains blue mosaic type work, domes and sand-hued facades. Considered the main centre of worship and an important monument of Dubai, it also contains handmade stained glass and wooden structures. “Though non-Muslims are not allowed entry into the mosque, they can visit the minaret and click pictured of the mosque from there,” Al Mansouri noted.
Located next to the Grand Mosque are the Heritage and Diving Villages which portray an interesting picture of early life in Dubai. Earlier, Dubai was merely a fishing village and its main activities were pearl diving and dhow building.
Another scene depicting the traditional nomadic life of the Bedouins is also present. The almost realistic scene contains replicas or models of Persian homes, an old-style coffeehouse and a small souq for purchasing freshly made flat-grilled bread. “A museum containing authentic remnants of nearby archaeological sites proves to be in interesting visit too,” he said.
Oldest mosque in UAE
Meanwhile, the oldest mosque in the UAE can be found in Fujairah. Al-Bidyah Mosque is believed to be 580 years old. It gives a feeling of being a building that sprung up from the earth beneath it.
Although it has undergone some renovations over the years, the building’s basic, age-old characteristics remain. The masjid has an area of only 53 square metres, making it small.
It was built from materials available in the area, including stones of different sizes and terracotta-coloured mud. Distinguishing the mosque are four squat, helical domes that are supported by only one centrally placed pillar that also forms the ceiling. Entrance to the mosque is through double-winged wooden doors.