Monday, December 22, 2008
Wow, what an experience, I wish all of you could have been with us for this day. We arrived at the Grand Mosque and parked the car. The mosque is huge. Can you see Ethan in the yellow sweatshirt on the lower right corner of the fourth photograph? I could not even begin to get the whole mosque in one shot. (I need a wide angle lens...) We entered the mosque and I was given an abaya (the local black gown and headress) to wear inside. Our tour guide took us all around the mosque, explained so many wonderful things to us and even showed us the Qur'an and told us some of what it says. The building itself can hold 7,000 worshippers! It was a wonderfully informative visit.
Our tour guide was a man named Abdullah Borkek. He is a German Muslim and Islamic scholar who speaks, reads and writes in Arabic and has lived in Bahrain for 32 years. We could not have asked for a more generous host at the Grand Mosque. I could have spent hours there asking him questions. We took extensive literature home with us and left having learned very much about Islam, which means "peace".
The Muslims pray five times a day every day. These prayer times are illustrated by the clocks. There is a call to prayer that is heard all over the island by loud speaker no matter where you are. We hear it at night in our bedroom and they play it in the malls too.
Our tour of the National Museum was very informative. The entire museum is devoted to the history of Bahrain dating back thousands of years. There were scenes depicting life set up for everything from birth and marriage to pastimes and trades. There was a whole section showing all the different burial rituals over the years, this was the boys favorite part. These burial practices included jars that held bodies and the more typical burial mounds that are seen all over the island.
At the National Museum they have old style architecture set up outside that can be explored. There are still many of these types of structures being used in Bahrain, but much of this island has become quite modern too. Some of the more modern structures are seen behind the photo of Dylan at the palm tree. The fenced in area made of palm branches is a very common site around the island. Palm branches are used for walls and also used as brooms to sweep the sidewalks and driveways.
Yes, we had Christmas carols in a public place in a Muslim country. To say that Islam is misunderstood by Americans is a huge understatement. There are signs posted here that read "Islam congratulates Christians on the birth of Christ. Merry Christmas". It was a special occassion and a wonderful time.