Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would be moving to a foreign country to live, let alone a country in the Middle East. Over the 2009 Christmas and New Year’s holidays, my husband Roger and I discussed what we wanted the next part of our life to be like. He thought that before retiring, he would like to do one more airport project but only if he could find something very interesting. I half-jokingly agreed that would be fine but could he try for an exotic location? As usual, Roger came through and soon we were headed to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. This blog is a recap of our "leap-of- faith" wanderings around the Middle East and beyond. We joyfully share these expat experiences.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

JUMEIRAH MOSQUE - Guest post by Anne "The Writer" O'Connell

One of the great pleasures of living in Dubai is enjoying unique adventures with friends. Recently Anne O’Connell and I went on a tour of the Jumeirah Mosque. This is one of the programs of the Sheikh Mohammad Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) that strives to remove barriers between people of different nationalities and raise awareness of the local culture, customs and religion of the United Arab Emirates. With Anne and I both being raised Catholic, we were amazed at some of the similiarities of the faiths. 
Please enjoy Anne’s account of our visit to which I have added photos.

Visiting Jumeirah Mosque
By Anne O’Connell

Anne performs ablution (cleansing)
before entering the Mosque
After 3 ½ years living in Dubai I finally got around to visiting the Jumeirah Mosque.  It’s the only Mosque in Dubai that invites non-Muslims to go inside and learn more about the mystery of what happens beyond closed doors and uncovering some of the myths surrounding the Islamic religion. 

They offer a program called, “A Taste of the Emirates…Open Doors.  Open Minds.”  I was ready for my eyes to be opened.  Do you know what I discovered?  Behind that closed door, there were rituals going on that I had done every single Sunday growing up in a Roman Catholic family.

At the start of the tour, our guide recited the prayer we hear over the loud speakers five times a day every day since we arrived, and then the Salat (act of prayer, which they use as the first “connection” to God during the service).  He then translated it into English.  The first line of the Salat is “Glory to God in the Highest.” 

I mouthed back to him, “and peace to his people on earth.”  Then I couldn’t help it as the hymn continued in my head… “Lord, God, heavenly kind, almighty God and Father.  We worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your Glory…” and on it goes.  After so many years, piling in the car with my mom and dad and four brothers and sisters and heading to church every Sunday, it’s something that stays with you. 

He then proceeded to demonstrate the posturing that follows which we have seen on the news and in the movies.  I grinned to myself as I pictured the entire congregation of my church standing, kneeling, genuflecting, sitting, standing and kneeling over and over again throughout the mass.  The Emirati gentleman who was sharing this with us had a great sense of humour and shared stories from his childhood when accompanied his father and brothers to Mosque too. 

The women aren’t required to go as they have children to care for and a house to run.  In his words, “they’re too busy to drop everything they’re doing five times a day!”  So, a man gets extra reward for joining the group prayer but a woman gets the extra points no matter where she prays.  He punctuated this by saying that people can pray wherever they want.  They don’t have to go to Mosque.  That’s my thinking, exactly! 

He explained that the reason you see the group standing shoulder to shoulder is not to let the devil of the differences between each of us that we (humankind) create get in the way. 

As I travel the world and learn about different cultures, and even interacting with the 136 different cultures here in Dubai, I see that there are often more similarities than differences.  Yes, there are some differences (and some that may frustrate you when you think...'that's not the way I would do it' but then you take a step back and ask yourself why). 

With any religion, ethnic group or culture, if there are individuals who have hate in their heart, they’ll find a reason to fight or will fabricate one.  Myself, I prefer peace.      

Katie's postscripts . . .
Katie & Roger at Iftar dinner
Sheikh Mohammad Centre for Cultural Understanding  . . . . I have participated in a number of SCCMU's programs and found them very informative as I endeavor to understand the Muslim faith. Roger and I joined the Centre for a traditional Iftar dinner last August during Ramadan. This is the evening meal when Muslims break the fast of each day during their holy season.  For anyone visiting Dubai, participating in one of their programs is a "must-do."

Woman in the Quran . . . I am taking a fascinating course called “Women in the Quran.” It is sponsored by the American Women’s Association in cooperation with the SMCCU. Our leader is Debra Jaunich, an American Muslim living with her spouse and children in Dubai. Raised in the Catholic faith, she reverted to Islam some 19 years ago. Her depth of knowledge of the Catholic/Christian religion is an invaluable asset as she endeavours to explain intricacies of the Muslim faith. This is quite an eye-opening experience!

Amal Loring . . .  Many thanks to Amal for making the Jumeirah Mosque tour so personal. Amal is  a British lady who has lived in Dubai for 14 years and  converted to Islam 4 years ago. She is very active in the field of Dawah ( helping people understand Islam)and is a wonderfull source of information and help.  Her company is :, which helps others to help themselves have a life that brings them everything they desire, and deserve.


  1. Anne and Katie - I visited Jumeriah Mosque recently as well. My only regret is that I didn't do it sooner. It would have made my transition to Dubai much easier. I hope newcomers will benefit from this posting.

  2. I totally agree . .. having a basic understanding of the culture and beliefs of any new place you move to helps to make the settling in process a little easier. This should be task number 1 of any expat experience.

  3. Lovely recount of your visit to the mosque.People don't realize how similar they are..I love how you approach all of these new experiences with such grace and an open mind. P.S. you look so cute in the scarf/veil:)

  4. I miss all of you and plan to attend when I return. I have been to the Jumeriah Mosque at least 10 times. I always take my guests there as it demystifies things we might not understand and gives us a safe environment to ask questions.


  5. Wonderful Katie. I love your warmth and open mind. I've always believed that most, if not all faiths stem from a basic core of good and understanding. And as always, and as with most things, it is also open to misuse and abuse!
    It was great meeting you.

  6. Thanks for the great comments. I am taking a group to visit the Mosque on June 28 if anyone would like to join us. Be there around 9:30 AM. If you are not propertly "covered" they will have abayas for you to wear. Ample parking next to Mosque on in adjacent parking lot. Please join us.

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