Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Grand Mosque

A few weeks ago, we had the pleasure of touring The Grand Mosque of Kuwait.  This particular tour was conducted by a woman, Iman (not to be confused with an Imam), who works for an organization called the AWARE Center (Advocates for Western-Arab Relations).  We found the tour to be informative and enjoyable (although very hot as we were covered from head to toe) and the architecture beautiful.

We do enjoy the opportunity to learn about the culture here and how intrinsic religion is to their culture - there is no separation of church and state here.  They cannot even fathom how (or why) we do it.  However, they are far more tolerant of the idea of Christianity, then I have seen our country be of Islam in recent times.  That doesn't mean they allow lots churches to be built (there are a few), nor do they seem to acknowledge many other religions beyond Christianity, but I do not fear for my safety as a non-Muslim.  I wish I could say the same in our own country. On the school forms, religion was asked with three options (Muslim, Christian, Other).

There were some interesting explanations (justifications) for many of the traditions, but Iman stressed throughout the tour that many were simply choices or practicalities.  (Abayas, for example, were described as "shade" or wearing your own "tent." It seems to me, though, that black isn't the most practical color for this purpose.)

(from Wikipedia) The Grand Mosque of Kuwait spans 480,000 sq ft, out of which the building itself covers 220,000 sq ft.  The main prayer hall is 236 ft wide on all sides and has 144 windows for light and can hold abut 11,000 people inside.

Gorgeous stained glass chandeliers around the outside of the main building/prayer hall.

Interior view of the prayer hall. 3 of the 4 support columns.

Ceiling detail
 While separation of the sexes is done during prayers (men in front, women in back), woman have the choice of going to a separate, private, upstairs hall.  This hall holds about 950 and you can see out through the lattice work, but not in.

It was explained that due to prayers being very physical (standing, kneeling, bowing), they don't want the men to be distracted by looking at the backsides of women.  Apparently, women are able to multi-task without getting distracted.

View of the private ladies prayer hall overlooking the main prayer hall.

Looking up into the dome.

Getting the best view of the dome.

Braden in the imam's chair

Jamie's turn

Gavin's turn.

the Koran

Ice Skating in the Desert

One of the more reasonably priced and cool activities is ice skating (1.5 Kuwaiti Dinar for 90 minutes - basically $5 a person, including skate rental).  So after being inspired by our attendance at the "professional" hockey game, we decided to hit the rink a couple of Friday mornings.  Ian was travelling that night, so he didn't skate.  He was concerned about potential injury, so he was our photographer.  I gave him a bit of a hard time, so karma got me the next outing.

The first week was uneventful, everyone had fun and after a few trips around with the frame, they were able to do it on their own.  We even had a coach (trying to drum up business for himself, no doubt) key in on Gavin.  He is convinced that Gavin could be an amazing skater.  I agree, but he's so shy he didn't want to work one on one with the coach.  Don't worry, I hope to keep going enough to get him comfortable enough to agree.

 I have to admit that the second week's attempt was not as successful, at least not for me. Unfortunately, we don't have pictures of the second week, but everyone was skating without frames and doing a fantastic job.  Remember my comment above about karma?  Well, after about an hour of skating, I decided to sit down on the ice.  I don't remember why, maybe I was tired?  Anyway, for reasons unbeknownst to me, I decided to sit down on the ice --- hard.  So hard, in fact, that my upper body whiplashed back and I cracked my head against the ice.  I never lost consciousness, but it was hard enough that I earned my second trip to Al Seef hospital.  This time for a CT scan.  Fortunately, I didn't do any major damage, but definitely had a concussion.

And, yes, I have purchased a helmet for myself for any further ice skating adventures.