This is my last instalment in my Bahrain travel series. You can find the other instalments here and here.
I decided to end my trip to this little island kingdom by visiting Al Fateh Grand Mosque, which is part of the Ahmed Alfateh Islamic Center. The mosque is huge! It was difficult to take a photo that would capture the whole structure. According to the website, it can hold up to 7,000 worshippers.
Once inside, female visitors are required to wear an abaya and a head scarf. We were then taken on a tour.
|I do like the idea of the mosque as a working mosque, with tables and chair stacked in the back, water coolers and tissue boxes throughout.|
Unfortunately the tour guide seemed only interested in telling us which parts of the mosque came from which country, as if showing off how rich the builders were. Oh this beam of wood was imported from the Italian forests and this marble was imported from the last known marble quarry in India blah blah blah. What about the creativity and skill that went into the construction of this structure? What about the style of architecture? I mean, I noticed the use of stained glass on the window at the top. I had no idea that mosques employed a similar "window aesthetic" to churches.
Another highly annoying thing that the tour guide did, which had nothing to do with the mosque whatsoever, was to detail his opinion on why women are not allowed to drive in Saudi. Now I don't want to hijack this post about the mosque and talk about a different topic, because it really is a beautiful building, but I have to digress and address what he said. He argued that if a Saudi female driver's car were to break down in the middle of the night and a passerby were to help her, then other drivers might think ill of this woman. He also said that in Islam, women are treated like queens, that in Saudi they don't want anyone thinking poorly of their women. WHAT? So you're going to deprive half of the population of a vital means of transportation, mobility and accessibility just because some men driving by may automatically assume that just because a woman is with a man who's not married to her they're engaged in some kind of illicit affair? And who cares what people think anyways? I mean, you prohibit women from driving because of gossip? For heaven's sake, if you're on the side of the road because your car broke down and someone sees a man using a tire jack on your car then OTHER DRIVERS WILL THINK HE'S REPLACING YOUR TIRE. The tour guide obviously subscribed to Saudi historian Dr. Saleh al-Saldoon's newsletter. Al-Saldoon appeared on the program Rotana Al Khalijia TV saying that Western women drive because they don't care about being raped. EXCUSE ME? Have you ever talked to a
Thankfully the call to prayer cut our "heated" discussion short. I took this as a sign from Allah that I could ditch the guided tour and I left.
If you want to visit Al Fateh Grand Mosque, you can do so outside of prayer times every day except Friday and public holidays from 9:00 to 4:00. Just don't ask for a tour guide.