It’s hard to miss the Al Farooq Omar Ibn Al Khattab Mosque when passing through the Jumeirah area of Dubai. Its four picturesque minarettes rise high into the cloudless blue sky that overhangs the city. Elegant and poised, each bears a tiny gold crescent moon at the top, which twinkles when it catches the searing sun of the UAE. At night, they are like guiding beacons to those who come to pray.
These 60-metre high willowy structures, developed originally so that the Mu‘azin could climb a narrow spiral staircase, five times a day, to announce the Azan (the call to prayer) can be viewed from almost anywhere in the quiet residential district in which the new mosque is located. Each has two balconies with stalactite corbels.
On closer inspection however you see that they surround a tiered dome. The building is one of the few in the UAE with this structure, which is Ottoman and Byzantine in style and clearly influenced by the Sultan Ahmed Mosque – popularly known as the ‘Blue Mosque’ – in Istanbul, Turkey.
The Blue Mosque combines Byzantine elements of the famous Hagia Sophia, once an orthodox basilica, later a mosque and now a museum in Istanbul, with traditional Islamic architecture, and is considered to be the last great mosque of the classical period.
Although much smaller in scale the Al Farooq Mosque and Centre has its own unique character. Pristine and white, it opened its doors for the first time on Friday July 29, 2011 – just before Ramadan. It is named after Omar Ibn Al Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him), one of the companions of the Prophet Muhammed PBUH, who was widely recognised for his inherent sense of justice.
The mosque is unusual in Dubai, and indeed in the UAE – not only because of its architecture and design, but also because of its policies. The Al Farooq Omar Ibn Al Khattab Mosque is a personal gift to the people of Dubai from the Chairman of the Al Habtoor Group, Khalaf Al Habtoor, and everything about it – from its architecture, to its carefully crafted interior and its well thought-out lectures and classes, has been meticulously planned with no expense spared.
The structure was designed by the office of the architect Muhammad Sheik Mubarak and was constructed by Team Engineering Enterprises. The interior and door design were by HH Design Mark, headed by Hala Al Midfai and the work was carried out by the Kazo Interior Decoration company, under the guidance of Muhammad Anwar Srifi.
The tiled forecourt to the front of the mosque is almost as large as the building itself and surrounded by a vaulted arcade. Its semi-dome has a fine stalactite structure, crowned by a small ribbed dome, on a tall supporting structure known as a tholobite. There are also 15 smaller domes with four additional half domes surrounding the main one.
Although the exterior, with its whitewashed walls, stately columns and goldinlaid doors is most impressive, the interior of the building is even more so. The work of approximately 60 expert artists and craftsmen, who were brought to Dubai from Fez in Morocco especially for the task, it cuts a majestic swathe through the city.
The finest materials have been used in its construction. On entering, one is immediately struck by how ornate it is and just how much work has gone into it. By day, blue light streams through its elegant stained glass windows, illuminating the detailing on the intricate Islamic designs to perfect effect and creating an almost ethereal air of solemnity. Some of these designs, mostly found on the Mihraab domes and pillars, feature verses from the Qur’an.
On looking upwards at the mosque’s roof, it’s hard not to be struck by its sheer beauty. The eye is drawn to more intricate Islamic designs which cover the domes, as well as the stately chandelier which hangs in the centre. The dome, approximately 30 metres in height, catches the light and sparkles. Dozens of copper lanterns, provide light in the interior.
Muhammad Anwar Srifi of the Kazo interior decorating company explains that the overall interior style was not only influenced by the Blue Mosque in Istanbul but also draws on the traditional designs of Andalusia. Andalusian art is an Islamic school, dating back to the year 711 when the Moors first landed in the South of Spain. Its influence is obvious throughout both the exterior and the interior – from the colourful tiles in the front entrance, which surround a traditional-style fountain, to the shapes used in the interior design.
Much of the inside of the mosque has been modelled using plaster of Paris, but it also uses fusaifisa tiles, which are heated in an oven, shaped, sculpted and then hand painted. These come from the city of Fez in Morocco, which is where Andalusian art originated, and are typical of the period.
The Mihrab is an artwork in itself. Its circular form is clad with fusaifisa tiles and is beautifully crafted. The hand-woven, pure wool carpets, specially manufactured in Germany, are also worth noting. Red and gold in colour, they too feature traditional Islamic designs and give a warm and regal touch to the interior. And although the summer temperature often reaches 45 degrees and more outside, the air conditioning system, creates a cool atmosphere at all times.
It’s obvious from looking at the mosque that it was no mean feat to accomplish. The interior design and implementation took a total of only 10 months, a record in mosque construction. The contractor and interior decorators worked around the clock in order to finish it on time for Ramadan 2011, as this was Khalaf Al Habtoor’s wish.
And his wish was granted. At the opening ceremony, the mosque and its grounds were full to capacity with over 4,000 worshippers, and it has continued to attract both residents from Dubai and visitors to the city, in droves ever since.
It shares with the much admired Sheik Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi, the Jumeirah Mosque and the Al Noor Mosque in Sharjah the fact that it permits non- Muslims and women to enter at certain times. At the Al Farooq Omar Ibn Al Khattab Mosque, the main prayer room is for men, but there is also a prayer room specifically for women, which allows them to see into the main prayer section without being viewed themselves.
Furthermore, the Al Farooq Omar Ibn Al Khattab Mosque has a religious centre attached to it. This will serve to educate both visitors to Dubai and residents of the city on religious, cultural and historical topics. There is also a library for research and reading and it has a lecture hall, equipped with audio video equipment.
As Saif Mazrooei, the Director of the Al Habtoor Communications Department, explains, regular lectures are to be held in both the mosque and the lecture room of the religious centre. Those in the mosque will be on a large scale, given that it can accommodate a large number of people at any one time, and will be held in both Arabic and English. They will focus on the subject of Islam.
Talks in the lecture centre however will not necessarily be Islamic in content and will be on a wide range of subjects, including medical, scientific, cultural and historical matters. They will be held in a range of different languages and will be given to smaller gatherings.
There will also be classes throughout the year. Open to both men and women, these will be on topics such as memorisation of the Quran and the Arabic language.
Mazrooei points out that a lot of thought has gone into the planning of these lectures and classes and the plans are still ongoing. “We are very excited about the future of the Al Farooq Omar Ibn Al Khattab Mosque,” he smiles. “And I for one am proud to associated with such a prestigious and forward-thinking project. I consider myself fortunate and honoured to have the opportunity to work in this place with Mr Al Habtoor.”
Indeed every detail of the mosque has been considered. Besides the religious building and religious centre, the grounds also contain housing for the Imam and the Mu’azin. There are also facilities for ablution, a Majlis and there is an extensive car park located on the northern side.
Given the amount of work that went into it, it’s hard to believe that the entire project took just 14 months to complete. Throughout the construction period, the team on the site was guided by the Director of Projects and Real Estate at the Al Habtoor Group, Yusef Shalabi.
However this project is something that Khalaf Al Habtoor has been planning for a long time. The original Al Farooq Omar Ibn Al Khattab Mosque was established on the same site in 1986. The building was renovated in 2003, but shortly afterwards Al Habtoor decided to create a building of beauty which would be known not only for its aesthetic value, but as a place where Muslims could worship, and non-Muslims could be educated about Islam and the Arabic culture.
The result is that the site has now been transformed into a building that is sure to become a part of the history of Dubai.
Khalaf Al Habtoor comments: “We believe there is a common denominator among the three religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam, as they all believe in the same God, thus creating a dialogue between them is to the advantage of all.
“It is my heartfelt wish that the Al Farooq Omar Ibn Al Khattab Mosque and Centre will serve as a place where the people of Dubai will seek refuge through prayer – somewhere they will look forward to returning to time and time again, a place in which they will find solace and surround themselves in an atmosphere of peace and tranquillity.”
“I hope it will be used by generations of families and that it will serve to teach all those who visit a deeper understanding of the true message of Islam. In this way, it may play some small part in improving mankind and promoting peace in the world today.”
For more information about the Al Farooq Omar Ibn Al Khattab Mosque and Centre, visit: www.alfarooqcentre.com