Apologies if a Mosque pun is deemed inappropriate or offensive – it is not my intention and I will change it immediately if that is the case!
As part of our attempt to take in as much of what’s around us as possible, Aaron and I decided to pay a visit to Gaddafi Mosque. This is also known as the National Mosque, and was named after Muammar Gaddafi, who was a key contributor of its construction. Construction was also apparently started by Idi Amin…
We had intended on visiting the Mosque on Saturday, but by the time we’d collected ourselves and were ready to leave, the rains began. On Sunday, our luck changed – for it was rainy in the morning, but cleared up after breakfast, catching up on emails, and doing some light housework.
I have to say, it’s pretty overwhelming pulling up to this magnificent structure. There are mosques scattered all over Kampala, along with the various other buildings where different forms of Christianity and other religions are practised. But, these other mosques are far smaller than this one, but equally elaborate. In fact, there’s one close to where we’re living, and I have come to enjoy waking up to the morning prayers.
Anyway, we were directed to the tourism office, where I was immediately fitted with a skirt and veil. I was totally on board for this, except that I was fitted with the whitest veil of the bunch. I mean, not just because it made it abundantly clear that I was a non-practicing white woman, but also, if it weren’t for the black infinity symbols and sequence decorating the material, it would have made it extremely difficult to determine where my face ended and the veil began. Man, I need a tan…
After getting settled, we were escorted into the main building. Part of the tradition of entering a mosque is removing one’s shoes. A very weird part of me enjoyed the feeling of the cushy carpet beneath my feet. But also, taking in the structure, the detail, the symbolism was overwhelming for my eyes. It was hard to focus on one particular aspect, because it was so easy to get distracted by other details within.
Our tour allowed us to see both the men’s and women’s prayer halls. The carpet itself was quite impressive in that, the pattern was laid out in such a way that each participant of the service had his or her own space. I was also intrigued to learn that class does not exist within those walls. The example that we were given was that if the President of Uganda happened to be a Muslim and was attending the prayer service, he would not be given a specific or special area, and would, in fact, have to join where space was available amongst the rest of the people in attendance.
Next, we grabbed our shoes, made our way outside and began climbing the many, many steps to the top of the tower, or minaret. The purpose of the minaret was to deliver the daily prayers to the masses, before the use of technology made it easier. It was really creepy looking up from the bottom, or down from the top. But, the climb was well worth it, as it provided wonderful views of Kampala. In fact, the Mosque is itself situated on the top of Kampala Hill, which was were the British first settled. But, it was also a main hunting ground for the King of Buganda, who, yep you guessed it, would hunt Impala! History lesson!
The tour lasted a little under an hour, but made for a nice little Sunday afternoon adventure. Thankfully the sun was shining, which allowed for optimum views and photo opportunities. I’m really looking forward to exploring a few of the other cathedrals while I’m here, and might even look into attending a Friday service at the Mosque. But until then, here’s hoping for a productive week ahead!
-the Orange Canadian