Over the Eid Holiday in October I took a tour of the Wahhab Mosque (Al Muhandiseen Street). I never did anything with the pictures and forgot them somehow. I made an album so you can see the grounds and the inside of the mosque. Officially it is the Imam Sheikh Muhammed Ibin Abdul Wahhab Mosque. My driver had never heard of it no matter how I tried to pronounce the name. I ended up showing him a picture from my cell phone and that clicked. This was also the first time I started sitting in the front seat when I hired a driver. I got to a point where I basically called the same fellow over and over. Turns out he wasn't afraid of me and I wasn't afraid of him. We both got a lot more out our daily commute when we took the time to talk. My driver was pretty confused as to why I wanted to visit the mosque but I didn't understand his reservations. He knew I wasn't dressed appropriately but I think he was embarrassed to say so. When I got to the mosque the ladies at the front door lent me an abaya and head scarf. I had always wondered how my coworkers kept their scarves in place. I didn't think to bring pins and boy without them it sure was a challenge to keep my head and hair covered correctly. There was supposed to be a tour but it turned out to be self led so I didn't learn very much about the history of the mosque.
The mosque covers a total area of 175,164 sq.m. As many as 11,000 men can offer prayers in the air-conditioned central hall of the mosque and the adjacent special enclosure is spacious enough for 1200 women. There are three main doors and 17 side entrances to the mosque. As many as 28 large domes cover the central hall while 65 domes cover the outer quadrangle. On the whole the mosque can hold a congregation of 30,000 people. (Mosque)
I met with a friend for this tour and thankfully she and I were not the only westerners to muddle through our self guided visit. You really cannot go anywhere without meeting teachers and there were perhaps 10 or so ladies from one of the local elementary schools. After getting dressed we were directed to an elevator. We went up a few floors and arrived in brightly lit, carpeted hallway. At no point beyond the elevator did we meet anyone else; no one was there to pray or study. There was a large sign in the hallway that directed us to remove our shoes and remain quiet as we walked around. If you look closely at the sign you can see they suggest you not use your cell phone but there are also instagram (Everything links to Islam Web but they don't actually seem to have an Instagram feed) and YouTube logos at the bottom. This picture is in the slide show below in case you find it too small to be able to read all the rules.
After taking off our shoes we wandered around a bit. There were a lot of door and none of them were labeled. I was nervous about just walking into random rooms so we gingerly opened the doors one at a time. From the outside its clear the mosque is enormous. Inside its also staggeringly large. As women, we weren't allowed into the main sanctuary which comprises most of the bottom floor. The women's prayer area is elevated and partitioned with filigree.
I took some pretty fantastic panorama shots that I hope will give you a sense of scope. Everything is faceted to the nth degree, each column, chandelier and door is intricate many times over. The ladies prayer area had two main doors. The whole area was divided in half by the door you see to the right. Straight ahead you see the lattice partitions that overlook the main prayer area. One of my favorite things was the incredibly plush carpet. It was really deep, like walking on snow. I felt really self conscious about being barefoot in such a sacred space. I knew my feet were clean because I had washed them downstairs. I still felt uncomfortable about leaving my shoes behind.
Not only is the inside of the building arranged to keep the sexes separate; the outside establishes the rules immediately. There are different entrances for men and women. We did go walk on the terrace after the tour and you cannot even walk around to the other half of the building or be anywhere near the men's entrance.
If I could visit again and hear about the building from a guide that would be great. I really felt I missed some important aspects of the mosque and its relevance to Islam and Qatar.