Driving north from Khor Fakkan, the coastline of the Gulf of Oman is on my right, and modern buildings line the straight street. After leaving the small town of Bidya, I make a U-turn and park at a small parking lot at the side of the road. I only see my destination now: the mosque of Al-Bidya, the oldest still existing mosque in the country. It is a very modest square building, made of mud and stone. Moreover, there is no minaret. Before entering the mosque, I decide to walk up the hill behind it. It holds watchtowers of what is Bidya Fort, and I walk the ridge of the hill further north for better views of the plain to the south, the palm trees, the mountains further west, and the Gulf of Oman, before descending to the fort again for a second look at the peculiar roof of Al-Bidya mosque.
What makes the roof peculiar, are the four helical domes, all four unique in size and shape, making it look like there are four separate sections of the building. When I take off my shoes a little later, I discover that the interior is actually one large space, supported by an enormous pillar in the middle. No timber was used in the construction of the mosque of Al-Bidya: the roof is only supported by this central pillar. It also means that it is more difficult to radiocarbon-date the structure. It is estimated it was built in 1446, but some claim it might even be older. No matter what, the mosque looks very authentic both inside and out. I have the old prayer hall to myself, and explore at ease. Light comes in through small openings in the adobe walls. In the side walls are small niches in which korans and other books are stored.
The mihrab and minbar are tiny, befitting for this small building. The floor is partly covered by colourful thick prayer mats, otherwise, there are a beige rugs. The thick walls protect against the heat from outside, and I stay in for a while, to enjoy the peaceful atmosphere. Then, I hear someone outside, and when I exit through the wooden door, I notice a woman dressed in a black niqab, doing her afternoon prayers here, on the mud floor, in silence. I stand near the entrance, watching the lady kneel, stand up again, muttering words of prayer. Above the mosque rises the hill with the fort; a scene that has not changed for many centuries. The sun is disappearing behind clouds, and I decide to leave the woman alone in her prayer, and carry on to new destinations.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Al-Bidya mosque (United Arab Emirates). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Al-Bidya mosque. Read more about this site.