King Abdullah I Mosque, Jordan

Browsing through my guidebook, I felt overjoyed at the abundance of mosques and churches listed. My joy rapidly turned to disappointment as ‘non-Muslims are not normally permitted entry’ would appear at the end of each blurb. Was Jordan really open and tolerant? There was no way I was going to an Islamic country and not visiting a mosque; I want to understand more about Islam, more about Jordan and, surprise surprise, ogle the architecture, and the only way that’s going to happen is to interact with people and visit their Holy sites. It turns out that, whilst my guidebook was correct – this is the only mosque in Amman that happily admits non-Muslims, my insecurities about intolerance turned out to be unfounded.

I saw the turquoise dome from the street and I could feel my heart racing – yay, I made it! Despite being Friday, it was possible to visit. For a small entrance fee (less than £2 – free for worshippers) and a mandatory abayah I, after a week in Jordan, finally entered the mosque complex. The mosque was completed in 1989 and, between the courtyard and interior, can house up to 10,000 worshippers. The interior stained glass windows are a real highlight.

My understanding is that Muslims believe the Quran is the direct word of God. I desperately wanted to open a copy but was fearful my curiosity would be deemed disrespectful. I have only ever seen copies in museums and mosques: they have always been elaborately-decorated and I was rather curious about the interior formation. I once read that translations can, in some sects of Islam, be considered as blasphemous, though I’m not sure how true this is. Grateful for any information.

This gentleman at the mosque was very nice (I wrote about him on Instagram) and surprised me…

I’m not an Islamic scholar and will not enter into debates on the role of women in Islam. However, one of the most disheartening aspects during my visits to mosques is that the women’s section is usually an uninspiring back room (Iran was an exception). I recall visiting Istanbul and entering a small, unassuming mosque. Once inside (as a visitor, I was permitted to enter the male section), I was dazzled by its beauty, peace and the observance of the men in prayer beneath glittering chandeliers and an ornately-painted dome. Upon visiting the women’s prayer area in the same mosque, I noted it was a cupboard with mismatched paint. It was explained that this is because women are not obliged to attend the mosque so, often, a female-only space is an afterthought. Again, I welcome any information. Fortunately, the King Abdullah I Mosque was a refreshing change and, in fact, I found the women’s prayer room the most spiritual of the two areas and I very much liked the lamps. An open copy of the Quran rested atop on the intricately-tiled wall; I was reminded yet again of the beauty of Arabic script and grateful to finally see the contents. Two ladies prayed next to each other whilst another sat calming reading, all completely unconcerned with my ‘intrusion’ into their moment with God.

When I first walked in, the lady pictured smiled at me and I noticed her holding a misbaha. As I walked across the room, I expected her to follow me with her eyes, wondering who this ‘impostor’ was. I turned toward her, but was she facing the Mihrab. I felt safe and accepted, and sat a few metres from her. There is such beauty in prayer, all forms of prayers. Finally, we made eye contact, I touched my iPad (as I didn’t want the noise of my camera to disturb anybody), smiled and she nodded and continued. I tried to thank her but she had returned to her prayers with closed eyes. A wonderful way to end my visit to Jordan.