London’s Central Mosque overlooks Regent’s Park in the heart of the city. It has a copper dome – now a little tarnished – and a concrete minaret. The building is modern and functional, but its principal prayer room dazzles with riches.
I visited just in time for Friday lunchtime prayers, one of the most important gatherings of the week. The faithful were thronging to the mosque. I held back and just watched.
The ceremonials are fairly brief, followed by congregating and socialising in the large courtyard. I went in, removed my shoes and marvelled at the opulent gold chandelier beneath a dome decorated with inscriptions and intricate patterns.
Many men remained there, some quietly chatting, others in their own acts of worship. One studied the Qur’an on his iPad. I seemed at ease to quietly take photographs of this place – perhaps my own religion. The faithful were not photographed, that felt like an invasion of their space.
Any unease I felt about being here then melted away. A man approached me, offered me his tray of dates and said: “Welcome to mosque.”
What a touching gesture to cap a memorable visit.
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