Saturday, May 3, 2014

This morning we woke up to a little rain which may or may not have reminded us a little bit of Seattle, but despite the weather we all met up at 9:30am and headed out on our journey to visit Rome's mosque. We stopped for a quick cup of coffee and a pastry at a cute little bakery on the way, and then continued to the bus stop. We rode the bus through the city to another area full of trees and parks and passed the Villa Borghese which is beautiful! We got on another bus or subway or train or tram or whatever it was called and ended up at the mosque!

Once we arrived, we all put a scarf over our heads in order to respect the traditional attire worn by Muslim women. Our tour guide didn't speak much English at all, so Stephanie translated for us. He began by explaining to us how the mosque was built by an Iraqi and an Italian who were in a competition surrounding architectural techniques. It was constructed in 1995. The mosque is located up on a hill overlooking the city, and the location was chosen because it is near the diplomatic neighborhood and it is isolated from the rest of the city so it is incredibly peaceful. The construction of the mosque was a 40 million euro project, and aims to represent the "new Islam of Europe" and all the different cultures represented in the congregation. At this particular mosque,  The mosque hosts between two and three-thousand people for prayer from over 25 countries each Friday, the holy day in the Islamic religion. Prayer is done five times per day, and Muslims have a strong focus on the relationship between the mind and the body, emphasizing the importance of hygiene through ritual washings that allow people to regain the purity they may have lost. There are public baths within the mosque for men and for women so that they can cleanse themselves before prayer. The space for prayer fits 300 people and is a casual space, heavily carpeted and in which you can eat, drink, sleep and talk. This is because there is no distinction between the sacred and the common according to their beliefs. They always pray in the direction of Mecca, and prayer is led by an Imam who is nominated by the congregation based on merit. The Imam is an important figure not only because he or she leads prayer, but because the job of the Imam is also to remind those in attendance of the first Imam, Muhammad.

After the tour, we headed back to central Rome and all went our separate ways to enjoy the sunshine! After a couple of early mornings this week, I took a much-needed accidental four hour nap, and now I'm ready for the night ahead! Enjoy the rest of your weekend! Ciao!!

Jessica Pickering

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