When a person longs to re-connect to the creator, there is nothing better than having your soul dipped in a concoction of spiritual pleasure, along with the rest of your senses. The Hassan El Sharbatly Mosque in New Cairo has this effect, with one’s thirsty eyes, so used to the sandy, yellow terrain of Cairo, drinking in its expansive gardens, its cool shades, its pretty winding paths. Walking towards the mosque through the manicured gardens, it is as though the architectures planned this deliberately, to have one’s mental palette cleansed through an ablution of, not water, but the perfection of nature; so by the time one reaches the soft prayer mat, one’s mind and soul has wound down and established a connection with God.
Delicately designed, paying attention to fine detail, the mosque attempts to be, albeit a man-made version, symmetrical to the perfection found in nature, and man’s quest to attain such harmony and perfection in his worship to the creator.
To give itself a distinct identity, one of ambition and beauty, such qualities taught to worshippers, the mosque installed what is now known, as of 2011, as the world’s largest chandelier in the Guinness Book of World Records. 17.7 meters high, 12.5 meters wide, the chandelier’s diameter is 17.6 meters and weighs three tonnes.
Smaller chandeliers are placed around the mosque, as though mimicking the orbit of the planets around the sun, or, in this case, mimicking the orbit of worshippers around the one God. The main chandelier is made of twenty-four carats of gold-plated brass, which made it quite an attractive place for looters during the revolution when the police disappeared from the streets of Cairo. Luckily, however, the hard work was not lost, as the army stationed several tanks around the mosque’s perimeters.
Expert engravings of the Qur’an decorate the walls, mimicking the way the holy words of God have been engraved in our minds, through understanding and memorization, and souls, through pure conviction and enlightenment. The cream walls compliment the brass chandeliers, the walls reflecting the desire of worshippers wanting to attain the noble qualities found in God’s teachings, the chandelier’s lights illuminating the way.
But the most attractive feature is how expansive the mosque is, and not just for men. The female prayer area is especially spacious, making it a few times larger than the central mosque of London. Understandably, the mosque in New Cairo had the advantage of using the uninhabited desert land to convert into an oasis. However, unlike several large mosques, it didn’t neglect female worshippers.
The female section also overlooks the men’s section below, another metaphor of how highly women are held in the religion of Islam, like queens on thrones. Conveniently, the female section has an elevator for those who find the flight of stairs a challenge.
It’s not just about the exterior and interior of the mosque, however. The imam’s voice is as beautiful as a bird song, lifting one’s soul to the highest levels of spiritual ecstasy. There are plenty of extracurricular activities in the mosque, from study circles for adults and children to talks given by male and female scholars on Islam.
If the mosque is the soul where we can reach God, its expansive gardens are the body and mind, where one’s senses can be soothed by the beauty of God’s creation. The mosque also has a function hall for weddings, with delicate white fabric securely attached to the railings leading to the function hall’s entrance floating in the wind.
A favorite time of day is watching the sun set behind the mosque’s dome, with melodious calls of prayer filling the twilight sky. This mosque is a testimony to the harmony found in God’s nature, and the luxury of Paradise we all dream to attain.
Hassan El Sharbatly,
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