Traditional Mosques of Dubai by runout


									                          The University of Liverpool

                            THE GULF STATES
                        CASE STUDY: DUBAI EMIRATE

                        MPhil/PhD Degree Proposal to
                The School of Architecture & Building Engineering
                               With affiliation to
                 The Economic & Social Science Graduate School

                                 Supervised By
                              Dr Soumyen Bandyopadhyay

                                  Prepared By
                                 Adil M. Abdalla

                                  Abstract on

            Traditional Mosques of Dubai

                                   May 2001

Environment, satisfaction, and economy were the main motives for theories and techniques of
Arabic architecture. As a matter of fact, these were the actual reasons of its survival as an
expression of Arabic and Islamic culture. For example, original Islamic concept for Mosque-
Architecture was to identify worshiping at a certain place, not to characterize a space for worship.
This was an implementation of Islamic integration between society and religion. The Solidarity of
Islamic society was not focused around the erection of worship buildings, but it targeted the
socio-relations between individuals. Therefore, Sunnite Muslims kept their rejection to enlarge or
decorate mosques. These common beliefs had discouraged Non-Shiite Muslims, such as Dubai
peoples, to erect monumental architecture. It is also can be identified in all types of buildings,
despite the various levels of implementations. However, Dubai history did not record influential
Sufis due to that bitter and basic strife with Shiite, whom Sufism is authentically linked.
Therefore, an important practice of Islamic philosophy was seriously abandoned in its
architectural and cultural practices.

Mosque Architecture

Necessity had established the main elements of Dubai-mosques: the limited number of on-shore-
male prayers, the limited available plots for construction and the limited resources of building
materials. In addition, meteorological and sociological layouts had mainly affected the mosque-
architecture’s theory and planning, which could be characterized through their six main
architectural elements and four planning types.
At Al-Shandagha, only six traditional mosques are still existing, from the approximate thirty that
were listed at 194. They are scheduled for restoration by Dubai Municipality at 1999 / 1997. The
others had been gradually replaced since 1960 by new and modern constructed mosques. Bin
Dalmouk mosque was the only one, which reconstructed by the traditional building techniques at

Prayer Hall
Prayer Hall was almost identical to host up to 60 people in four rows. This was concluded to 6
meters depth and 12 meters high width. Immam had his own recessed space, which was and still
named Mihrab (fig. 10) to avoid unused inner space in front of the first row. Mihrab was always
oriented to Mecca by means of astronomy calculations. This orientation was the milestone for

Structurally, the prayer hall was divided into two equal parts by two or more columns and
architecturally, fitted with 10 windows or more. The main door is axial to the Mihrab on the back
façade. Height varies between 9 to 12 feet (Dur’a = 1.45 foot). Traditional gypsum decorations
were limited, but molded-corners were widely used to soften vertical / horizontal contacts.
Occasionally gypsum strips were used to draw inner cornice. Ornamental units were not fitted at

    Dubai City was divided by its creek and two swamps, therefore initial plots were conditioned and allays were narrow to
    allow housing for increased population.
    Official records of Dubai Department for Islamic Affairs and Aukkaf (Donations).
    Adil M. Abdalla, Neighborhood Mosque of Dubai, Unpublished Research, 1996.
    Traditional Arabic measuring unit.
    Traditional gypsum decorative units were sized 2 x 3 feet of geometric or botanical patterns.
Mosques were illuminated by the use of traditional oil lanterns which were hanged from handy-
turned wooden hangs at 6 feet height, along the walls.


Liwan was a gallery leading to prayer hall. It was not only used to replace the closed prayer hall
during hot seasons with an open-air praying area, but also widened it for increased number of
prayers. It had effectively rolled the passive ventilation. Normally, alike all traditional buildings its
depth adopted the length of Shandal(s) . Therefore, its depth is comfortably suitable for only two
rows of prayers. Height matched prayer hall or 1:2 feet lower.

Architecturally, the Liwan had different side-façade designs, e. g. windows, wooden screens,
cupboard or blank wall.

Structurally, its eastern edge was two pr three columns. Some liwans were constructed by
wooden materials only, and then could be named as shades.


Courtyard was in various dimensions that were in two shapes, square or slim rectangular. It
linked among other elements and allowed the barometric ventilation. Its area adapted the total
plot area. It sometimes contained a well, a lemon tree or an ablution sink. Many mosques had
one or more large jar for drinking water. The courtyard mainly separated between both prayer
and non-abluent.


Minaret was not an original element of mosque architecture; it was a product of high- rise
urbanism of developed Islamic cities. Early mosques did not overstepped normal heights of
surrounding houses, to avoid possible observations of their domestic livings . Naturally, mosque
had to apply this fundamental social ethics.

The planning need of Minarets had excused their erection in Muslim squatters, to guide and
allocate places for both residents and visitors. The construction of those 10:15 meters height
pillars was always confronted with the available and appropriate building material and
Although, Dubai’s Ustaz(s) (Senior-masons) used to construct its famous Barajeils (local name
for Windtowers), but very limited information is available about its minarets. About five mosques

    Shandal(s) are joists of hard woods of 7:10 cm diameter that were imported from East Africa to construct basic
supporters of
    traditional roofs.
    One of main Islamic ethics was to forbid looking to other Muslims’ safekeeping belongings, e. g. female family
    fortune and self-existence.
    Original Persian breath-catching forms which had been created at Bastak City in southern Iran. They used to be
    above main living rooms, to allow in-going current, due to barometric ratio at below semi-blank-walled spaces. This
    current cools the temperature for appropriate condition at hot seasons. These square or rectangular based and 4
    meters height towers have inner crossed partitions and upper four directions openings catch the even slightest wind
    from any direction.
had been known for their minarets, which had demolished (or collapsed ) throughout the last
thirty years.

Immam Appendix

Immam Appendix was a living facility for an overloaded man. Immam was not only a prayer-
leader or organizer, but he was also a religious-jurist, an Islamic-herald, marriage-official and a
teacher. This multi-functions-person had to be intuitively available at all times around the day.
Therefore, at any of Dubai’s mosques there was a poor tiny room for him.

Immam had to live, cook and sleep in this room and sometimes shared with an assistant. Later
some Immams managed to partition wider part from the Mosque’s gallery to form additional
room(s) to host his family. Some could prepare separate bathroom and a kitchen at the bigger or
medium-sized mosques.

Ablution Appendix

Ablution Appendix was essential for praying operations and rituals. The drinkable water was a
fetal focus for living all around Arabian Peninsula.

The traditional water-shortage facilities were not suitable for use at the mosques; therefore,
peoples of Dubai used to ritual at their homes. Later, bigger mosques had their own wells to
serve ablution for the increasing number of prayers, especially at Jumm’a prayer. In addition,
well-facilitated mosques were part of the common commodities among poor slams.

Drainage facilities were not available in either houses or others, except in wealthy-people.
Jumm’a mosques were prepared with toilets in the far corners at their courtyards . Typical
Ablution at an Awkkat mosque was consists of appropriate sink with wide edge to allow religious-
disciplied-washing for four or five persons. Recent urbanism had randomly developed the
architecture of Ablutions. Toilets, urinals and piper-water-supply were adopted in the original
space and when it was too small, additional space was cut from the Courtyard.

Jumm’a (Friday) Mosque

Jumm’a (Friday) Mosque was the official identification for the Islamic Society. It dominated its
entire life. Most of Jumm’a mosques were molded from The Prophet’s Mosque (Peace upon
Him) at Al-Madinah of Saudi Arabia.

Historically, it was the office place for Al-Khalifa (Successor of the Prophet) or Al Wallei
(governor), Al-Ommal (the Cabinet) and Shoura Majlis (Peoples Assembly).

Architecturally, it was a huge rectangular that its width is greater than the depth. The costly
roofing directed the inner wide and open courtyard. It has its main Mihrab, which played an
acoustic assistance for the Immam. Alike all mosques, doors are not preferred at Qibla’s wall.

    Professor Lamie, ICOMOS co-opted member, assured those poor structural techniques and logic which Dubai
masons used
    to apply had seriously affected constructions’ stability and survival.
    Expatriate Immams from Iran or Pakistan, that local Immams had usually had their own houses.
    Islam discourages toilets at mosques unless it is necessary. Neither smell, sight or sound should be traced as much
    possible. In addition, users of toilet should be oriented in perpendicular direction to the Qibla (Mecca).
Columns and Pillars should not interrupt prayer rows. The always and still religious and political
competitions had turned most of Jumm’a mosques into unique monuments.

Structurally, it reflected height-area ratio and slimed the columns or pillars; therefore, it used
domes, arcades and cut-hard-stone columns.

Dubai knew two Jumm’a Mosque, one was at Bur Dubai and the other at Deira. The Bur Dubai
                                                                  12                   13
mosque was the important one for its neighboring to Al-Fahidi Fort and ruler’s Palace . No
information was recorded for that one at Deira. Some photographs and records could identify the
architecture of Bin Dalmouk’s Grand Mosque at Bur Dubai.

The Prayer Hall could host about 1000 prayers in a prayer hall of nearly 35 x 20 meters, which
was roofed by 50 small ellipsoid domes each of them was 2.50 meters diameter. It may be was
the only traditional dome-roofed structure in the UAE. The Roof was supported by four rows of
pillars which alike the walls, had been constructed by the traditional Sea-Stone and Juss as a
mortar and plaster.

Twenty rectangular windows were marked the external walls. It may be emphasized that ten
doors linked the prayer hall to its Liwan.

The Liwan was 9 meters width with three rows of pillars, which each was consists of 10 square
sectioned pillars. The six main doors of the mosque are allocated at the two sides of the Liwan.

The Courtyard was too big and wide, with a depth of 20 meters. Its perimeter wall is symbolic of
150 cm height. Immam appendix opened to the northern side of the courtyard. A tree was
marked beside the specified area for ablution.

No Minaret was reconstructed by concrete and sand-blocks at 1950’s. It had again redesigned
and reconstructed to be a monumental structure at 1998.

Eid (Feast-Day) Mosque

Islamic Feast Day(s) are important to its social strengthening. Ceremonies are unique and
special, starts by its prayer that assured its impacts. Therefore, no structure was characterized
for Eid Prayer.

To keep the ablution of those places, Muslims made perimeter walls around each of them with
the necessary gates. The walls heights and design varies at each community.

Dubai had know the original type of those mosques, which had developed accordingly to its urban

Awkkat (Prayer-Times) Mosque

Fundamentally, common prayers are encouraged by Islam. Male Muslims are gathered to pray
five times a day, where their solidarity, comprehension and support are implemented. In addition,

     It was the Ruler’s residence before 1895.
     It was Shaikh Saeed’s house in Al-Shandagha since 1895 and the recent Diwan (Great Office) in Bur Dubai since
     It was donated by Ahmed Bin Dalmouk, one of the richest merchants; thus, elders name it by him.
     There are coral and shell stones. The coral came from the Gulf. The shell stones are shells, sand and precipitate
silica of the
     creek-bed, which were compressed by water weight through long periods.
because Muslim women were not religiously encouraged to pray outside their own rooms, no
architectural partitioning or special space took place at the original plans.

Prayer Hall, Liwan, Courtyard, Ablution and Immam’s room, were the typical elements in each of
the traditional Awkkat mosques. Minarets were rarely constructed, but wide courtyards were
planned at 50% of those mosques.

Increasing population of Dubai had turned many of those mosque into Jumm’a mosques to serve
the developed and enlarged districts.

Traditional Planning Sitting

The standard Jumm’a Mosque has to host all grown males for the fundamental weekly-ceremony;
each Jumm’a (Friday). Early Islamic cities had only one Jumm’a mosque, but later, it had been
multiplied according to the volume of urbanism or population. Anyway, the Jumm’a mosque has
to centralize its community.
The standard Eid Mosque is only an open area which is wide enough for 70%                               of the entire
Muslim community. It is only an abluent, clean and reachable piece of land.

The social goals of common prayers can be easily achieve at the neighborhood levels, where
local Awkkat Mosques do not need long tracking. To serve any of Dubai’s neighborhoods, about
three mosques were needed. Each of them had to suit 60 persons. Some dense neighborhoods
had more than three Awkkat mosques. At market places, those mosques planned for bigger
number of prayers.

Mosques are alike anywhere else; religious buildings are donated by wealthy people or
government. Therefore, the use of their plots is unchangeable despite deterioration or
reconstruction. Distribution of Deira Mosques is recognized by recent surveys, which could be
easily analyzed to conclude length of marching track . The local hot weather and raised
humidity of Dubai, especially at noon or afternoon prayers, marching for few minutes was
spontaneously adapted to the human energy.         The track affected by both vertical-layout of
Sakkik (Allays) and their usage and occupational patterns.

Traditional Mosques were landmarks for places. They were always easy reachable and visually
focused from many directions.

   All Muslims, men, women, elders and children should attend the Eid prayer. Exceptions are granted to sick, young
   and handicapped old persons.
   Adil M. Abdalla, Neighborhood Mosque of Dubai, Unpublished Research, 1996.
   The marching track was nearly 150 liner-meters or 3 minutes tine-long.

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