Escaping from it all

A spur of the moment decision, it was just around mid-day when I decided to pursue the long overdue visit to Banana Island. With a few simple phone calls, all was confirmed. Driving to the terminal with nothing else but the clothes on my body, I called my best friend, my confidant, my partner to collect a few belongings and head over to Banana Island and meet me, for a much-needed reconnecting staycation on the island.


As I sat at the terminal’s VIP lounge thinking when was the last time I had acted so impulsively, I suddenly felt the excitement – at the prospect of spending quality time, enjoying nature, long walks on the beach, the catchups, late breakfast – and, it all became so real.

On arrival at the island, I was greeted by the traditional sound of the drums; I stood for a few minutes taking in the sight and sounds.


At the welcome desk, Abdul welcomed me. Check-in was seamless and soon enough, I was on my way to our room. Abdul assured me that he would facilitate my husband’s arrival.

Soon after settling in, I was taken on a tour of the island to familiarize with the awesome facilities available in the island.

No sooner, I was taken to the spa, for our first ever “couple’s massage”.

Husband: At this time of the year, it was just perfect timing to board the boat from Doha at 5 pm.  The 30 minutes boat ride meant that as I reached the island, the sun was just about to set.  And what a sight to behold!  The spectrum of the colours of the sunset reminded me of the colours of the rainbow. And, like the proverbial “pot of gold at the end of the rainbow”, our stay on the island, was simply, fabulous, to say the least.

I arrived late, having had to go for an appointment that I could not afford to miss, thereafter rushing home to collect some of our belongings as per my wife’s request. As I arrived at the Welcome Centre on the island, I was warmly greeted and quickly whizzed by Abdul, a South African who had been working on the island for the last 2 years, towards the Spa where we had booked a “Couple’s Massage”. “

We have both gone for massages before, but this was a completely different experience, having my significant other just next to me undergoing the same treatment. The room’s lighting and Zen music in the background, set the mood and the tone.  It was calming and soothing. And, before you know it, we were simply relaxing having our tensed muscles being relieved and the frenzied pace of the past weeks, slowly but surely going away with every smooth stroke being applied by the well-trained masseuse.  As in life, however, time passes by very quickly when you are enjoying something.  And so, what was supposed to be a 2-hour session seemed to be over in minutes.

While waiting for the golf buggy to take us back to our room, we were greeted by Jessica, the Spa Manager who had been on the island for just over 6 months.  She was explaining to us the variety of massages they offer (I guess, that is part of her job) and before you know it, I was signing up for the “Royal Moroccan Hammam” experience (one more off my bucket list). More of that later.

Back in our room, and what a pleasant surprise.  Obviously, the housekeeping team has been briefed of our arrival and went out of their way to decorate the room and displaying their creativity.

As for the room itself, it was very spacious; they even had the bathtub in the room for guests to soak themselves in while looking over the balcony and the sea.  The shower facilities with a rain shower was exceptional.  My only wish was that the water pressure was stronger, and it would have been perfect to get the real rain shower feeling.

After a bit of rest, we went for dinner at Al Nahham Restaurant.  The mezze platters were great especially the Muhammara and Khebez (Lebanese bread) were fresh and warm.  Suffice to say, I could just survive on the bread and mezze platters alone. In any case, we had ordered main courses and were certainly, not disappointed as well.

The staff were very attentive, ensuring our dining experience would be well remembered.

We made our way back to our room, a leisurely walk through the gardens after our indulgence during dinner.

Husband: The next morning, we woke up feeling calm and relaxed. We sat for a while on the balcony, catching up, taking in the view, the cool weather with a slight breeze provided the perfect elements to start our day.


We then headed to Azraq Restaurant for breakfast.  They had a great selection and we were spoilt for choice.  After last night’s dinner, however, we could not do justice to the sumptuous offerings.

We opted for the outdoor seating, watching the birds helping themselves to whatever was available as guests left something behind for them.

After breakfast, we went on a Pontoon Boat ride and toured some parts of the island.  Unfortunately, the wind picked up speed, and we could not go around the whole island.  Regardless, it was an enjoyable tour with great company as little Sophie, shared more information about the island.

I headed back to the spa for my very first Royal Moroccan Hammam experience. Inspired by an ancient but integral part of Moroccan life, I was seated on a hot marble table, while the masseuse patiently explained to me about the processes involved and the products being used.

I was then shown to this beautifully created bath, where I soaked for a few minutes whilst beams of sunlight filtered through the glass ceiling.

After being doused with water, she covered my body with traditional black soap and scrubbed with a kesse mitt to sweep away dead skin cells, before I was gently cocooned in a ghassoul wrap infused with rose water, then whisked away to an overwater treatment room for a pampering back massage.

Techiques used:

  • Exfoliate:  Kessa glove scrub technique
  • Massage: Effleurage, Friction, Wringing
  • Benefits & Effect:

–        Deep cleansing the body
–        Renewal the cell regeneration
–        Release the muscle tension
–        Detoxification

It was a good hour and half well spent, being pampered from head to toe and worth every Riyal.


Such a rejuvenating and unique experience.

And then, it was time for a light lunch at Q-Lounge, a nice pool-side restaurant just off the beach.

After a relatively short lunch, we decided to take a leisurely walk along the beach towards the jetty as it was time to go home.

How the time passes by so quickly when you are having fun, I really don’t know.  It just seemed like I was on a non-stop, whirlwind experiential trip, doing one thing after another. No regrets though, for a visit that left us both feeling relaxed and rejuvenated But, I know now that the next time I go to Banana Island, I would plan for more than just an overnight trip.  I did not manage any of the water sport activities or the golf putting course or even try my hand at scuba diving!

Banana Island, we will be back!
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“You gotta Nourish to Flourish!”

The North of Doha during the winter is usually well-known for setting up Winter camps, evening barbeques and hare-hunting. However, our last trip was about something a little greener. Not too far north from the capital city, we took a turn at the Um Al Amad Interchange to discover Eden Farm. This sanctuary was initially a piece of land to provide a home away from home, a quiet retreat from the fast-paced city, for Dr. Salem Al-Naemi and his family. It was from this foundation, that Eden Farm began to flourish.



Eden spans over 25 acres. From the moment we drove through its welcoming gates, we were overwhelmed with refreshing sights greenery almost everywhere! Nasser Al-Naemi, son of the Managing Director, Dr. Salem, is also an integral part of the family business and was kind enough to take time out of his day to show us around the family farm. The development of the idea of Eden was catalyzed by the need for the local market to provide for its people. At times, supplies of various produce would be difficult to find, or at least of good enough quality. Hence, father and son worked together to develop their farm in order to cater to the demands of the community. Two engineers soon added the art of farming to their résumés- with a twist. In order to maximize on production and to provide adequate supply to meet demands, parts of the farm are run with amazing technology.

As we strolled through the farm, we were amazed at the large variety of vegetables- Indian pumpkin, carrots, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, tomatoes, green beans, Sudani beans, chilis, cucumber, yellow, green and red capsicum, lettuce, spinach, eggplant, radish, cherry tomatoes, spring onion… it was like being on a game drive, but instead of sighting wildlife, we were spotting loads and loads of greens! Many of the veggies were kept in greenhouses, or could be farmed out in the open. Seeds for many of the produce were initially brought in from across the globe, including Japan, India and parts of Europe, chosen for their ability to survive best in Qatar’s climate.

Nasser and his team were kind enough to walk us through units where mushrooms were harvested- it is always amazing to see how farming has become such a science, in order to be as efficient as possible! Nasser explained that his mother went to the supermarket one day and was not able to find mushrooms. Realising that this was not only a problem for his family, but also for many other families, the idea of growing mushrooms took roots. As we walked through the units, we saw all the beds of compost and how they were compacted and kept. The mushrooms are all hand-picked in order to keep as much of the product for the customer, as mechanical slicing may lose part of the product. Soil beds can be used for up to 3 flushes (cycles), before replacing the soil bed completely. The first flush can be harvested after 18 days, followed by the second and third flushes, which are harvested in shorter time intervals, about 7 days apart. Relative humidity, carbon dioxide levels and temperature is controlled and the harvesting of mushrooms can be managed, accurate to the day of harvesting! White mushrooms, brown mushrooms and portobello mushrooms are products of Eden farm, going under its own label as “Oryx Mushrooms”. I was impressed by how clean and tidy the facility was, much like the rest of the farm.

Eden also harvests its own supply of honey. With nectar taken from surrounding Sidra trees, the bees can make their honey. The bees on the farm had been brought in from North Africa. It was great to see someone taking an interest in bee-keeping, as the world’s population of bees is being challenged intensely, and many are unaware of how dire this problem is already! There were also kinar, fruits of the tree, hanging, ready to be plucked and eat, just like that! Mashmoom could also be found, a tree with aromatic leaves and deep purple flowers. Traditionally, mashmoom leaves are used by women, young and old, clipped into their hair for the pleasant smell. These leaves can be put in cars, handbags, anywhere in the home even, to exude its great smell!

At some point, we stopped for the late afternoon prayer. Nasser was kind enough to guide us into his family majlis, where hot karak was waiting for us. Qatari hospitality is something that I still find rarely unsurpassed!


We then had a quick look at the livestock on the farm. Eden has a growing unit of Awassi sheep and Sudani goats, both hardy breeds of small stock, able to thrive in Qatar’s climatic conditions.

The tour came to a magnificent end as we watched the sun set, melting away into soft pinks and purples, over the lush pasture beneath it. It was incredibly refreshing to enjoy this time out of the city, taking in all the fresh air around us!


Developing a successful farming business is no easy feat. Coming from South Africa, we are exposed to farming to a degree, aware of the attention farmers have to give to all the finer details, from soil composition, climatic conditions, pests, plant pathologies, and the constant challenge of balancing finances. Indeed, farming is neither easy, nor is it cheap! It takes a great deal of investment in terms of time and money. It also demands a significant amount of patience and perseverance from the farmer. Now, consider farming in the desert, a peninsula, with mostly salt water as a water source and the challenge gets trickier. For this reason, acknowledgement must be accredited to QDB (Qatar Development Bank) for supporting the Al-Naemi family in their farming endeavor. Now, Eden is present in many of the local markets across the State of Qatar, including the Mahaseel market in Katara, selected Al Meera stores and Wholesale Market.

Before we left, Nasser and his team surprised us with a wide variety of their produce. I was so excited to get home and cook and taste these vegetables!


It was inspiring to see how a concept which started in 2004, matured and persevered through the years, becoming what it is today. Dr. Al-Naemi attributes part of the success of the farm to the family and staff that stood by him and Eden throughout all the years, in order to harvest the fruits of Eden’s success. It was also a pleasure to see local people wanting to empower and cater for their community. Eden and Oryx Mushrooms are definitely initiatives I support. I hope you will too! In South Africa, we have a saying that, “local is lekker”, which translates rather poorly to “local is good (or nice)”. “Lekker” is a term for anything to be enjoyed, and after seeing the farm, as well as eating the produce made there, I can say that local is definitely “lekker” in Qatar, too!



Here is what we prepared today, using some of the vegetables gifted to us

Vegetable Stir Fry  

2 tablespoon oil
250 gms minced beef or chicken
1 medium onion, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, diced thin
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 cups broccoli florets
1 large red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 large yellow bell pepper, cut into strips
1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 cup water
Black pepper
Salt to taste
Cornflour (to thicken sauce)


Heat oil in wok or large skillet.
Add mince meat and stir fry until brown.  Remove to one side.
Add onions and garlic and stir fry for about 2 minutes until lightly brown.
Add vegetables, oyster sauce and soy sauce and stir fry for 5 minutes (adding water, if necessary, to cook the vegetable)
Return the mince to the wok and stir fry for another 2 minutes.
Add cornflour to thicken the sauce.
Serve with rice or noodles



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Marsa Malaz kempinski – An Oasis of Art Masterpieces

With its 281 rooms including 73 suites, 2 Presidential and 2 Royal suites, personalized butler and the breathtaking panoramic views over the Arabian Gulf, white sandy beach and 8 individual pools, Marsa Malaz Kempinsiki is incomparable to other hotels.

Bespoke artworks in each room, reflecting the region’s rich heritage and history, are part of what gives the hotel its distinctive and authentic Arabic feel.  Integrated into the distinct Arabic theme of the hotel are subtle Venetian influences inspired by the piazzas of Italy; much of the hotel’s artwork forms part of a huge collection of Italian art – installations, sculptures, paintings and fabrics.

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From floors, walls, light fixtures, headboards, chairs to tables chandeliers – everything has been beautifully designed, skillfully crafted – the hotel is an architectural marvel.  Add to this the array of modern Arabian art throughout its premises and you have a destination to behold.

Throughout the rooms and suites of the hotel, you’ll find Arabic influences in the opulent fabrics, the lanterns and glassware, and unique collections of artwork on display. Furnishings are Syrian-inspired and hand-crafted with mother of pearl elements embedded in each piece, including the headboards. In total, there are more than 600,000 shimmering pieces of mother-of-pearl and over 1800 styles of mosaic across the entire hotel.


With more than 50 chandeliers from simple, chic designs to colourful and extravagant, each making a statement.  In the lobby – “The Tree of Life” extends branches crafted from glass adorned with 12 multi-coloured hummingbirds made from mouth-blown Murano glass with three glass flowers hanging at the bottom, representing love, life and happiness.



Below the “Tree of Life” is a Spanish art installation, the pearl-granate. The piece has its own story, rather than a pomegranate, the pearl-granate fell off the “Tree of Life” and cracked open. The hummingbirds tried to pick the fruit, albeit unsuccessfully, as the inside are pearls rather than actual fruit seeds.


Murano glass chandeliers hang over the grand staircase, hand-made by glass-blowers in Venice. Altogether, they are made up of over 44,000 pieces that took six weeks to assemble, each forming the shape of an oyster shell in a colourful homage to Qatar’s pearl diving heritage.




The “Flowers and Butterflies” and the Bronze sculpture of a Quranic verse by famous Iraqi designer Ahmed Bahrani


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Ahmed Bahrani also created a bronze horse sculpture in front of the hotel.  The 18 meters tall sculpture honours the tradition of the Arabian horses and the importance the breed has played culturally, not only in Qatar, but in the region.  Its intricate detail, sculpted with defined muscles emphasizing on the horse movement, took more than four weeks to install (made of 23 pieces and weighs a more-than-sizeable 45 tonnes).


What better way than to spend an afternoon tea with your girlfriends at Café Murano surrounded by such beautiful conversational pieces.  Scattered Murano vases and “the Silver Samurai” by none other than the Czek artist Jiří Šuhájek –  this 1990’s art piece made of Murano glass and steel reflects the winter season.


You can find more of Jiří Šuhájek art pieces on display throughout the hotel.  The El Faro boasts 4 of his paintings, which combine different materials, colour splashes and gold paint.

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Head to the Spa by Clarins reception, where dreamy glass installation ‘The Coral Tree’ is located, crafted from 600 hand-blown pieces of bohemian glass in different shades of blue.


Six uniquely-decorated plant pots have been covered with a beautiful combination of cracked turtle shells and mother-of-pearl.

Installations by Ahmed Allawi grace the corridors of the hotel

Ali Hassan – famous for his distinct canvas paintings – also has his works on display.

Other popular artwork can be found throughout the hotel.

The next time you visit Marsa Malaz Kempinski , whether for an afternoon tea or dinner, look around you and be mesmerized by the remarkable art collection.  It will be an afternoon you will never forget.




Unapologetically passionate about photography…

I admit, I am unapologetically passionate about photography.

I totally understand that we should NEVER confuse passion with hobby- hobby is something that one does outside work, for relaxation, such as walking, listening to music, reading or visit an art gallery, being passionate is doing something that simultaneously relaxes you and drives you crazy.

Personally, photography is a powerful tool that allows me to express myself, capturing moments to share, the way I see things around me, the excitement felt when finding interesting things in ordinary spaces and giving me the privilege of revisiting moments long after I’ve have forgotten everything.

A hobbyist photographer will be satisfied with the magic of a great image.  A passionate photographer will relentlessly continue pursuing the magic regardless of any circumstances that ordinarily would stop a hobbyist.

When I started photography out of interest, it was all “so awesome”. I felt like a child with a new toy discovering new possibilities, pretty soon, I grew unimpressed with my own shots. I guess that’s what happens when you constantly look at works of professional photographers. From then on, it was all “uphill”, In  my free time I went about exploring places, trying new angles, looking to capture that perfect moment.- most days I would get zero keeper shots, on good days I would get 1 or 2.

Despite the challenge, tI knew this was just something I  really wanted to do.  It wasn’t easy in account of the overwhelming randomness of the streets and the huge possibility of people thinking I was inappropriate, asking random people permission to take their pictures.

Countless times I had given up, my camera lay there almost as an object d’art, a feature of my lounge décor, just as many times I picked it up and clicked away. Time and again, I asked myself “why am I doing this again?” It was just so hard, yet I kept at it, something inside me driving me to try harder each time, I guess that’s where passion comes in.

Passion will push you to your limits. It demand sacrifices and make it hard on you. But you don”t mind the hard work, because you know it will make you better. And when it pays off, it will surprise you with opportunities you’ve never even dreamed of. Trust me.

Ultimately, for me, when you’re doing something that you really like, you might as well try to be very good at it. Otherwise, what’s the point, right?

I created this page on my website to share my photography journey – some of my favourite pictures.

I do hope that you will enjoy this page and I would love to hear your feedback.

I will be updating this page regularly as iIfilter through my files…. 🙂

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All the pictures featured on this post were taken with a Nikon Coolpix L840 courtesy of Salam Stores

Location: South Africa

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Bloggers Cruise

On Friday, I joined the #BloggersCruise, an initiative by the #NationalCruiseCompany and #NewinDoha.

We met at Marina2 at the Pearl Qatar, where we all had time to mingle a bit, prior to boarding the dhow, the excitement was evident.

Once aboard, the staff provided us with the safety on board information.

We embarked on a 3hour cruise, spending the afternoon on the upper deck, making new friends, getting to know each other, appreciating the panoramic view of Doha and the magnificent sunset over the Doha skyline while sipping on a beverage of our choice, definitely a moment to remember!

The dhow was expansive, the majlis on the upper deck was fully carpeted and provided a well laid out seating arrangement, with comfortable back rests.

Soon enough, the sound of the cameras clicking, the shuffling for more selfies, finding the right angle and the correct lighting for the perfect photo opportunity  🙂 #NajlaNabilPhotography provided us with tips on how best to maximize on our camera and device capabilities for better results.

Once the sun had set, we were invited to the enclosed dinner cabin, and treated to a delicious open buffet inclusive of hot and cold beverages, the tables were well set and dressed in white drapery, china and silver, all catered by #FourSeasonsHotelDoha while we enjoyed the sight of Westbay and its shimmering lights.

After dinner, we gathered at the upper deck to make the most of the evening breeze as we returned to the Pearl.

Before we knew it was time to disembark and say our goodbyes to new and old friends.


A dhow cruise is a must on your next visit or stopover in Doha.

Well worth noting that the National Cruise Company provides:

  • Regular Cruises
  • Dinner Cruises
  • Celebration Cruises (Birthdays, wedding, proposal, henna parties, honeymoon)
  • Diving and Fishing Cruises
  • Educational Cruises
  • Corporate (Meetings and Team Buildings Activities)
  • Water Sport Activities


For Enquiries and Bookings:


For more details on the FREE Tourist/Transit visas to Qatar and a 48 hours guide in Doha.

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Discovering Masjid El Nur in Rio de Janeiro!!!

A Masjid in Rio

Walking on Copacabana beach, with sand on my feet and the coolness of the water washing away the sand every time a wave comes to shore, I wondered whether there are mosques in Rio de Janeiro and, if so, where they are located. The answer is, of course, very near. With the ubiquitous Google Map, I managed to locate Masjid El Nur (Mesquita da Luz).

And, before I knew it, my curiosity was awakened. Almost immediately, I hailed a cab and informed the driver to take me there. He had never heard of it. So I shared with him the location. He informed me that it would take approximately 40 minutes to get there although it is a Sunday! Regardless, I was determined to see it.

Initially, we made idle conversation in the car. But, as curious as I was about finding a mosque in Rio, he was just as curious about my headscarf as he had never seen anyone covering their head before. Given that more than 90% of Brazilians are Christians; this was not a surprise to me. We continued to talk whilst he navigated through dense traffic, as Sunday is “beach day”, and most families take to the beach to spend their day with their families, all the while he had so many questions. Fifty-five minutes later, we arrived at our destination. Lo and behold, I was standing in front of a masjid in the heart of Rio de Janeiro!

The tall façade of the mosque with its distinctive stained-glass windows stood out. I was let in, and shown where the ladies ablution room was located. 2 souls were praying in the prayer hall, a mother and son, side by side, oblivious to my presence, at peace with God.

Followed by Tahayyat-al-Masjid, I was greeted by Juliana and her son Tiago. We talked for sometime, I had so many questions and so did she. Her warm personality made me feel right at home. I had asked her about the congregation, she indicated that most had gone to Maracanã stadium where they had a space. They went to spread the word of Islam.(Da’wah).


When I asked when they held classes for the children, I was informed that they didn’t have any. However every Saturday they had informative programs throughout the day. Adults that attend these programs share this information when they get home.

Throughout our conversation, all I could think about was how immensely privileged my children were, being raised in a country (South Africa), where Islamic knowledge is so readily available in just about every suburb, the “luxury” of having a transmitter in our homes allowing us to listen to the Adhaan, better still the multitude of Hufaz South Africa has, the comprehensive knowledge all the Muslim children in South Africa are privy too.

When I got back to Bayt Qatar (House of Qatar specially put up to showcase Qatar during the Rio Olympics) I was informed that members of our amazing team had already begun a drive to collect funds to provide basic facilities(carpets, books, etc…) to Masjid El Nur. Subhanallah!

To all my friends and family in South Africa, Mozambique and Portugal, Qatar kindly share this post and contact the Masjid directly to assist them –


The Quran states, “And among [Allah’s] signs is … diversity in [mankind’s] languages and colors,” and that “[Allah] has created mankind into nations and tribes so that we would come to know one another.”


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An evening at Aspire Park

Late night walks after a long day, allows you take in the day’s events and time to connect with mother nature. After my diner at Chef’s garden, I headed to Aspire, with the view of iconic Torch Hotel in plain sight, lit in green in solidarity with those who died in the Saudi Arabian blast, a reminder of the global chaos.

The sight of boab trees across the fields, the sound of children’s laughter, the men gathered in a circle almost in a makeshift majlis, while the women have their own circle with a watchful eye on the children, containers of food, couples walking hand in hand ,the reflection of the majestic Torch Hotel dancing int he water, the ducks and fish in the lake had all the makings for the perfect end to a day.



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A Day in my Life!


Eid Ul Fitr 2016 . So it was the 1st Day of Eid Ul Fitr , the morning was eventful, the excitement of going to pray in Eid Salaat, seeing new and old faces, shoulder to shoulder as one Ummah… the beauty of congregational prayer and sense of oneness in indescribable… Back at home, the house was relatively quiet, the absence of the children was so real, tears rushing to my eyes, having to remind myself that it is what it is, and I have to make the best out of what I have… our breakfast was rather simple by comparison, but it sufficed.   Finally I get to put my feet up, laptop in place and began my all too familiar skype calls, exchange of greetings, lump in my throat…  Lunch time came and went, before we knew it, Fatima had to resume her duties at work, leaving me to my solitude. Armed with my Nikon, I set out to explore  the Education City Mosque.    The spectacular mosque with its trademark minarets that stretch up 90m into the sky which point straight towards Makkah, has become a new highlight in Doha.  The mosque with its capacity of 1,800 worshippers in its main prayer hall and exterior courtyards and its exterior elevation covered with embossed verses from the Qur’an, rests on five main structural columns, representing the 5 pillars of Islam. Four streams of water each representing wine, milk, honey and water, flow from the surrounding gardens into the building. A modern structure, to say the least.

Once inside, the minimalist and contemporary aesthetic exudes calmness, serenity yet warm and welcoming. The modern twist of the arabesque designs with different mediums so evident, the geometric patterns so intricate yet so simple.

The Mihrab features a golden text and a Qur’anic ayat which translates as: “So turn your face toward al-Masjid al-Haram. And wherever you [believers] are, turn your faces toward it [in prayer].” 2:144T

The call to prayer so soothing and so welcoming, followed by the total surrender of the worshippers.

It was time to visit the courtyard and some picture taking.


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