Fittingly for the Holy Month of Ramadan, this week has seen the return of the traditional call to prayer to the historic Jahili Mosque in Al Ain.
The prominent location of Al Jahili Fort, at the centre of the city, and its landmark status, is such that its buildings, including the mosque, have come to symbolise the traditional architecture and cultural heritage of Abu Dhabi.
The historic mosque consists of a single room with an open arcade on the east side entered from an enclosed courtyard. It is a historic building constructed with earth blocks and palm log beams and probably dates back to the foundation of the fort in the 1890s. Within the courtyard, there is a low platform from which the call to prayer was traditionally made.
Recent work by the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi, DCT Abu Dhabi, has provided simple cooling measures inside the mosque and a fountain nearby for ritual ablutions. DCT Abu Dhabi has collaborated with the General Authority for Islamic Affairs and Endowments to provide an imam for the mosque, and it will now operate announcing the call to prayer in the traditional manner from the raised platform.
"The mosque of Al Jahili Fort is a historic piece of local architecture, built to adapt to the nature surrounding it, the local climate and the needs of its worshippers," said Jaber Saleh Al Merri, Historic Environment Director at DCT Abu Dhabi.
"The mosque was built at the same time as Jahili Fort, the largest earthen fort in Al Ain, and the site was initially used as the residence of the Sheikh Zayed the
First, before going on to become a base for the armed forces. The mosque has evolved alongside the fortress, and we have maintained the original fabric of the building to serve as living proof of the architecture and lifestyles of this period in our history."
In turn, Nasser Mohammed Al Ma'amari, Branch Manager of the General Authority for Islamic Affairs and Endowments in Al Ain, stated, "Based on the General
Authority for Islamic Affairs and Endowments’ desire to maintain the religious heritage of the UAE and its deep belief that our nation’s history is a vital part of our national identity, the opening of the Jahili Heritage Mosque in cooperation with the DCT Abu Dhabi, is a living example of how our mosques used to appear."
A report earlier this year said the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi, DCT Abu Dhabi, is organising a programme of interactive educational events at different cultural sites in Al Ain.
Until June 23, different workshops for school students will be held at Qasr Al Muwaiji. Primary level students will be able to participate in the Colour Printing and Educational Box sessions, to enhance their artistic skills and acquire deeper cultural knowledge.
Intermediate level students will be able to participate in a larger number of workshops, these will include: an introduction to Sadu, a traditional weaving craft included on Unesco’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage, the Khanjar (dagger) session will see students creating a version of this traditional tool and weapon out of aluminiium foil, and the Tekkiye workshop will teach the skill of colouring textiles. In addition, the Falcon Burqa session offers the chance to design falcon masks using paper and leather.
Al Qattara Arts Centre is also hosting the ‘Young Archaeologist’ programme, which will be held until 17th March. The two-week event featured hands-on workshops with the aim to raise awareness about archaeology, and the tools used to dig, clean, and renovate antiquities.
Al Jahili Fort hosted the ‘Night at the Fort’ event on 28th February, under the theme ‘Desert Bedouins’. Participants had the chance to explore Al Jahili Fort and experience the life and customs of traditional Bedouins.
The event included a number of activities: ‘Boxes from the Past’, an introduction to the collection of heritage items at the Fort; ‘Shadows’, where participants design and create shades that reflect elements from the desert culture and landscape; as well as an ‘Illuminated Painting’ activity, where participants were able to create vibrantly-coloured depictions of desert life.
Al Jahili Fort was built by Sheikh Zayed Bin Khalifa (Zayed the First) between 1891 and 1898, near Al Jahili Oasis.
The fort also served as the official residence of Al Nahyan family, even after the death of Sheikh Zayed the First in 1909.
Al Jahili Fort was re-opened in 2008 as a museum and a venue for cultural and heritage shows, after a implementation of a long restoration programme.
In 2010, Al Jahili fort received the International Architecture Award by the Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design, and the European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies.
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