Mosque visit provides inside look at different faith, culture

Growing up immersed in Islam was an interesting experience for me as a young girl of American-Egyptian heritage. My father was born and raised in Egypt as a Muslim, and we went to the mosque occasionally for Muslim holidays. I traveled to Egypt several times throughout my life and visited different mosques, so when I found out our group was traveling to Uganda National Mosque, also known as Gaddafi Mosque, I was excited to see a mosque in another country.

The tower of the Uganda National Mosque overlooks the city of Kampala. (Nadia Ibrahim | The Media School)

The tower of the Uganda National Mosque overlooks the city of Kampala. (Nadia Ibrahim | The Media School)

When we arrived, the women in our group headed over to the tourism tent, where we properly covered our shoulders, hair, chest and ankles in colorful garb. Everyone looked beautiful, even if they felt a little goofy. There’s something special about having people of different faiths, or none at all, come together and embrace a culture other than their own.

Women students from The Media School covered their heads to enter Uganda National Mosque. (Nadia Ibrahim | The Media School)

Women students from The Media School covered their heads to enter Uganda National Mosque. (Nadia Ibrahim | The Media School)

Once we were properly dressed and had removed our shoes, we made our way inside the mosque. An enthusiastic young man named Twaha was our tour guide. He graced us with his patience and with his knowledge and love of Islam, walking us through each part of the mosque and sharing its history.

Uganda National Mosque holds up to 35,000 people and is the largest mosque in East Africa. Visitors typically tour the men’s section, the women’s section and the veranda, which can be used to hold events like weddings or other gatherings.

Twaha said our group got lucky that day because the whole mosque was open for tours. We were able to walk up the 300-plus stairs of the tower that overlooks Kampala.

Students climbed the 300 steps in the tower of the Uganda National Mosque for a panoramic view of Kampala. (Nadia Ibrahim | The Media School)

Once known as the “Seven Hills,” in reference to the historical location of the city, modern-day Kampala covers close to two dozen hills, visible from the mosque tower. We were in awe of the clarity of the view.

It was magical visiting such an esteemed mosque in East Africa and seeing my fellow students experience their first mosque.