Way back in October we had a two week holiday called Eid Al Adha. It is basically the Muslim Christmas i.e. it is a BIG deal. It is when they celebrate Abraham being asked to sacrifice his son on the altar, him obediently preparing to do so and they Lord replacing his son with a ram. Same story that we believe only the Muslim world believe he was asked to sacrifice Ishmael (the father of the Arab world) and that Ishmael knew of the sacrifice and was a willing participant, and we believe he was to sacrifice Isaac (the father of the Jews) and that Isaac had no idea.
What it means for me is that I had two weeks off. I went to Bahrain, Oman and finally Egypt and it was wonderful! Flights out of Bahrain are cheaper and Bahrain was rumored to be lovely, so I bought the cheap tickets on the train and settled in for 4 hours. Cheap seats do NOT include windows you can actually see through...
We arrived in Dammam and had to hire a car to drive us across the border. Bahrain is an island that you access via a 16 mile bridge. Most importantly it is NOT Saudi Arabia, meaning, there is music and dancing and movies and men and women talking to each other and Abayas are optional (I opted NOT to wear mine). It is lovely.
I was only there for 2 days so I swam in the lovely pool at my Marriott hotel (thank you Tawna)
And then I took a tour of the big beautiful mosque down the street from my hotel. I have been living in Saudi Arabia but here I am not allowed to go in mosques or talk to men. It was very refreshing to be able to not only go into a a functioning mosque, but to ask all the questions I wanted. Needless to say, this 15 minute tour turned into a 2 hour tour so that I could figure out so many of the mysteries of this religion.
You do have to wear an abaya and cover your hair inside the mosque, but it was awesome to be able to wander around and ask and ask and ask.
Here is a book case full of Qurans. You are not really allowed to touch them if you are not Muslim. They consider the book so sacred that unclean hands cannot even touch it.
Some of the stuff I learned: Mohammed (Like Jesus) never wrote any of the revelations he received, they were all written by other people about what he said.
Muslims believe in all the prophets of the bible, they even respect Jesus as a prophet although NOT the son of God and not the Savior.
They believe Mohammed is the last great prophet, he said all that needed to be said and the Quran contains everything the world would need to know.
Muslims pray five times a day. In places like KSA and other largely Mulsim countries you can hear the call to prayer over loud speakers. Typcially men pray in the mosque, women pray at home. This diagram shows the different stages of the prayer and what needs to be said in each position.
The times of the prayer changes each day because it is according to the sun. 1st prayer is at sunrise (usually around 4:30am here in the middle east) 2nd prayer is when the sun is at the highest point in the sky (before noon) 3rd prayer is when the shadow that the sun casts is double the height of the object (around 3pm) 4th prayer sunset and 5th prayer when the sun has gone down completely and the sky has reached a certain level of darkness. In KSA all businesses and stores must, by law, close at all these times and remain closed for the duration of the prayers (15 to 30 minutes). It is very annoying here in KSA when you are trying to get something done or get to the check out before your frozen goods thaw...but I digress.
We flew to Oman the next day. For the record I LOVE Oman! It is a beautiful country full of such kind and friendly people. KSA is NOT known for being kind and friendly, Oman is! I was traveling with another teacher and she had a contact in Oman, who picked us up and took us to see his beautiful country! We stopped along the water of the Persian Gulf to get some kebabs.