The shoe-strewn entrance to Kowloon Masjid
during the mosque's Open Day :)
Freely accessible areas this afternoon
included the main prayer hall
The spacious room can accomodate
up to 1,000 worshippers at a time
Equipment set up for prayer time
While taking an American visitor around Central a few months back, I was asked whether there are any Muslims in Hong Kong. If that fellow had stayed in a hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui (like many of his fellow tourists), chances are higher that he'd have known that this is indeed the case since one of that area's most prominent landmarks is the largest of the Big Lychee's six mosques.
Situated next to Kowloon Park over on Nathan Road, Kowloon Masjid (AKA Kowloon Mosque) opened for prayers on Friday, May 11, 1984. Replacing an older mosque on the Kowloon Peninsula that had been a place of Muslim worship for over 80 years before it was demolished, this newer, larger structure also houses an Islamic Centre and its facilities include separate madrasah for boys and girls, three prayer halls (which can accomodate a total of 3,500 worshippers at a time), a kitchen, offices for its staff and a community hall.
For a few hours this afternoon, the lower two floors of the Kowloon Masjid were made accessible to the non-Muslims as well as Muslims alike. On the ground floor (in British English but first floor in American English), things were on the festive side this Open Day. To be sure, the central area was given to a speaker delivering a talk about Islam in Cantonese and exhibits on such as "The Books of Allah", "Pillars of Islam", "Articles of Faith" and "25 Prophets of Allah Mentioned in the Quran". But there also were rooms where women could try wearing hijab and men could put on Arabic attire, and corners where people could sample halal food and get their names written out in Arabic calligraphy.
On the first floor (in British English but second floor in American English) can be found the mosque's main prayer hall. I must admit to being surprised to be assured, when I asked, that I was free to go check it out and that I wouldn't need to put on a gown or veil in order to go in. And I also appreciated being informed that the Arabic writing at the prayer hall's entrance spells out the Islamic greeting of Assalamu Alaikum (which translates into English as "Peace Be With You".
Inside the prayer hall, I saw a man praying and other men sitting about, individually and in groups. I also noticed a sign asking people to not sleep in the space -- and I suppose that might be tempting to some because the carpet that covers the entire floor is really nice and soft and, despite my suspecting that the prayer hall isn't air-conditioned, it actually felt airy and cool in the high ceilinged space.
For all of its size, this prayer hall may well have been the most modest-looking of all the mosques I've been into (which thus far have been limited to ones in Istanbul -- whose Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and Suleymaniye Mosque really can take the breath away with their beauty and grandeur -- and Malaysia, including the royal mosque in Kuala Kangsar). At the same time though, I felt a serenity about the place that was really comfortable and comforting -- and imagine that Kowloon Masjid is a mosque that Muslims in Hong Kong are happy to visit, worship in, and can feel at ease.