Areas in Abuja: Map and Pictures of Abuja National Mosque and Slum
Unexpected adventures befell my odyssey in Nigeria, but they were worth the endeavour. I’d seen the Abuja National Mosque on the roadside, and it caught my eye. Instantly fascinated by its appearance; a grand structure in the middle of the business capital would make for the perfect visit. I was visiting the mosque with my Kenyan friend, Mary and my Nigerian friend, Aye. We had to improvise by using our “lesos” (scarves) to become makeshift hijabs so that we were fully clothed.
We arrived at the premises at 4:00 pm and the guards refused to let us in because we had passed the visitation time limit. After sweet-talking the guards, they directed us to the administration office where we were asked to await the mosque representative who’d be with us shortly. It seemed like all Nigerians were fascinated by Kenyans. Abdallah, our guide’s face lit up when Mary and I spoke of our country. He eagerly gave us some forms to fill and we were on our way. The entrance of the mosque had a yellow tiled staircase up to the opening of the praying ground.
At first glance, I was completely stunned by how amazing the architecture was. There was a grey gate with spirals that led to open space. It was tiled from bottom up; maroon and mustard clovers embodied black stars on the floor that followed each other simultaneously to great giant doors. These held the pave the way to the entrance which towered above us like the gates of heaven would; three mahogany crested main doors made of brass. Above two were similar clover patterns in green and yellow. The middle door, a few feet larger than the rest, had Islamic writing at the top.
Above, was an optical illusion of tiles neatly folding themselves inwards and outwards that mirrored a Lego masterpiece. There were green and blue tiles neatly placed around this structure that reflected its magnanimous presence. It was a sight for sore eyes, one could get lost in the significant symmetry the distortion of the human eye progressed further with a giant golden dome above that resembled the golden egg from Jack and the Beanstalk. On-top, the crescent moon was glaring gracefully in the face of the sun. There were two small spheres besides the dome, like a mother and her two children walking side by side in equilibrium. There were four key pillars that stood opposite each other to symbolize the four key pillars of Islam. The rest of the mosque was square with multi-coloured green and yellow stained-glass windows with exes to illuminate the inside of the mosque. There were four slanting walls with triangle tiles above them.
As a woman, you’re not permitted to enter the male part of the mosque, Abdallah escorted us to the female section. It had Arabic designed carpets from beginning to the end of the large hall supported by protruding wide pillars. There were beautiful golden grills that gleamed and glimmered, reflecting life so effortlessly off their surface; partitions to see the rest of the mosque. The walls had a golden glare that easily bounced light off them, giant chandeliers of golden stars overhead. The dome was open inside the mosque as an open sphere of bright white light that spread into the praying ground.
The National Mosque of Abuja had taken 10 years to build and has been active since 1984. The mosque gets all its funding from well-wishers who choose to donate their earnings to the mosque. The chief Imam is Ustadz Musa Mohammed. The mosque includes a conference room capable of serving 500 people and the library, the office for the Islamic Centre and residential facilities for the imam and muezzin.
In the evening, my friends, Adan and Kosy wanted to engulf themselves deeper into Nigerian culture and we decided to go to the slum for dinner. We found a cute little kiosk on the side of the road. When you travel, you become more accustomed to street food. The vendor was making indomi noodles with a touch of pepper, tomatoes and onions. I was famished and this seemed like the best and cleanest option to consume. We ordered three plates and sat side by side awaiting our meal. Adan dashed over to the butchery to buy meat.
Common belief dictates that going to a slum is beneath anyone of higher social standing; it’s not safe and no one should ever go there. Instead, we found only peaceful people minding their own business; engaged in the chit chat of their conversations, children playing joyfully in the street at 10:00 pm. Kosy reasoned that “The people of the slums make up Nigeria’s economy. “and that’s when it hit me, poor people are happier than most. Despite being surrounded by open sewage and dilapidated houses, there was still a reason to smile, simplicity equates to happiness. The food was so cheap and scrumptious. It cost a mere 50 Naira for plantain and 100 Naira for the indomi noodles.
Sadly, a sandstorm cut our visit short and it was time for us to scramble back to the hotel with hooded eyes. Instantaneously, the shops began to close; one after the other like falling dominoes. It surprised me at how fast the storm had fallen upon us. There was lighting in the sky striking down at the slum, people of all ages were maneuvring to get to shelter, a modern-day Scramble for Africa. The corrugated roofs were rattling from the commotion. Nature is our best friend but can easily turn into our worst enemy.
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