North of the soaring Burj Khalifa and Dubai’s ultra-modern downtown, the neighbourhood of Deira is the city’s historic heart. And while the commercial centre of the 21st century metropolis has moved to the new downtown south of Dubai Creek, Deira remains a cultural haven. Although the area’s (comparatively) low-rise character arguably takes a back seat to the Gulf metropolis’ contemporary marvels, the historic milieu makes an appropriately intimate setting for the recently completed Mosque of the Late Mohamed Abdulkhaliq Gargash.
Designed by local firm Dabbagh Architects, the striking mosque is one the UAE’s first places of worship by a female architect. According to Dabbagh principal and founder Sumaya Dabbagh, the 1,680-square-metre space is conceived to reflect the daily rhythms of prayers in Islam.
“Muslim prayer is performed throughout the day at prescribed timings: at dawn, midday, afternoon, sunset and at night,” explains Sumaya. “This discipline creates a human connection with the natural day and night rhythm. The experience created through the design of the mosque seeks to enhance this connection through a controlled introduction of natural lighting.”
Throughout the mosque, natural light is a defining presence; spilling in through the delicately perforated walls to create poetic interplays of shadow and light. From the low and delicately patterned stone wall that frames the complex to the ceiling above the mosque’s elegant courtyard, triangular perforations (a nod to traditional Islamic geometry) are a recurring motif — one also subtly reflected across the building’s facade. A verse from the Quran (Sulah) is also embossed in a band across the exterior of the prayer hall, imbuing the simple structure with another layer of quiet spiritual meaning.
From the courtyard and ablution hall to spaces for storing shoes and quietly reading the Quran before prayer, light and shadow contours every room with an individual spatial quality — a journey designed to prepare each visitor for prayer.
In the main prayer hall itself — a contemplative, pared down environment — diffuse light gently spills into the room from three sides. Above, a perforated dome connects the space with the heavens, while additional light flows in from the geometry of triangles engraved across the walls. Finally, the centrepiece Mihrab niche is illuminated from behind, lighting the way toward Mecca.
Architect Sumaya Dabbagh uses natural light to weave a spiritual journey, preparing visitors for prayer.