The morning of our last day in Dubai we finally got around to visiting a local mosque and were given a brief introduction into the Muslim religion. The tour is put on by a local organization in an effort to help educate those of us that have really never experienced the Muslim world. Although I am somewhat exposed to the religion on an almost daily basis, as I work with Muslims locally and overseas, I will say that this experience was rather enlightening and one that I wish we had had the opportunity to do much earlier in the trip.
Prior to our visit, when I was around mosques and the traditionally dressed Muslims I found myself feeling uneasy and avoided eye contact. One day when taking photos of a beautiful mosque just down the street from our hotel the call for prayer went out and I immediately felt intimidated and uneasy and tried not to look anyone in the eye as they entered for their prayer time. Even as I type I now realize just how foolish this sounds. The basis of religion aside, it is akin to feeling uneasy and not looking someone in the eye as they enter a Christian church for prayers. Put this way, it sounds ludicrous and after our visit to the mosque, at least for our one remaining day, I sought out eye contact and it was often returned with a smile and welcoming look. I now wonder if they feel the same when surrounded by Christians? I wonder if, because a very small percentage of extremist Christians behave aside from what our bible tells us, they too feel uncomfortable around us?