The UAE declared the year of 2019 as the Year of Tolerance, and during that year several initiatives here were launched in that very spirit. Pope Francis was here on a visit, and probably one of the most important ideas to come out of that, was the idea to create The Abrahamic Family House.
I have followed the construction almost daily, as they are situated just across the road from the Louvre Abu Dhabi, on Saadiyat Island. In the beginning of the month, they were finally opened to the public, but I had saved my first visit until the whole family was gathered; and yesterday we went to discover!
This is an interfaith complex, housing a church, a synagogue and a mosque. The design is unifying in that each building is a 30 by 30 meter cube, providing a common base. But each individual building is at the same time entirely unique, the Ghanaian-British architect David Adjaye has drawn on inspirations from each of the three Abrahamic faiths.
His Holiness Francis Church is dedicated to the 13th century monk Saint Francis of Assisi, after which the current Pope is named. It is oriented towards the east, and the rising sun.
Some details from the inside:
The ceiling inside the church is made of timber, and is meant to invoke the story of Noah's Ark. It was absolutely stunning!
Another picture from the outside:
The synagogue is the first purpose-built Jewish place of worship in the UAE, and it is oriented towards Jerusalem. It is called the Moses Ben Maimon Synagogue, to honor the 12th century Jewish philosopher known as Rabbi Maimonides.
There was prayers going on at the moment of our visit, so unfortunately we could not see the inside of the synagogue today. We will come back.
Last but not least, the Imam Al-Tayeb Mosque is named after the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, and of course, oriented towards Mecca.
Us ladies had to cover to enter (there are abayas on loan for those who are not aware of dress code) and all had to remove their shoes. Nathan hadn't quite thought through his sock choice... this was NOT on purpose, but we had a good giggle!
The light is important in each of the structures, here it filters inside the mosque by the mashrabiya
on the windows:
(the niche) and the minbar
The ablution space outside:
Underground, there is a Visitors Center and an Exhibition Space. The Abrahamic Family House is already in full use as a space for worship, but it is also a center for learning and dialogue. The plans are to host a variety of different events here.
The exhibition space ended with the Wall of Intentions, where visitors are invited to write down their wishes or intentions. It was beautiful to see all the messages scribbled here, in different languages, intentions of peace, love and acceptance.
This olive tree was over 100 years old, a cross-cultural symbol of peace, well suited right here:
A monument in the reception area:
The Foundation Stone was on display here, together with the story behind the Abrahamic Family House.
There is also a library corner, and a café:
And also a gift shop, selling objects that all carry messages of coexistence. It was beautifully curated.
What a stunning and majestic place! A powerful statement of respect and tolerance in the adversarial world we are living in. The Abrahamic Family House sure is a beacon, and a symbol of the openness, inclusion and coexistence that I love so much about living in Abu Dhabi.