Updated November 29, 2022.
Have you ever visited a mosque? It can be kind of intimidating, especially for women, if you’ve never been in one before. So that’s why I decided to write up a quick guide of do’s and don’t’s so you won’t have to miss out on this cultural and spiritual experience on your travels!
What is a Mosque?
A mosque is an Islamic place of worship. Jews have synagogues, Christians have churches and cathedrals, Shintos have shrines, Buddhists and Hindus have temples, and Muslims have mosques. Mosques have minarets from which the call to prayers is announced, and they look a little like castle turrets or spires to me. There are 5 calls to prayer per day, but only the men go in to pray. There is a separate section, usually in the back and blocked off, for women to enter and pray separately. Like Christians and Jews, Muslims worship God, called Allah in Arabic.
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Mosques are usually fairly plain inside, in accordance with the Islamic tradition of modesty and not calling attention to oneself. However, some mosques (especially in large cities and tourist areas) are very elaborately decorated with painted tiles and beautiful decor.
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What to Do
Don’t be afraid of sticking out! Here’s how to blend in and look like you know what you’re doing.
- Take off your shoes. Everyone does it, and there is usually a shoe rack to store them just outside the door.
- Women: wear a head covering. Bring a scarf with you for this. Sometimes there are people selling scarves outside the mosque for tourists, and sometimes mosques will have scarves available if you did not bring one, but it’s always best to just bring your own. If for no other reason, it shows that you know what is appropriate and that you are respectful of a culture different from your own.
- Pay attention to specific rules at the mosque you are visiting. Oddly enough, the most strict mosque I’ve visited was not in the Middle East or in a predominantly Muslim country—it was in Washington, D.C.!
- Take photos to show others how beautiful a mosque can be.
Read on: What Men and Women Wear in the Middle East
What Not to Do
What NOT to do is as important as what you should do!
- Don’t visit during prayer times. A time of worship and prayer is not a time for tourism.
- Don’t take photos of people praying and worshipping. It is not appropriate to take photos of people praying, so please don’t.
- Don’t be loud and obnoxious. Visiting any house of worship is not the right time or place for shouting, joking, or anything similar. Go in, keep your hands to yourself, look around, and appreciate the experience!
More here: How to Embrace Cultural Differences on Travel
Have you visited a mosque? If so, tell me about it in the comments! If not, would you consider visiting one after reading this post?
Want more about Middle Eastern and Muslim countries? Check out my dedicated Turkey Page, Qatar Page, Egypt Page, and Morocco Page!
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3 thoughts on “How to Respectfully Visit a Mosque”
I visited few in Instanbul, one even during the prayer, which I thought it was not really possible. It was an amazing experience. One of the most beautiful ones that I visited was the one in Casablanca. It is so special and huge. Beside taking off my shoes and wearing a scarf there was never any other requirements.