“What do you mean that’s how you know you’re facing East. All mosques face West!” I was confused, and so was Meyrem. It hadn’t taken me too long to learn on my previous travels that if you want to orient yourself, look at the sun and look at the mosques. Mosques face East, toward Jerusalem. But he was insistent. “No, no. Every mosque I’ve ever been in… they all face West.” He asked me which direction we were facing. “North-West,” I answered without a hesitation. He smiled. I was right. “And how do you know? The mosque is twenty minutes that way.” I told him that Rudaki avenue runs North South, and the sun was rising just to the right of us, so we must be facing North-East.
It was the morning after the holiest night of Ramadan, and three students we were spending our Saturday with we showing us around downtown Dushanbe. We’d visited most of the sights, except for the most important: the mosque, hence the topic of our conversation. When we arrived, we found tiled mosaic minarets and vibrant cool colors fusing Russia’s former influence over the central asian region with the Islamic traditions it sought to squelch. Sure enough, it was facing west. On a bulletin outside, were the floor plans for a new, more magnificent mosque to be built near the outskirts of the city. It too, was facing West.
On our walk home, it dawned on us that we were each, respective to our regular living locations, correct. In every other country I’d lived or passed through, all mosques faced East. Likewise, Tajikistan -being on the opposite side of Jerusalem east even of the Caspian Sea- would angle each of its mosques toward the West.
On a map, the distance between Rabat, Morocco, and Dushanbe, Tajikistan (upper right) is nearly 9,000 km. However, in reality, it an be easy to forget just how much grounds one has covered– to the extent that the mosques change direction without our being aware of it! Just an observation on awareness and perspective. 🙂
(Julia Jakus. Charki Mosque. 2 July 2016. Dushanbe, Tajikistan)
(*The photos you see above were taken with permission.)