UAE's Abrahamic Family House opens: Design and names of mosque, church, synagogue explained

The 3 places of worship were named after Dr Ahmed Al Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al Azhar; Pope Francis, Head of the Catholic Church; and Moses Ben Maimon, 12th-century Jewish philosopher

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Sahim Salim

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Published: Thu 16 Feb 2023, 10:33 PM

Last updated: Mon 3 Jul 2023, 4:19 PM

UAE's Abrahamic Family House opens: Design, names of mosque, church and synagogue explained

The Abrahamic Family House has been inaugurated in the UAE Capital, sending out a fresh message of tolerance and coexistence. Featuring a mosque, church and a synagogue in the same compound, the interfaith complex on Saadiyat Island was designed by architect Sir David Adjaye.

The complex will be open to visits from March 1 at 10am, according to the Abrahamic Family House website.

Design explained

The design of the project was first unveiled by Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, at a global gathering in New York in 2019.

A place for learning, dialogue and worship, the Abrahamic Family House is a cultural landmark that epitomises the shared values of harmonious coexistence and understanding among the three Abrahamic faiths of Islam, Christianity and Judaism.

According to the complex's website, the three houses of worship are designed of equal stature, size and materiality to "eliminate any sense of hierarchy". They are linked through an elevated landscaped garden that "becomes a shared space for gathering and connection".

Ahmed El Tayeb Mosque

Photo: Official website
Photo: Official website

Named after Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Ahmed Mohamed Ahmed El Tayeb, the mosque is oriented towards Makkah.

Its exterior has seven arches, while the main internal structure consists of nine ascending vaults, "each rising to form a sail vault at their apex", according to the website.

The mosque also features Islamic architecture feature mashrabiya - a wall or window of delicate latticework that allows air circulation and lights up the place.

Francis Church

Photo: Official website
Photo: Official website

Named after St. Francis of Assisi, a 13th century monk who dedicated himself to a life of radical poverty, the church faces east - towards the rising sun.

"Its forest of columns is orientated in this direction to maximise the eastern light and emphasises verticality to express the concepts of incarnation (or descent) and resurrection (or ascent) that are central to the Christian faith," the website states.

More than 13,000 linear metres of timber form the church's vaulting.

Moses Ben Maimon Synagogue

Photo: Official website
Photo: Official website

Named after the 12th century Jewish philosopher, the synagogue symbolises the traditional shelter for prayer.

A crisscross diagrid façade and soffit represent the palm trees used to build a Sukkah. "It provides protection from the sun and allows the stars to be seen at night ... The skylight references a chuppah, a temporary structure used during Jewish marriages for the couple to stand under fabric beneath a sea of stars," the website states.

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