The heat and the needs of prayer affect the days in an Arab city

You will also notice how the normal full day in a traditional Arab city is affected partly by the heat and partly by the needs of prayer. At noon it would be normal for many shopkeepers and shoppers to break off for prayer. Following the noon prayer, and especially during the heat of summer, it is normal for shopkeepers to close down for the afternoon period, say from 1 pm to 4 pm. This in turn leads to a change in the evening period. In most countries of the Arab world, there is much activity in the suuq area until as late as 10 pm. As a result it is normal for social life in towns to go on till much later.

Mosques, ablutions and religious verses

The name for the open area of the mosque, before the ablutions area and the prayer hall, is SaHn. The word for square, plaza or piazza is saaHa.

A feature which you will find very attractive inside mosques is the use of the Arabic script. The flowing shapes, reading from right to left, have an artistic appeal even if you are not able to read them.

The simplest mosque will have religious verses displayed, maybe in framed pictures, maybe in cartouches, or in large, flowery Arabic script on the walls. Very often the script will be verses from the Quran; the chapter and verse will not be given because everyone is so familiar with the Quran.

You will also notice, if you stand near the entrance to the mosque, that Muslims move into the mosque with no great ceremony, since it is an instinctive duty to pray five times a day.

When they pray in the mosque, Muslims will, after performing their ablutions and removing shoes, proceed to the prayer hall. There you will notice that there are no benches since the worshippers stand in rows and perform their ritual movements in one spot.

The floors will usually be carpeted and in larger, richer cities, the carpets will be ornate and can weigh many tons,

The direction of prayer, towards Makkah, will be indicated by a niche in the wall, the miHraab.

The other large feature to note is the pulpit, i.e. the minbar from which the sermon is preached on Fridays.

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