Etiquette 101: The Dos and Don'ts of Visiting Mosques in the Middle East

Jameh Mosque, Iran | © Anton_Ivanov/Shutterstock
Jameh Mosque, Iran | © Anton_Ivanov/Shutterstock
Photo of Gehad Medhat
19 September 2017

Masjed or game’e are the words for mosque in Arabic, the places where Muslims pray and worship God. Mosques are very sacred to Muslims, and they commit themselves to keeping them clean and being respectful in and around them at all times. Mosques can be found everywhere in Islamic countries, from the Middle East to Southeast Asia. In terms of their architecture and history, mosques make very appealing tourist attractions. Here’s what you need to know if visiting a mosque in the Middle East, where the rules may be a bit more strict.

Hagia Sophia By: Jorge Lascar | Flickr

Do inform yourself about the meaning of mosques

Muslims believe that every mosque is a house of God. In these houses they pray, read the Holy Qur’an, take lessons about Islam, tell morals from the stories of the prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) and ask about each others’ wellbeing. Muslims work together to keep the mosque clean, ensure that it has a good scent, and that it is regularly repaired. So, visitors must understand the importance of mosques and the sincere meaning they occupy in the hearts of Muslims, and respect that.

Do take off your shoes before you enter

Muslims take off their shoes every time they enter a mosque. They expect visitors to follow their lead and show the same respect when they enter a mosque.

Shoes Outside Mosque By: Robert Couse-Baker | Flickr

Women: Please do cover your hair

Muslim women cover up during prayer. Their traditional dress covers their hair and is wide, non-transparent, and long sleeved. It is respectful of non-Muslim women to also wear hijab, a scarf that covers their heads, when visiting a mosque.

New Mosque By: David Stanley | Flickr

Do wear proper clothes

As mosques are sacred, it is not appropriate for either men or women to wear short clothes that show much skin. Long trousers and shirts or t-shirts are suitable for men, and maxi long-sleeved dresses, skirts and blouses or trousers and long-sleeved shirts with a headscarf are suitable for women.

Praying By: Giorgio Montersino | Flickr

Do turn off your mobile

As Muslims go to mosques to worship God, there must be nothing that interrupts their practice. It is very disturbing to hear a phone ringing, or someone talking on the phone. So, Muslims and visitors must switch off their phones or put them on silent mode before entering a mosque.

Don’t leave any rubbish inside the mosque

Before you leave a mosque, make sure you didn’t leave any personal belongings behind. More importantly, make sure that you left it as clean as it was, and that there is no rubbish left behind.

Don’t let your kids run or play inside the mosque

Kids are welcome inside mosques. They can join their parents while praying, or simply touring. Nevertheless, parents must make sure to inform their kids about appropriate manners inside mosques. They are not to make loud noises, run around or scream, as it disturbs Muslims and interrupts their worship. They also need to make sure that they leave it clean and neat.

Lost in Prayers By: Rajarshi MITRA | Flickr

Don’t eat or drink inside a mosque

Muslims don’t eat or drink inside mosques. It is not forbidden, but they fear affecting its cleanliness and tidiness. However, on some occasions they gather in mosques, bringing sweets to share and to celebrate. These occasions include Ramadan, both Eids and social events like weddings. Everyone works together afterwards to clean up.

Ramdan By: AMISOM Public Information | Flickr

Don’t raise your voice

Muslims look for peace as they worship God inside mosques. During your visit, make sure that you don’t make any noise, speak loudly, laugh hard or talk on the phone. Keep the calmness of the place intact and show respect.

Mosque By: Quinn Mattingly | Flickr

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