The Abrahamic Family House, a new centre for learning, dialogue and faith practice located in the Saadiyat Cultural District in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE), was officially opened on Thursday by His Highness Lieutenant General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed al-Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, and Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak al-Nahyan, Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence. The Abrahamic Family House welcomed its first worshippers over the weekend. The inaugural Friday prayer was held at the Ahmed El-Tayeb Mosque on 17 February, marking the first time the community was welcomed inside one of the three houses of worship to practice the faith.
On Sunday 19 February, the Moses Ben Maimon Synagogue held its first service, which began with the laying of the Mezuzah followed by Mincha, the evening prayer. It houses a church, a mosque and a synagogue. In addition, a conference on interfaith relations is planned for the near future. Rabbi Lustig noted that it will serve to "build bridges between religious leaders and communities".
The Abrahamic Family House will be a beacon of mutual understanding where people of all religious backgrounds will coexist harmoniously and peacefully. It consists of a mosque, a church, a synagogue and an educational centre located on Saadiyat Island in the cultural heart of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. Through its design, it captures the shared values between Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and serves as a powerful platform to inspire and foster understanding and acceptance among people of goodwill. The vision for the Abrahamic Family House originated after the signing of the Document on Human Fraternity by Pope Francis and Grand Imam Ahmed Al-Tayeb in February 2019, in the presence of more than 400 religious leaders.
The opening of the Abrahamic Family House in Abu Dhabi is a reflection of the vision of HH Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed to further human fraternity. It embodies the UAE's values of mutual respect and peaceful coexistence. pic.twitter.com/wBGRbtt4HL— سيف بن زايد آل نهيان (@SaifBZayed) February 17, 2023
The complex will be a place of learning, dialogue and worship, open to all and a true reflection of the UAE's belief in tolerance and hospitality. In each prayer house, visitors will have the opportunity to learn about religious practices, listen to the Bible and perform sacred rituals. The fourth space, unrelated to any particular religion, will become an educational centre where all can come together in a community dedicated to mutual understanding and peace. The Abrahamic Family House will host a variety of programmes and events, from daily worship services to international summits.
Architectural design must work to anchor the world we want to live in, a world of tolerance, openness and constant evolution. Architectural and landscape design can interpret the structure and principles of a place to accelerate conversations, re-evaluate current worldviews and explore more meaningfully what the place can offer. The project aims to meaningfully represent and support diverse groups of believers, residents and visitors, embodying a contemporary spirit rooted in tradition, yet forward-looking, a future defined and determined by acceptance, inclusion and peace.
Sir David Adjaye is responsible for the project; he is an award-winning architect of Ghanaian and British descent, whose imaginative use of materials, bespoke designs and foresight have made him one of the world's leading architects; a leading architect of his generation. In 2017, Sir Adjaye was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II and named by TIME magazine as one of the 100 most influential people of the year. The design by his practice, Adjaye Associates, won the competition for the Abrahamic Family House and was unveiled on 20 September 2019 at the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity's Celebration of Human Fraternity event in New York City.
The designs are not arbitrary. The mosque's celebrates both collective congregation and the vital provision of privacy. It uniformly provides users with the opportunity to observe the customs of Islamic prayer, again using articulated thresholds to allow viewing to occur separately from the act of joining. The building promotes cohesion, layering and a rhythmic journey that begins with viewing, followed by spiritual bathing and ending with prayer. The church caters to different Christian denominations. General rites and unions take precedence, with the water element existing outside the church entrance and manifesting itself as a rite of passage, as opposed to the descending sequence that takes place in mosques and synagogues.
Finally, the lines visible in the design of the synagogue protect the dignity of the congregation and the ceremony. The first synagogue built in the United Arab Emirates features a series of architectural styles that culminate in a sacred representation of the congregation's internal prayer. The synagogue's multi-storey façade recalls the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, when palm trees are harvested and communities pitch tents in their gardens to gather and eat.