One afternoon last week, we spent a pleasurable few hours shooting some classes at this grand mosque in Riyadh. We had asked to shoot some video for our documentary series, The Arabs – A People’s History, and the mosque kindly let us in on a Saturday afternoon. There were several groups were spread out around the mosque, reading and reciting from the Koran, they seemed to be divided by age, the youngest being about 4 or 5 years old, going up to men who were well into middle age.
Stepping into the mosque from 40 degrees C, the atmosphere inside was wonderfully cool and calm. Everybody seemed happy to see us and we were met with smiles and nods wherever we went. At one point an official from the mosque came over looking quite grave and I was worried that I’d done something inappropriate or insensitive. In fact he wanted to make sure I was getting all the pictures I needed and to introduce me to a group of students who he thought would make a good set up for our sequence: we wanted footage that would illustrate how mosques can be centres of education.
When we’d finished, the Imam invited us to his offices for coffee, tea and sweets and as we left, presented us with several booklets and DVDs.