Constructed in 1908, the Red Mosque is a historical landmark and recognized as one of the oldest mosques in Colombo. I did a bit of reading up and stumbled upon a snippet which stated that it was used as a landmark by sailors who came to Colombo from afar. Fun fact: this snippet could have been confirmed or sourced properly had any of the mosque employees thought it okay to divulge information about its history, instead of telling me that they’re not allowed to say anything about it. SUSPICIOUS.
Anyway, the mosque’s been going through a series of expansions over the last few years, and will, in time, be large enough to accommodate 10,000 people (research revealed that it initially accommodated only 500).
Imaad reconnoitred the area and was surprised to find an escalator being installed as well. Given how tall it is (we estimate it to be about six stories high), this makes sense.
The architecture and design are what makes it stand out in a highly industrialized area. The uniform contrast of red and white bricks next to each other, topped off with a couple of bulbous domes are what gave it its more commonly known identity as the ‘Red Mosque’.
Its actual name is the Jamiyul Alfar Jummah Masjid or the Samman Kottu Palli, but eh. In Sinhala, it’s simply called the rathu palliya akin to what it’s called in English. Strangely (or not so strangely), the domes were designed to take the shape of a pomegranate — and it’s also the pomegranate’s bright colouring which lead to the mosque being predominantly red. You can read more about its architecture here.
However, what’s weird is that women aren’t allowed in. Or at least, local Muslim women (as of when I went earlier this week), because my tourist friends and non-Muslim female friends have been in and shown around the place. I mentioned this at the counter area repeatedly (“”why can’t I go in?””) only to be told that sorry, no women allowed. WHAT the what. They also have a board in the lobby saying that “”brothers”” can donate Rs 5000 towards constructing a square foot of the mosque in order to be granted a place in eternal paradise. In case it isn’t clear, I strongly resent this sexism. Pictured below is a sad me standing forlornly in the lobby as Imaad ventured in on his own.
Happy news though: they’re actually making “”provision for helping ladies for praying and resting”” once construction is complete, so those of us unfortunate enough to be born into the weaker sex could enter. Someday.
Long story short, not sure what their policy is when it comes to inclusiveness, because it seems to change every other month. Maybe I walked in at an anti-female time, or maybe you need to be a tourist to get in.
Or maybe, you just need to be a man.