Behind an ornate iron gate in the shadow of soaring buildings on Shelley Street is Jamia Mosque, the very first mosque in Hong Kong built in the mid 19th century. Also referred to as the Lascar Temple, it was reputedly built to accommodate the religious needs of a growing community of Muslim sailors and Indian Lascars serving under the British on a piece of land leased from the government. Originally referred to as the Mohameddan Mosque it underwent a name change to Jamia Mosque after WW II. It is proof of the melting pot that is Hong Kong and a prominent reminder of the city’s colourful history. Classified as a Grade I building, the mosque is a protected monument which is maintained by the Hong Kong Government. Located in a quiet, sheltered space appropriate for a house of god, it is one of Hong Kong’s five mosques that cater to the city’s Muslim population. A rectangular building by design, it has the traditional arched entrance way, a series of arched windows around and a minaret and was clearly influenced by the Indo Islamic style of architecture popular at the time. Expanded in 1915 by a private benefactor to accommodate the ever increasing number of worshipers, the mosque can now accommodate up to 400 devotees at a time. It is busy throughout the day as it caters to those who come here to pray five times a day and to young Muslims who come to study the Koran after school. It is also one of the most visited mosques in the city.
The busiest day is Friday when a large gathering of Muslims from around the world, made up of visitors and Hong Kong residents, gather here to pray. They join a small community who are the descendents of the original Muslim community in the city who live on site. The mosque is easily accessed via the Mid Levels escalator and a flight of steps.
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