Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has attended the official opening of a unique eco-friendly mosque in Cambridge on Thursday afternoon.
Cambridge Central Mosque on Mill Road, which has the capacity for 1,000 worshippers, cost £23m to build. The Turkish government and singer Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens), who also attended the inauguration, were among the donors who funded the mosque’s construction.
The new facility, which first opened to the public in April, is equipped with solar panels, relies on green energy and aims for a zero-carbon footprint. Among its many green features are the harvesting of rainwater, which will be used to flush the toilets and irrigate the grounds.
“We sought to develop the idea of a British mosque for the 21st century,” the mosque’s website says.
“With everything from solar panels and grey water harvesting, to state-of-the-art heating and cooling technology, it is a pioneer in ‘green deen (faith)’, reminding us of our connection to nature.”
Speaking at the opening, the Turkish President said: “I think this place of worship will be the best answer to the rising anti-Islamism”.
“I believe this mosque, which has become the symbol of solidarity against discrimination from the first moment, will, God willing, continue to be the centre of unity, conversation and peace in the future,” he added.
During the mosque’s opening, President Erdoğan also recited from the Kuran.
About the pioneering Cambridge Central Mosque
The Cambridge Central Mosque was 10-year project, from inception to completion, and fuses Islamic and English architecture. The sacred space is by Marks Barfield Architects, which won a competition to design the building back in 2009. Over the past decade their concept of the mosque as a calm oasis within a grove of trees has come to life.
According to the mosque’s website, the site was built in collaboration with a variety of UK-based specialists including geometer Keith Critchlow, garden designer Emma Clark, and artists Amber Khokhar and Ayesha Gamiet and is a “unique synthesis” of “traditional Islamic architecture, geometry and horticulture with indigenous English materials, plants and craftsmanship”.
Yusuf Islam with President Erdoğan at the official opening of Cambridge Central Mosque
The defining feature of Cambridge Mosque is its timber tree-column structure that support the roof. Its interlaced octagonal lattice vault structure is evocative of English gothic fan vaulting that is famously used at the nearby King’s College Chapel. The timber is sustainably sourced spruce, which has been curved and laminated. Roof lights are located above the ‘trees’, bathing the prayer hall in light. The octagonal geometry has strong symbolism in Islamic art, suggesting the cycle of inhalation and exhalation – the ‘Breath of the Divine’.
Worshippers and visitors enter via an Islamic garden before passing through a covered portico and then an atrium, preparing them gradually for the contemplation of the prayer hall, facing Mecca. This combination of gardens with whispering fountains and vaulted prayer spaces has been used to great effect throughout Islamic history – for instance, at the Alhambra – and it reminds us of the interconnectedness of humans and the natural world.
The gardens enhance the feeling of an ‘oasis’ that the building as a whole embodies.
President Erdoğan in London for NATO summit
President Erdoğan had arrived in the UK earlier in the week to attend a two-day NATO summit near London. The meeting saw several NATO leaders clash with one another, with some expressing their disapproval over Turkey’s recent military operation in Syria.
During his visit, the Turkish president held a meeting with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at 10 Downing Street. He separately held a half-hour meeting with President Trump, which was described by President Erdoğan’s Communications Director Fahrettin Altun as “very productive”.
Mr Erdoğan’s trip to the capital also included a reception at Buckingham Palace hosted by Queen Elizabeth II in honour of NATO, which turned 70 on Tuesday, 3 December. First Lady Emine Erdoğan accompanied the President to the reception. The pair then attended a dinner hosted by Prime Minister Johnson for leaders of NATO member countries.
All photos © Facebook/Turkish Presidency