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Las Vegas

I had been in Las Vegas before, but never as a Muslim. And in Las Vegas (off all places) I was going to attend my first Friday prayer as a new Muslim.

I was going to stay with a (non-Muslim) friend for 3 weeks; her apartment was close to the strip, the famous street with all the major hotels.
As she had a busy day job I had all the time to go my own way.
Before I set out on my trip, I had searched the internet to see if there were any Mosques or Islamic centres located in Las Vegas, for I feared that I would be the only Muslim around, can you imagine a Mosque in Las Vegas? But to my surprise there were several Mosques and Islamic centres, even an Islamic school.
I just picked a Mosque randomly and send them an email, asking if there were any meetings or lectures that I could attend during my stay.
I received a quick reply from a brother who send me the email address of an American converted sister, Miriam*, who was quite active in their community. Soon after I emailed her she replied, she was happy to hear from me and gave me her telephone number and asked me to contact her as soon as I arrived.

After I arrived I called Miriam* and we made an appointment for that coming Friday. She would pick me up and take me to the mosque where the Friday prayer would be held.
As we saw each other for the first time it was amazing how we both felt comfortable and we talked all the way driving to the Mosque.
When we arrived I was happily surprised because the Mosque was pink! It was such a wonderful sight, sparkling in the sun. Subhaan Allah.
It was the first time I was going to pray inside a real Mosque, because at home our Mosque was a converted house.
The prayer hall was divided in a front and a back part, divided only by a thick cord, the ones that you sometimes see in museums in front of artworks.
The front part was for the men and the back part was for the women. That way everybody could see the imam and the little children could sit with their father or with their mother and even change their minds without a problem. This was all new to me; I was only used to a Mosque were women and men prayed in separate rooms, strictly kept apart.
I don’t remember what the Khudbah (lecture) was about, only that it was in English and that I could understand everything, unlike in the Mosque at home where everything was always in Arabic.
Although I did pray collectively before, this was the very first time for me to pray Jummah (Friday prayer) and nobody had told me that there were only 2 raka’at for Duhr. Can you imagine my confusion?

After salaat there was a book fair in the hallway and outside in the parking lot families got together and invitations for supper were exchanged; it felt so good, like I imagined an Ummah should be.
In my hometown and country the Mosques are mostly influenced by cultural customs, and there is no mingling between men and women outside the Mosques. Women sneak out the back door and avoid even being seen by the men. I always resented this practise, I don’t want to be hidden in some back room and sneak out like a disgraceful being. How can you grow a strong Ummah if you avoid talking to your brothers and sisters after Salaat while you do mingle with non-Muslims during the week at work and in the streets? For me the “Vegas way” made so much more sense, it was so much more dignified and it made me thankful to experience this different fashion and be part of this happy meeting. It made my heart light and deepened my Imaan.
Later I found Hadith about how Salaat was held in the time of the Prophet (SAW), in those times men and women prayed together, men in the front and women in the back and the Prophet would address both men and women after the Khutbah to answer their questions. This made me aware of the fact that there is a lot of culture within the Islamic community disguised as Islam.

In the evening I was invited to join Miriam’s* family and friends for supper. We all ate together and exchanged stories. After supper we all prayed Magreb together and I received a lot of Da’wa material to take home.
I attended 2 more Friday prayers and spend many wonderful moments with these families during my 3 week stay.
And till today, after more than 11 years, we are still in touch through the internet.
These brothers and sisters welcomed me into their homes and showed me that in the middle of Sin City, true Islam exists and prospers.

Las Vegas is a very dazzling, glitzy, vibrant and alluring place for the millions who visit every year. Muslims are not allowed to gamble, but even before I became a Muslim it was never tempting, I always thought it a waste of money. In the long run you are the loser, because otherwise how could all these big casinos survive?
Each Casino hotel is more beautiful that the last one and they have themes; for example you can find a castle-like hotel called Excalibur, a hotel in an ancient Roman style called Caesar’s Palace, the Eiffel tower, Luxor Pyramid, The Venetian, MGM studios and many many more. Some people call Las Vegas “Disney world for grown ups”.
At the time of my visit I did not yet wear my hijab full time, so it was easier to mingle and look around.
One night I went out with my (non-Muslim) friend. She enjoyed gambling and so she went to a casino and I joined her to see the nightlife of Vegas up close.
I once studied addictive behaviour in school and it was funny to observe the gamblers and recognise some of the signs. There were people talking to the slot machines, some were patting them and I even saw some people saying a quick prayer before starting to play.
It was funny and sad at the same time.

I visited Las Vegas in May 2000
article written in March 2012

The Masjid that I visited in Las Vegas is named Jamia Masjid and is located on the East Desert Inn road.
Info about Las Vegas Mosques

* I have changed Miriam’s real name for privacy reasons