A Saudi journalist decided to build a mosque in the extreme north of Canada for Muslims who have for long had a small wooden hut for a place of worship. Its name will be The Mosque at the End of the World.
In 10 days’ time, a mosque will be erected in the Canadian town of Inuvik, 200 kilometers from the North Pole. The northwestern town, with a population of 3,700, is home to 75-80 Muslims, mostly Arabs, who have no place to pray except a mobile hut that can only take half of them.
The town, whose name means ‘place of man’ in Eskimo language, is known for its soaring prices due to its remote location and the time it takes for goods to reach it especially during its freezing winter where the temperatures reaches 40 degrees below zero.
Building a mosque in Inuvik required a minimum of $750,000 as well as a team of experts, which was not available in the town. This is when Saudi journalist Dr. Hussein Saud Qasti came in.
Qasti, who runs a charity organization with his wife in the province of Manitoba, got wind of the frustration of Inuvik’s Muslims and decided to build them a mosque.
He collected donations from several Arabs in different parts of Canada and Iraqi engineer Ahmed al-Khalaf who lives in Inuvik. A Saudi woman, who asked for her name to be withheld, donated $190,000.
The total cost of the mosque is estimated at half a million dollars, that is $250,000 less than the cost estimated by the residents of Inuvik.
Al Arabiya contributed to the details that added to the mosque’s uniqueness when it suggested the name 'The Mosque at the End of the World'.
“I love the name,” said Qasti in a phone interview with Al Arabiya. “It reflects the geographical remoteness of the mosque.”
As for the logistics, Qasti explained that the most cost-effective way was building the mosque in Winnipeg, the capital of Manitoba, then transferring it to Inuvik on a boat like other types of mobile homes.
“This is the longest shipment of a pre-fabricated structure since it crosses a distance of more than 4,300 kilometers and takes 45 days. We want to put it in the Guinness World Records.”
Khalaf, 37, took part in designing the mosque and Qasti, 43, took part in the construction that started in April. After the construction was completed, the 457 square meter mosque and its minaret, chairs, doors, and preacher’s platform were taken on a truck.
The truck passed by the city of Edmonton in the province of Alberta then drove slowly for an entire month where a distance of 2,900 kilometers until it reached the High River region on the banks of the Great Slave Lake where the mosque started its marine journey two weeks ago.
This is the longest shipment of a pre-fabricated structure since it crosses a distance of more than 4,300 kilometers and takes 45 days
Muslims in Inuvik
According to Ahmed al-Khalaf, transferring the mosque will cost around $49,000. It will also need more work when it arrives at Inuvik and this adds another $40,000, he said.
“We’ll need to erect it after assembling all the parts then fix the minaret, lay the carpets, and do some final touches,” he told Al Arabiya. “The first prayer is expected to be in two weeks’ time.”
Khalaf added that the mosque offers a ray of hope to Muslims in Inuvik who don’t even have a cemetery.
“When one of the Muslims in Inuvik passed away, they had to take his body on a plane to the Islamic cemetery in Edmonton.”
The mosque, Khalaf added, will encourage Muslims in Inuvik to start planning the construction of a cemetery and a cultural center. This, he said, will help make life easier in such a remote environment.
“Here Muslims fast up to 18 hours in Ramadan.”
The majority of Muslims in Inuvik are from Sudan and there are a few from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Palestine. One third of Inuvik Muslims work as cab drivers, while others own restaurants, grocery stores, barber shops, and security companies.
The oldest Arab in Inuvik is the Syrian Talal al-Khateeb who arrived there 28 years ago and is considered the richest in that small community.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid).