Today is a day of religious observance for millions of people. Muslims around the world look forward to Eid ul-Fitr as an occasion of peace, happiness and joy. It is a day for special prayers and a time to focus on forgiveness and generosity. 

Eid ul-Fitr is an Arabic term which means the “festival of breaking (the fast).” The festival marks the culmination of the month of Ramadan, during which Muslims look inward (through daily fasting and increased spiritual devotion). At the same time, they focus outwards through acts of kindness and compassion to others. 

During a recent visit to Dubai with others from Deseret Management Corp., I had the occasion to visit a communal space that is revered by members of the Shia Ismaili Muslim Community.

The Ismaili Centre Dubai
Barkat Ali walks through the Ismaili Community Center in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Monday, March 28, 2022. Geometric motifs and designs repeat throughout the space, drawing heavily from the architectural style of the Fatimid Period. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

The Ismaili Centre in Dubai is one of those truly unique places around the world that combines architectural cues with a mission to help people find individual spiritual peace and fellowship within their local and global community. 

The Ismaili Centre Dubai.
A Deseret Management Corp. delegation tours the Ismaili Centre Dubai in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Monday March 28, 2022. The Ismaili Centre Dubai was conceived with the objective to promote the search for mutual understanding, which remains essential to assuring peace and stability. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

This was not my first visit to this space. I had been there many times during a professional assignment that put me in close contact with this community through my work with the Aga Khan Development Network. But visiting with people who had never before stepped foot into a place of this kind gave me a new perspective. And bringing a noted photographer with me forced me to view it through a vibrant and different lens.

The Ismaili Centre Dubai.
Gardens play an important role in the design of the Ismaili Centre, drawing on the representation in the Holy Quran of paradise as a garden. Symbolic of continuity, growth and change, Ismaili Centre representatives explained that these gardens are designed to draw attention to both the even and uneven soft surfaces visible throughout the complex and the adjoining park. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Our gracious host allowed us to sit in this peaceful place, and ask questions not just about the center, but about the faith of the millions of Muslims around the world. We learned of the importance of prayer, and we were shown the meaning of those daily prayers. With this, the mission of the place came into clearer view. And it forced me to think of the ways that I would explain sacred spaces — spaces used for contemplation, sharing knowledge and building bridges.

Water in the Ismaili Centre Dubai.
A common element found throughout the Ismaili Centre is the presence of beautiful, peaceful water features. Their role was explained to us as both symbolic, representing purification and life, and practical, used to cleanse and cool the air. These water features produce a soft, contemplative soundtrack that visitors hear during their visit of the center.  | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

The official description of the Ismaili Centre in Dubai says that “…every distinct common space emphasizes a reaching outward towards others even as it facilitates a process of personal search.”  May these images provide a new view into the cherished traditions of one part of the diverse tapestry of people who celebrate Eid around the world today. 

A meeting in the Ismaili Centre Dubai.
Deseret Management Corp. CEO and President Keith McMullin, right, meets with Khalil Muhammad and others at the Ismaili Centre Dubai in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Monday March 28, 2022. The Ismaili Centre Dubai was conceived with the objective to promote the search for mutual understanding, which remains essential to assuring peace and stability. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
The Ismaili Centre Dubai.
A Deseret Management Corp. delegation tours the Ismaili Centre Dubai in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Monday March 28, 2022. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
The main dome of the Ismaili Centre.
The main dome of the Ismaili Centre pulls the visitor’s gaze into a focus on concentricity, where arches and masonry converge in a space that combines both light and cooling shelter from the heat. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
The Ismaili Centre in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Monday March 28, 2022. The Ismaili Centre Dubai was conceived with the objective to promote the search for mutual understanding, which remains essential to assuring peace and stability. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News