By Aman and Bassam

Today Bassam and I were joined by our good friend Omar Mullick as we went into the south Bronx to check out the Mount Hope Masjid. This is a congregation of primarily West Africans. One of the people that talked to us said most of the people are from s Togo and Ghana. He said the two countries’ cultures are similar, comparing them to the similarities between New York and New Jersey.

What makes this place beautiful is the community involvement. In many mosques, generally it is a small handful of tireless volunteers that provide food for everyone. But in this case, it seemed like every single person contributed. As soon as you walk into the mosque, you see a sign up sheet where everyone volunteers to provide food to break the fast.

We sat down on a floor covered in tarp in the dining room and watched as floods of people came bringing in food. Each of them provided an item or two to help create a full fledged hearty meal to break our fast. The food in front of us was a plate of dates, watermelon and some corn bread.

There was a guy at the table serving this soup out of a huge Igloo cooler. It was a sweetened maize soup. Think of hot apple sauce with small pieces of cornbread in it. Fantastic would only be describing the soup’s taste lightly.

There were a lot of people there that were amazingly friendly. Most of the foods there such as the soup and other dishes were foreign to us, but given how friendly the atmosphere was, you couldn’t help but just jump in headfirst and really enjoy yourself.

We then went downstairs to pray. The imam of the mosque is from Guyana.

After prayer, we ended up going to this vegetarian Indian restaurant on Curry Hill in Manhattan called Tiffin Wallah. The food was phenomenal. The three of us each ordered Mysore Masala dosas. The best way I can describe it is a enormous crepe and inside are spiced potatoes and peas. You then dip it into those lentil soups on the right.

The food was great no doubt. But after we ate, I kind of really wished we ate dinner at the mosque. As we were leaving the mosque, they were serving large plates of rice and catfish. It made me think long and hard about my dad. My father is on temporary business overseas and is all alone for the time being until his job finishes. So he eagerly asks me to always send him any kind of project I’m working on just so he can pretend he’s there with me witnessing it happen.

I kind of wish I had catfish tonight because I know how much he likes it.

By Aman and Bassam

Note: Many comments from this posting have disappeared. We encourage those whose comments have disappeared to re-post their thoughts. Sorry for the inconvenience, Aman and I are looking into this issue.

How do you get to Sesame Street? Follow a muppet.

Jamaica Muslim Center? Follow the topis (hats) and hijabs on Hillside Ave.

O, how Jamaica has changed! Back when we lived in Astoria, I remember coming here with my father when I was ten. He forsook my mother on ever coming to this area alone. Jamaica has developed immensely and looks nothing like how I remembered it from twelve years ago — a prettier Jackson Heights if you will.

This is the Jamaica Muslim Center, Inc. A predominantly Bangladeshi community with the usual IndoPak mix.

Most of the residence in the surrounding apartments are Muslim. I would be afraid to live this close because I’d have to come up with some really creative excuses on why I wasn’t at the masjid for fajr.

In the hallway before the musala, all the plates for iftaar were ready. I was taking pictures of them with my google phone when a man standing by me asked if I was from the media. I smiled and said I wasn’t. All the photos Aman and I take are from our cell phones. The day the press starts taking photos with smart phone cams will be a very sad day.

When the time came to break our fast, the imam turned to the congregation and had us repeat after him.

Allah humma

O God,

inni Laka sumtu

…I fasted for you ..

Wa bika amantu

…and I believe in you..

Wa alayka tawakkalto

..and I put my trust in You..

Wa ‘ala rizqika aftartu

..and I break my fast with Your sustenance.

We then proceeded to eat our dates and drink NYC’s default choice for water, Poland Spring.

Right after the Maghrib prayer, everyone stayed in place and performed their sunnah prayers. I don’t think I saw a single person leave the musala until they performed the the supererogatory prayer.

Just as we were done praying, the volunteers quickly began placing blue mats all around the musala.

Today’s menu: Pakora, Rice, Chicken Seekh, Fried Chicken, and, um, Watermelon. Nice bite marks on the pakora, ya?

A man sitting next to me informed us that the majority of the congregants were gathered in the basement. He also told me the women pray upstairs and that is also where they are served.

Everything about the masjid reminded me of Madrasah Islamia in Houston. From the local residence walking together to the mosque to the after school Islamic program, the place was oozing with the scent of Hafiz Iqbal’s joint. What struck me the most was the hifz program the center has. I didn’t know they had such a program until I checked the center’s website. On the site, they have a list of 30 or so hufaadh who have graduated from their Jamia Qurania Academy.

Centuries ago before printing books, many Muslims relied on the hufaadh, individuals who have memorized the Quran, to teach their communties the holy book. Now that Qurans are readily available on paperbacks and iphones, many say there is no need for these rigorous memorization programs. Maybe it’s the “immigrant” in me, but I think the memorization of the Quran is an important tradition we must keep alive. Not just because it is a part of the Prophetic tradition, but there is also an important component of reciting aloud that is being lost. And what better way to recite aloud than from our hearts?

Updated: Maheen informed me the imam of the mosque is not Indonesian. It is the Director of the JMC that is.

By Aman and Bassam

Our first trip on our journey to Staten Island, way overdue. No Bassam today, but instead I took my little brother Zeshawn and my cousin Salman to the Noor Al-Islam Center on Richmond Terrace. This is a World War II bomb factory they converted into a mosque. But before I get to that, we first took a chillaxing 25-minute ferry ride to Staten Island. Bye bye Manhattan and Statue of Liberty:

To truly appreciate how beautiful this mosque is, you have to learn its history. The mosque is built on a shipyard that was the location for the Bethlehem Steel Corporation during World War II. The corporation used to manufacture bombs for the military. After the war, a man named Muhammad Adam, who is still on the mosque’s board today, worked his way up the ranks at the shipyard until he finally took ownership of it. In the 1990s, he turned the factory portion of the shipyard into this beautiful mosque.

During World War II, this parking lot used to be an outdoor motorized track that used to transport the manufactured bombs in carts to the harbor, where men at the dock would load the bombs onto military supply ships.

It took Muhammad Adam and the mosque board about 10 years to gain full control of the five-floor building. In the late 1990s, they had only one small portion of the first floor. Then they got enough money to take control of the second floor to make an expanded prayer room. Then they took control of the third floor to make a women’s prayer area. Then they took control of the fourth floor to make a Sunday school for children. Then they took control of the fifth floor to make an apartment for the Imam.

This prayer room was completed about two years ago. The pillars from the original factory are still intact, but the entire room has been restored with beautiful marble tiling. We got to the mosque super early, so I sat back against the wall to take in the room’s beauty:

Apparently some of the people at the mosque are die-hard Jets fans, judging by this mat outside the prayer room. The Imam and I both agree the Jets made a mistake getting rid of Chad Pennington.

Since we got to the mosque about 30-40 minutes before prayer, we were asked by a group of people to join them in their religious discussion. They were a group of people from Brooklyn that were spending the weekend at the mosque. One of the things I love about going to mosques is when a random strangers greets you with a smile and makes you feel as if you’ve been friends for life.

It was time to break my fast and I had to give a shout out to my elementary school days. I broke it with a dixie cup cone filled with milk and a date.

Time for prayer.

After prayer, I was greeted by Hesham El-Meligy. A community activist who read our 30 mosques site and invited us to Staten Island. He is an amazing individual, and is one of the Muslim leaders in NYC pushing the city to make Eid a recognized holiday in the public schools. NPR recently did a story on him.

He gave me a tour of the mosque and explained its beautiful history. The congregation is predominantly Egyptian, but a good mix of Desis and African Americans too. For dinner we had fantastic Egyptian food: Rice, chicken, meatballs, mixed veggies and salad

For dessert we had baklava (left) and kunafa (right), one of my fave Arabic treats. If you haven’t had kunafa, its basically sweetened shredded wheat. Yes it sounds like something an 89 year old grandma would eat, but — holy moly — it’s amazing. It made me miss all my awesome Arab friends from college that made it for me all the time.

As we were getting ready to leave, I had to take one last shot of the building because I was still taken back by how beautiful it was.

I still can’t believe 15 days in this journey have gone by already. I have seen so many beautiful things so far, and we’re only halfway done. If I was able to see this today, I can only imagine the people I’ll meet and sights I’ll see in the days to come.

Alhamdulillah, I have lived an incredibly blessed life in the very few years I’ve been on this earth. This project without a doubt will be added to the long list of stories I’ll get to bore my grandkids about one day. I cann’t wait.

By Aman and Bassam

Today, Aman and I went to the Riverdale Islamic Center in The Bronx. It’s interesting how no other borough in New York has a definitive THE in front of it. I have yet to hear anyone say the Queens or the Brooklyn.

(Update: Turns out the Bronx comes from the landowner who acquired the borough back in 1639, Jonas Broncks. – Here’s a snippet from an article:

“A river ran through Jonas Bronck’s farm, which became known as THE Bronck’s River. Then the area around the river became known as THE Bronck’s; eventually the spelling of the name was changed to THE Bronx because of euphony and not because there is more than one Bronx. In fact, it is the only New York State borough using an article in its name.”

Props to the commenter who pointed this out)

The mosque is discreetly located in the back of an apartment complex. It’s very easy to miss if you’re not looking carefully.

Before reaching the back of the complex, we had to pass through a smelly corridor filled with garbage.

At the entrance of the mosque sat Aqib. A Pakistani kid who starts high school in a week. He directed me into the mosque.

Inside the center, I was greeted by a small group of Desi uncles who were preparing plates for iftaar. They smiled and told me to sit before we break our fast. At that moment I thought the masjid was ran by South Asians, but when I looked to my left I saw a different picture. There were a couple of Latino and African American brothers helping out in the preparations. The small congregation began cracking on a brother who ate a date before the adhaan was called. Everyone took turns coming up with a joke. The brother who ate the date was a new convert and laughed as he turned red in embarrassment. The Desi uncles jokes were a little off color, but everyone knew they meant well. It was funny to see them transitioning from Punjabi to English to Arabic all as they put pakoras and dates in plates.

Before the designated iftaar time, a vibrant man got up and reminded us that the small window before Maghrib is a very blessed time to supplicate. After he called the adhaan, I found out this man, Sheikh Sulayman, was the Imam of the mosque and instrumental in bringing this congregation together.

We were given dates, pakoras, chickpeas and crispy rice for break fast. The only thing missing was roohafza.

After Maghrib, I spoke with the Imam about the dynamics of the mosque. He said it was difficult to get the congregation to come together in the beginning, but since they were in such a small space there really was no choice. “The space is a blessing,” he said.

For dinner, the masjid provided a light biryani with salad.

As we left the masjid, Shiekh Sulayman showed us around the masjid property. Turns out the landlord of the apartment complex is Muslim and has designated the majority of the first floor for the mosque. That explains how they get away with the blaring speakers in a residential building. The imam briefly spoke about the expansion plans to accommodate the growing congregation. I wondered what would happen once the masjid expanded. Would the community drift apart if they have the convenience of sitting in their own ethnic corners? Or would they still come together and crack off-color jokes in the comfort of a larger space? Let’s pray for the latter.

This entry was written by Fatima Ashraf. A community activist who wants to “make it plain,” as brother Malcolm taught us.

Masjid Dawood, better known as the Yemeni Mosque on State St, is a sad story in my opinion. But let me start with the good, since it is Ramadan. The sister’s section is on the second floor. The carpet in this masjid always reminded me of the Dome of the Rock; it’s a deep, deep red and pretty clean. The taraweah is beautiful; the Sheikh’s recitation, with eyes closed, can transport you to the Holy Land. It’s 8 rakats with the traditional break in the middle. The sounds of the recitation float out of the windows and over the trees throughout historic Brooklyn Heights.

Now, the sadness. Well, let’s call it awareness. Masjid Dawood is one of the FIRST mosques in NYC and therefore one of the first in the entire country. It was established by the Blackamerican Muslim community. It was a stronghold for Muslims. It was more than just a house of worship, it was a place where families could come to learn about Islam together, to study the deen, to raise their kids around one another, and to plan for the future of Islam in America. Today, this masjid is 100% immigrant; the founding fathers of this precious place are no where to be found. The population is homogeneous. Arabs. Yemenis (at least in the sister’s section). I am an immigrant Muslim, yet I still felt out of place. Furthermore, it’s become a transient place; there is no more socializing, no more community building. People come, pray, go.

There are many reasons for this. The gentrification of this neighborhood in the 60s and 70s played a part. The immigrant invasion played a part. But the past it the past; what we must think about is the future. Many of the Brooklyn masaajid, established by the African American community, no longer serve the community. Where is the Blackamerican Muslim community going? This is a very important question to get answered, but let’s first start by asking it.

By Aman and Bassam

Today I was was Bassam-less and continued my journey into Brooklyn to one of my favorite places to pray at, the Dawood Mosque.

This is a predominantly Arab mosque with a fair amount of South Asians and African Americans as well. I got there about 10 minutes before prayer and was confused why it seemed like I was one of the only one there.

But then I heard people chatting downstairs and realized that’s where everyone was for iftaar. I found waiting for me a plate filled with dates and sharbat, one of my fave drinks made from milk and rose syrup. They made it just the way I like it with lots of pistachios in it.

As I was going back upstairs to pray, one of the people there brought out this huge pot of this cold spicy soup. I didn’t know the name of it (neither did anyone else I asked) but its made of yogurt and has chick peas, tomatoes and tons of onions. If you thought having nasty breath from fasting was bad enough, this stuff was basically like steroids. But seriously, it tasted amazing.

It was time to pray, so we all went back upstairs. Seconds into prayer, the tantalizing smells of lemon rotisserie chicken began caressing my senses. But I snapped out of it and jumped back into concentrating on my prayer.

Back downstairs for dinner, my senses were correct, the volunteers there passed out trays of buttered rice, lemon chicken and salad. I took a tray and made company with the brothers around me.

Just about everyone there was speaking in Arabic, so I didn’t know much of what people were saying. But everyone was friendly nonetheless.

One volunteer with food came up to me and asked in Arabic if I wanted more food. Now my Arabic is pretty rusty. I haven’t taken a legit course in 7 years. Yet for some bizzare reason, I felt confident enough to speak Arabic back. But instead of saying “No thanks, I’m full,” I ended up saying “No, I study in a university.” It made perfect sense, clearly.

After dinner, they passed out some of my fave Arabic desserts: pistachio candies and Mamoul – a ridiculously yummy cookie filled with dates.

On a serious note, I was in deep thought on the subway ride home. One of the toughest things about this 30 Mosques project is leaving each place night after night. Right when you meet a bunch of really cool people, and may not see them again. That’s not to say I’ll never see them because I can always come back when this project is over. This journey has introduced me to parts of the community I didn’t know of, but continue to fall in love with as each day goes by.

By Aman and Bassam

In Brooklyn, go east on Ralph Ave and you’ll see two mosques. The Bangladeshi masjid.

And then, two blocks later, the West African one.

My good friend Ibrahim AbdulMatin pressed me hard this afternoon to go to the West African masjid. To be honest, it was difficult passing up the South Asian mosque. I was Aman-less today and wasn’t ready to be out of my element. But I had to pop this brown bubble I’ve surrounded myself in and there was no better way to do it than pray and eat at Masjid Tawhid.

The musala was fairly small. A small line for wudu trailed into the prayer area.

The stand out piece in the prayer area was the mambar, which took quiet a bit of space.

Like most of the masajid we’ve visited, there was a basement in where we all broke our fast. The adjacent room accommadated women. I’m not sure if any women were in attendance.

During iftaar we had dates and a sweet oatmeal dish. All ten of the congregants watched me eat the soup and asked how it was. The soup was nice but very heavy.

I didn’t want to disrespect the man who served me, so I tried my best to eat as much as I could. When the adhaan was called I quietly put the soup to the side and went back to the prayer room.

Dinner was kuskus with grounded meat. It was a Malian dish called “Hutto”. The meat was mixed with spinach and peanuts. Many of the congregants poured milk into the plate and offered me to try some. I didn’t have space in my stomach so I kindly rejected their offer.

During the dinner, a brother sitting on a chair poked me and whispered.

“If you need anything, tell me and I’ll tell them.”

The brother looked like he was in his early 20’s and seemed like a serious person. I thanked him for the generosity and said I was fine. He went back to eating his hutto. When he was done, he threw his plate in the trash and left without saying a word to anyone. Even though he was black, there was a visible disconnect between him and the rest of the congregants. Most of the people were speaking Bambara and were from Mali. The brother looked as if he was born and raised in Brooklyn. (Note: I assume this because there is a certain swagger that the Muslims in Brooklyn have, ask the Brooklyn Bedouin if you don’t believe me.)

Things didn’t seem that awkward in the beginning. In fact, it was only when I started to wonder how the rest of the congregation percieved me that I began to feel uneasy. I felt like a freeloader coming in — barely eating the food offered to me — and then leaving abruptly aftewards . A bad exhibitionist, if you will. Though no one in the masjid might have felt that way, I wonder if anyone asked themselves, “Why didn’t he just go to the Bangladeshi mosque?” Maybe it’s my own insecurities that raise the question.

As I left the mosque, I saw these two South Asian kids unwrapping their new toy helicopters. I looked around and realized they were the closest Desis to Masjid Tawhid and prayed that they would only move closer.

By Aman and Bassam

Bassam and I headed back into Queens to check out Masjid Al-Hikmah. The building is extremely difficult to miss in the homey residential neighborhood on 31st Street

This place has a predominantly Indonesian congregation. Given the fact that Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the entire world, the breathtaking size of the mosque seems fitting.

Apparently last week the mosque had this awesome food festival that I wish I would have known about beforehand, it sounded amazing.

We got there a little early before prayer and found people inside the mosque mainly keeping to themselves or deep in worship.

Our friend Fatima Ashraf came too and here’s what she had to say about the women’s area:

“Masjid Al-Hikmah is welcoming of anyone who steps through its doors. What’s remarkably different about this mosque from others in NYC is its perfectly equal accommodations for men and women. The prayer space, a gorgeous room complete with chandeliers and plush carpeting, is divided exactly in half, with the front half for the men and the rear half for the women.”

Fatima said she’ll try and visit many other masjids we go to for the rest of the month, so hopefully you’ll get to read a lot more of what she has to say.

I love Indonesian people and their food just as much. To break our fast we had dates and this person in the blue shirt was serving this really good Indonesian soup.

We didn’t get a good photo of it, but it’s this tasty rice and chicken soup. Here’s a photo on another site of it.

I added a little bit of salt to the soup and it tasted fanstastic.

I was coming down with a cold today and the soup really helped my scratchy throat. One of the people there I talked to said it was fairly easy to make so I definitely need to try the recipe for myself.

We then headed back upstairs for prayer. Instead of leaving to try some of the fancy ethnic cuisines Queens is known for, we decided to stay at the mosque and have dinner there.

During dinner there was a different kind of soup, it was a clear noodle soup with chicken and vegetables. We didn’t get shots of it, but this site has a good photo of the soup.

I ended up eating two bowls of it to help my throat. I can’t say that it cured my cold, but it got rid of my scratchy throat.

It can be a drag fasting while being sick, but so far it hasn’t been overbearing. It’s a minor cold anyway so in a few days I won’t have to worry about it. Plus, fasting helps you mentally focus on more important things; if anything fasting has helped me get through it.

By Aman and Bassam

Brooklyn: New York’s cultural hotspot and the place that rappers have to give shoutouts to 31 times in every hip hop record.

Step outside the subway station at Atlantic Avenue and immediately you get hit with crazy amounts of gentrification, including this huge shopping center.

Lucky for me, the place I need to go to is Masjid Al-Farooq. It’s about a block away from the subway and it’s a four story building nestled between these Islamic shops on Atlantic Avenue.

The first floor of the building are for bathrooms and wudhu, second floor is a school, men pray on the third floor and women pray on the fourth.The congregation is mostly Arabs and African Americans (I might have been the only desi person there).

I took the elevator to the third floor to break my fast. I thought I’d be late to the mosque because I had a meeting with a friend earlier today that ran long, but as soon as I walked in, they were getting ready to pray. Looks like they saved one date for me.

I wanted to take more pictures of the place, but someone there had asked me not to. I asked if it was ok if I kept the ones I already took and he said that was ok but he asked that I not take any more.

They didn’t provide dinner at the mosque. At first I was shocked, but then I quickly realized how much of a spoiled brat I sounded like with that kind of thinking. The fact that any place here in New York provides dinner during Ramadan is a blessing and it’s important for me to not lose sight of that.

After prayer, I headed out of the mosque to find this halal Chinese restaurant one of my boys was raving about. But I was quickly sidetracked by a halal steakhouse next to the mosque instead.

What did I order? Well, the chef took this lemon roasted lamb:

And shredded it on top of this cucumber and tomato salad.


As I was eating, I realized that I had completed 1/3 of this 30 day journey. I’m not going to lie, this project is a lot more exhausting than I thought it would be. But my excitement for this project overwhelms that exhaustion. I’m discovering many intriguing places and meeting even more interesting people during this journey. I probably would have never seen most of these places or met these people unless I came up with that cracked out idea 10 days ago to step outside of my comfort bubble and try this project. For that, I am grateful, and tomorrow I eagerly begin the second third of my journey.

By Aman and Bassam

Today, I decided to stay in my neighborhood and visit Masjid Aqsa. The mosque is a couple of blocks south of my apartment on 116th and Frederick Douglas. The community is predominantly West African. It is said that this area also houses the majority of the Senegalese in New York.

Similar to other masajid in Manhattan, vendors surrounded the entrance selling everything from Madani Dates to Nike socks. One of the more interesting vendors sold dried fish.

In the prayer area, a man handed out apples and bananas before iftaar. Many congregants bought their own food and were setting it out. There was also a sizable female congregation separated by a curtain.

By the time we got to the masjid, the majority of the congregants were in the basement.

The basement was overcrowded, but everyone willingly made space for us latecomers. With an apple in one hand and a date in the other we broke our fast. The Maghrib prayer was led by one of the three Imams of the masjid. His recitation was so beautiful, I asked the person next to me where the Imam was from. He replied that he was from Burkina Faso. As he spoke, I grabbed my bag and was preparing to leave to grab some halal cheeseburgers. But the brother, Abdul Qaasim, insisted on us to stay and eat with him. In fact, after I was done with the sunnah prayers, I again tried to say my goodbyes when Abdul Qaasim grabbed me by the arm and led me to back to the basement. On the way down, he introduced me to the other Imam and requested one of the volunteers to take special care of us.

The hospitality during Ramadan has been unbelievable. There’s something in the air, and the weather only seems to get better.


I wasn’t able to attend Taraweeh prayers at the mosque, but my friends that did said the sister’s area reached capacity and many were praying outside on the concrete. There is something to say about the comfort and confidence of Muslims in New York City. Sure, with the number of wierd things happening here — I once saw a man displaying korean poetry as he slept in a cardboard box — putting your forehead on concrete might just fall into the background.

By Aman and Bassam

The Bronx! My family was in town today, so I decided to bring them along to visit Masjid Noor-Ul-Huda off Gun Hill Road. This is a large house they renovated into a breathtakingly beautiful mosque (that’s my Mommy on the bottom right).

I’m floored by the fact they only spent $500,000 to build this place. Check out how beautiful the interior is.

This place was 3 levels. Wudhu and bathrooms on the bottom floor, the prayer area for men on the first floor and area for women on the 3rd floor (more on the women’s area in a minute).

What I enjoy about this place is how loving the community was here. My family was welcomed to the mosque by some kind people who guided us to the back. We waited outside with some other brothers who had set up some tables for iftar. Each plate was filled with dates, bananas, grapes, peaches and pakora (desi potatoes fried in batter). That pink drink is sharbat, which is a traditional drink made from rose syrup and milk.

The people were extraordinarily kind to my mother. She was the only female that was in the women’s area and volunteers came up to the third floor and brought her food. They also came up every few minutes to make sure she had everything she needed. Meanwhile, we sat with the guys outside and broke our fast. I love being in gatherings where everybody is genuinely excited to be there, no matter who is there or how their day has gone.

A few minutes before prayer, I had the chance to take in how beautiful some of the decorations inside the mosque were. That’s when the imam came in and told me about the mosque’s history. The community here is very proud of their mosque and they have every reason to be.

Time for prayer.

After prayer, I told the imam about my 30 Mosques project. That’s when he gave me this kufi. I have never seen a place that has kufis with the mosque’s name on it. Tonight I am proud to have been a patron of Noor-Ul-Huda.

They insisted that we stay for iftar, but since my family was in town, I wanted to take them to Samosa Cabana. This hands down my favorite place to eat at. It’s in Westchester, and its a place run by two college students. They take burritos and put biryani inside it. I ordered a lamb biryani wrap.

I hadn’t seen my family in almost two months, so today was all about spending time with them. When I first told my mom about this project, at first she was worried about me being exhausted from taking this on (you can’t blame her for thinking like that, she’s a loving mother). But tonight, she was taken back by how kind everyone was and she began to understand why a project like this is so spiritually fulfilling.

By Aman and Bassam

Little Egypt, Queens. Where it smells like argilah and tantalizing Arabic cuisines named “Magic Carpet” live. We won’t tell Disney if you don’t.

The Al-Iman Mosque is tucked along these streets.

A really nice set of double doors welcome the congregants, well, the male congregants. Unfortunately, the sisters entrance isn’t as lofty. Left of this entrance is a small door that leads you to the sister’s prayer and wudu area.

We got there fairly early and those who were there were steadfast in worship.

I began talking about something idle with Bassam, and I’m really glad the person behind me politely told me to take advantage of the blessed time before iftaar. One really intriguing image we didn’t take a picture of was of a father listening to an iPod with his son. Each of them shared an earbud. My parents live very far away and it reminded me of the good old days when my dad took me to the mosque.

The volunteers laid out the break fast meal in an organized fashion. Today’s menu: whole milk, dates in saran wrap and half a banana.

Dinner was fantastical. Yes so good, I made up a word to describe it. We had steak, rice pilaf, salad and black eyed peas. There was no waiting in line, instead volunteers delivered plates of food wherever the congregants sat.

But this whole 30 mosques project isn’t really about food. It’s about the mini-communities we immerse ourselves in from visiting each location. It’s interesting, each night we make plans to leave after prayer and eat dinner at a nearby restaurant, but spending time and eating dinner with the people at the masjid is so much more fulfilling, both physically and spiritually.

One thing we have not seen a lot of so far are kids. I’m not sure if it’s a trend, but it seems like not many kids come to the masajid in New York. This clearly wasn’t the case here. We sat next to these young teens who compared ages with each other. The oldest kid was 14 going on 15.

My hairline continues to recede. Where’s a golden kufi when you need one?

By Aman and Bassam

Today, Aman and I trekked out to Madina Masjid. It’s located in the heart of the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

The masjid sign outside reads, “Islam Is The Way. Read The Quran The Final Revelation.” An interesting sign for a predominantly upper middle class white neighborhood.

Similar to the 29th st. masjid, we were filed into the basement to break fast. Everyone sat shoulder to shoulder waiting for the adhaan to be called. Food was served before the prayers. The arrangement seemed odd at first, but it made logistical sense.

Everyone was sitting on top of one another in the small basement. One would think the congregants would get irritated fairly quick, but people seemed to laugh at the arrangment. Jolly sardines packed in a tin can.

A Pakistani man searched for rice in uneaten plates and left everything else untouched.

Eating food prior to prayer naturally leads to a large queue for wudu.

Thankfully, the prayer area easily accommodated all of us. The majority of the congregants are either passing by the neighborhood or work in proximity to the center. Many of the lectures that take place in the center are in Bangla. The masjid is also Tablighi Jamat friendly. In fact, I once ran into an uncle here from my hometown masjid in Houston.

As I left the masjid, a man stopped me and said, “Salam akh, I’m giving out free kufis.”

“Oh yeah?” I replied.

“Yep” He quietly examined my head and continued, “you know, the golden one would fit you perfectly.”

I was intrigued to see this golden kufi. Inside the prayer area a lonely stool sat with two kufis.

I asked myself if I could rock a golden kufi, maybe in a decade.

By Aman and Bassam

This place provides refuge from all the posh fashion shops up and down Lexington Avenue in midtown Manhattan.

I broke my fast with some milk, dates and a plum.The people who go there consisted mainly of young professionals, who mostly work in the area. The person I sat next to was named Waleed and works for the investment group Barclays Capital. He’s a cool guy and is coming to my apartment soon to see if he can back up all his Guitar Hero smack talk.

After prayer, I was extremely tempted to try the Turkish restaurant next door to the mosque. But then I saw the Arabic food they were serving inside the mosque:

It was rice pilaf, pasta, salad and lemon chicken. Amazing. No seriously, amazing.

But the Turkish restaurant next door looked good too. Maybe I can go to it next time I’m in the area shopping for $700 jeans at Armani

By Aman and Bassam

Wow. This mosque hiding behind the trees is believed to be the largest mosque in the NYC area. Its primarily funded by the Kuwaiti government.

Lined around the masjid gates were vendors and congregants waiting for iftaar.

This is also the first masjid in New York that resembles a traditional masjid.

There was a brief drought of dates which led everyone to attack the bananas. Thankfully, a new batch of dates appeared on the table with the accompaniment of milk.

Maghrib comes in and we still didn’t hear the adhaan. So when a congregant had enough guts to eat a date without hearing the adhaan, we all followed. It was the first time I ate a date at a mosque without the adhaan accompanying me.

The mosque provided food so we ate there as opposed to going to a restaurant. It was catered food from the infamous Kabab King.

We ran into our friend Rasul Miller and some of his buddies so we kicked it eating our food outside, cracking jokes and talking politics.

Outside of the mosque stood a Bangladeshi man who was selling vegetable and chicken samosas for a dollar.

Don’t be fooled by the little cart. Not only did he serve hot samosas, he had bangadeshi rice, bananas, shezan mango bottles and, of course, chai. All the ingredients of my mother’s iftaar pulled around Manhattan and plastered in gift wrapping paper.