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Niujie Mosque: Praying on Ox Street

CRI Online)  11:23, October 29, 2012

Muslims pray at Niujie Mosque's Shaykh Tombs. ( Wang)

Niujie (or Ox Street) is the pulsating heart of Beijing's Muslim community, and Niujie Mosque is its buzzing focal point. From the street level, the mosque itself is easy to miss, but more often than not, the Islamic songs emanating from within clearly mark its presence.

Only the Moon-Watching Tower is visible from the outside, almost boxed in by a screen wall between it and the road. Mosque leaders would study moon phases to determine the exact dates of the Ramadan fast.

Within the adjacent front gate is a bustling community of Muslims. Although the prayer hall is the obvious locus, the central courtyard is more of a social gathering point. Bound in by stele pavilions, the minaret and the prayer hall, it is a sunny spot where men, women and children sit and chat with other community members.

As scheduled prayer times near, Muslims shed their shoes and file into the 760 square meter hall. Seating areas on the rows of carpet are soon occupied by cross-legged and kneeling men. (According to tradition, women sit in a separate hall, nearby.) Even before the hall is full, some people choose to sit on carpets unrolled in the courtyard itself.

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