Before the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and wife Akie arrived at Sidi Saeed Mosque, in the predominantly Muslim area of Lal Darwaza in the heart of old Ahmedabad, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had already reached. It was said to be Modi’s first visit to the iconic mosque, known for its window latticework depicting the ‘Tree of Life’, and popularly called the Jaaliwali Masjid.
As Modi, dressed in a traditional white kurta-pyjama and a Kutchhi shawl on his shoulder, ambled towards the Electricity House, a British-era building in front of the mosque, there were the familiar shouts of “Modi, Modi” by locals from the other side of police barricades. Waving towards mediapersons and the locals assembled, Modi asked, “Kem chho? Maja ma (How are you? All fine?)”
Mohammed Farooq, a local in his early 20s who was clicking pictures with his cellphone before the VVIPs arrived, said, “Our Jaaliwali Masjid is famous all over the world. If such dignitaries come here, it will become even more famous. I am very happy.”
The dignitaries spent around 10 minutes at the 1572-built mosque before proceeding for a bilateral meeting and dinner at Agashiye, the restaurant of the House of MG (Mangaldas Girdhardas) — venue for most of Wednesday’s diplomatic engagements between Modi and Abe. The mosque today was decorated elaborately with lights, flowers and red carpet.
While there was a mini-chaos when people wanted to get in for after prayers, overall, timing of the Modi-Abe visit was adjusted to ensure it does not clash with regular prayer timings. The mosque management is controlled by Sunni Muslim Waqf Committee. The committee’s president, Rizwan Qadri, said, “Prime Minister Modi himself helped advance the visit time…so that the timing did not clash with prayers.”
According to a plaque inside, “The mosque of Sidi Saeed was built in 1572 AD…by an Abyssinian known as Sidi Saeed. He came from Habshah (Ethiopia) via Yemen to Gujarat and later served Sultan Nasir-ud-Din Mahmud III…He built this magnificent monument during the reign of Sultan Muzaffar Shah III, the last ruler of Gujarat….”