Shaikh Nahyan Mubarak Al Nahyan,UAE Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Developement visited the Sikh gurudwara in Jebel Ali Image Credit: XPRESS/Ahmed Ramzan

Dubai: Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development, visited the Guru Nanak Darbar Gurudwara in Jebel Ali on Wednesday, marking the first-ever visit by a member of the ruling family to the Sikh place of worship.

Arriving in a helicopter from Abu Dhabi at 6.30pm, the minister was accorded a warm welcome by members of the 90,000-strong Sikh and Sindhi community. Addressing the gathering in the main prayer hall, Shaikh Nahyan said: “I congratulate all of you on your initiative and success in constructing this impressive place of worship.”

“Of course, the Golden Temple in Amritsar will remain the most sacred place of worship for the Sikhs,” he said, adding that this “handsome and brilliantly designed” complex must also be regarded as one of the most attractive places of worship in the world.

He touched upon some references to Mughal Emperor Akbar giving land for the Golden Temple and said the emperor believed in a multicultural community and valued all religions of the world. “The UAE is a multicultural community. It is a Muslim country. An occasion like this reflects our tolerance and respect for all other faiths.”

Acknowledging the “generous and gracious hospitality” of the community, he commended its collective efforts in making the gurudwara a reality and hoped that it would serve as a true community centre. Surender Singh Khandari, chairman of the gurudwara, honoured Shaikh Nahyan with the Siripao, the highest honour in the Sikh faith bestowed on “any human being who serves humanity”.

Welcoming the gathering earlier, Khandari thanked the Rulers of the UAE for allowing Sikhs to practice the “religion of humanity”.

“I would like to thank His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, for generously giving land for this gurudwara. Shaikh Nahyan’s visit today is a great honour for us as it is the first visit by the ruling family.”

He said Sikhism, started by Guru Nanak, preaches the principles of equality and ensures no one goes hungry. “Accordingly, we are a community centre open to people of all faiths and no one who comes here leaves on an empty stomach.”

The gurudwara receives about 1,000 visitors a day and the numbers go up to 10,000 on Fridays. All have langar (food served in the community kitchen). Bubbles Khandari, vice-chairman of the gurduwara, said the complex receives around 40,000 visitors on special occasions.