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Image Credit: Marc Pelletreau

Dubai: Since prayers at mosques and all other places of worship in the UAE have been suspended as a precautionary measure against coronavirus, we explain how to find the Qibla from wherever you are. 

The decision to suspend prayers in mosques, chapels, places of worship and their facilities will be reviewed after four weeks from now.

What is the Qibla?

The Qibla is the direction that Muslims face when they are praying. This direction is towards the Kaaba. The Kaaba, which is the Arabic word for "Cube", is a sacred building at the center of Islam's most important mosque, the Great Mosque of Mecca. All Muslims in the world pray in the same direction.

If you are west of Makkah, you should pray facing the east. In the US for example, the direction is South-East. If you are in Japan you would face South West, and if you are in South Africa, you would face North East. From the UAE, Muslims will pray facing west.

Most mosques, prayer rooms and some hotel rooms have little arrows in the room showing you which direction the Qibla is. 

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The Qibla shown inside of a drawer in a hotel room

The different ways to find the direction of the Qibla

If you are stuck in a scenario where you have no indicators of the Qibla, then you have a few options to figure out which direction you should pray.

Option 1: A mobile app

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Google has its own Qibla-finding service that uses the latest in augmented reality to help users find the right direction of the Qibla in Makkah.

The new webapp service, called Qibla Finder, is accessible through mobile browsers, enabling anyone to use the service regardless of their mobile’s model once the user enables the app to identify their location.

Option 2: Use a compass

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Not sure if many people are walking around with compasses in their pockets, but if you find yourself in a situation needing to pray without a smartphone at hand, you can only use a compass if you have a basic knowledge in geography. You have to know roughly where you are located from Mecca.

Hold out your compass flat on your hand, wait for the dial to settle North and then either turn left, right, up or down, depending on your geographical knowledge of where Makkah is.

Option 3: Use the Sun

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Since the dawn of time, navigators have use the sun to figure their directions out. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west and knowing where the sun rises and sets in your area can give you a rough indicator of where Makkah is. Again this needs some basic geographical knowledge.