I am by no means an expert on Islam, but I try my best to convey my impressions and to be accurate and not promote any misinformation. However if I do, please accept my invitation to clarify or make corrections in my comments section.
Speaking of prayer rugs, they come in all colors and many sizes. My son has one that is a really plush leopard print. Some women try to match the color of their prayer rug with the color of their sharshaf, the loose fitting total body covering that is worn at home when praying. I have even seen prayer rugs with built in compasses on them so you know which way Mecca is, since that is the direction you must face when you pray.
When the call to prayer sounds, the devotees must prepare for prayer by performing the cleansing ritual of ablution, called “wudhu.” In a previous post, I described a bit about how this is done, about the calls to prayer, and some other information. Here is the link to that prior post: Islam and Me...When in Rome
From what I understand, women who are on their periods or who have given birth and are still bleeding are not allowed to participate in prayer. Someone told me that the reason for this is because women are considered unclean during these times. When men and women pray together, as at home, a man must lead the prayer, and women must be behind the men. People who are physically unable to perform the movements of the prayers are allowed to sit during prayer. When a person has had sex, a complete bath, called “ghusl,” is required, instead of just performing wudhu. My husband gave me a 16 page instruction booklet that deals with, among other things, the prayers, cleansing, prayer positions, things that are allowed and things that are disliked during prayer, purification for prayer and impurities, when wudhu and ghusl are required and what things invalidate them, and bathroom etiquette. Let me stress how complete and specific these instructions are. In the future, I intend to post sections of this very interesting booklet.
Prayer time takes a little getting used to here in Saudi Arabia. All businesses must close for prayers. This means that all businesses open and close several times a day. It also means that shoppers are either kicked out of shops or at some places they are locked inside when it’s prayer time. Once we were in a large supermarket when prayers were called and we were locked inside the store for about half an hour. Many businesses open in the morning and then close from about 12-3 or 1-4 depending on what time of year it is, and then open and close again and again for the last two prayers of the day. Most businesses stay open pretty late, until at least midnight or so, due to the limited open times during the day. Another reason is because of the extreme heat here during the day which can be quite uncomfortable, and since the weather is more pleasant in the evenings, many people prefer to do their business or shopping then.
Some mosques are located in the middle of busy business areas where there is not much parking available. It is not unusual to see cars double and triple parked in the streets around the block near the mosques. I have been told that this is perfectly fine and no one can complain because these men are at the mosque praying. Usually only men go to the mosques to pray on a daily basis. Women generally pray at home, even on the holy day which is Friday.
Every shopping mall I have been to so far is equipped with separate fully carpeted prayer room facilities for men and women, located near the restrooms so they can wash up first. Literally every store in the mall closes when it’s prayer time, so every day hundreds of shoppers are left to roam the corridors of the mall until the shops open back up about a half hour later.
A couple of times we were in a restaurant when it was prayer time. The waiters scurried around making sure we were comfortable and had our drinks, and then they were gone for half an hour. After prayer time they picked right back up where they left off, continuing with our service.
I remember back in Florida, whenever Adam had a sporting event or a school function that we should have attended to show support for our son, my husband would refuse to go if the event coincided with a prayer time, which was often the case. It used to be upsetting to me because my reasoning is that God would understand why he would have to pray later since he was supporting his son by being there for him. This argument never held water with my husband, and it was always a sore spot between us. I always resented having to attend these functions alone.
Here, it seems like if we are out during the day to try to get things done, we are always in a rush to finish before the next prayer time. No wonder the traffic is so horrendous here with everybody zipping around to beat the clock. I must admit I don't find shopping here nearly as enjoyable as I used to in the states. It is inconvenient and stressful and many times you have to go back several times to try to find what you are looking for because you simply run out of time.