Haji Ali Shrine

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Haji Ali Shrine

Set far out on a thin, rocky jetty in the Arabian Sea, this striking, dilapidated white shrine was built in honor of the Muslim saint Haji Ali, who drowned here some 500 years ago on a pilgrimage to Mecca. When a coffin containing his mortal remains floated to rest on a rocky bed in the sea, devotees constructed the tomb and mosque to mark the spot. The shrine is reached by a long walkway just above the water. At high tide the walkway is submerged, making the shrine unreachable. But walking there when the sea has completely receded is not too romantic, because the exposed rocks smell of garbage; choose a time in between. The walkway is lined with destitute families and beggars ravaged by leprosy, some writhing, chanting, and (calling on the Muslim tradition of giving alms) beseeching you as you make your way down—this can be a deeply upsetting experience, but it's one that is unfortunately quintessentially Mumbai. Inside, the shrine is full of colored-mirror mosaics and crowded with worshippers praying over the casket, which is covered with wilted flower garlands. Men and women must enter through separate doorways. On many evenings a busker plays quawalis (a style of Muslim music) after the sunset prayers. There's no admission charge, but you may consider giving between Rs. 20 and Rs. 50 to the mosque charity box. The shrine closes at 10 pm.

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