India and the UAE have generally enjoyed cordial relations, partly due to their shared history with the British presence in Asia, and partly due to the pre-colonial history of trade, commerce and settlement between the two nations. Dubai is an Oasis of religious tolerance.
Sikhs living in UAE had no common place to gather to worship or celebrate religious festivals or weddings. In Dubai, the Bur Dubai temple and private homes being used for mass gatherings were bursting, prompting community leaders to look into the possibility of building a larger space for the worship of the Guru Granth Sahib. They grew from five families to 10 families to 50 families and it became hard for them to ask the hostess to make 400 chapattis in a day. So they decided that whoever comes brings 10 chapattis, and the hostess would make the vegetables and the dal. Though temporary Gurudwaras had come and gone, the community needed a permanent place of worship. The very thought of building a permanent and official Gurdwara in the heart of an Islamic state was considered nothing short of an Arabian mirage. The push for an official Gurudwara began about 27 years ago. The proposals kept getting knocked back but they did not give up. It was a pleasant and joyous surprise when consent was received from the Council of Imams. To add to the joy and sense of well-being, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Makhtoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of UAE, bestowed a piece of land free of charge, for the Sikhs to build their Gurdwara.
Construction of Guru Nanak Darbar
In June 2010, foundations were laid for the Guru Nanak Darbar with all Sikh ceremonies. The-unimaginable has happened. Guru Nanak Darbar was to rise from the sands of Dubai, making it the first ‘official’ Sikh temple in the whole of Gulf. A historic moment for Sikh community. Now there would be a Gurdwara for solemnizing marriages and holding other religious ceremonies. One can’t surpass the Golden Temple but efforts were to build one of the most modern Gurudwara in the world. The dream of the Community was to make it the best after Golden Temple in Amritsar. The Temple was to be the sacred marker of the faith, its repository, and its most concrete symbol. It was the permanent spiritual home of the Sikhs. A place where all might gather to worship the One True God.
The internationally reputed Dubai-based architect firm Holford Associates has designed the Dubai Gurudwara. Holdford Associates already has to its credit over 20 churches, four mosques, and one temple. The consultancy was also sought from Richard Adams of the UK, who was involved with the Shri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara on the Havelock Road in Southall, London. Before awarding the contract, the architects were sent on a tour to visit the Gurudwaras around the world, find each one’s imperfection and make a perfect Gurudwara. A masterpiece that will serve the needs of the community. Paul Bishop and designer Arafeh Bashir visited the Golden Temple and studied frescoes and wall painting at Sri Harmandar Sahib. It took two years for the architectural firms to give shape to the three storied structure built over 12, 5000 sq. ft. Construction work of Guru Nanak Darbar was started from May 2008 and got completed in December 2011. No compromise was made in its construction. The contractor was told that the Community wanted a 100-year guarantee for the building for the future generations to utilize it.
On 17th January 2012, the largest Gurudwara of Gulf region was declared open for over 50,000 devotees in UAE. The Guru Nanak Darbar is a multi-storey facility spread over 100,000 sq.ft building area located at the T- Junction of two large accessible roads. The opulent building was worth every fil or the cent of the 65 million Dirhams or over 20 Million US Dollars spent on it. It was indeed a historic moment for Sikh community. Sikhs now would be able to go to the Gurudwara for special prayers. The Spiritual void had been filled as now Sikhs had a Gurudwara where they could pray. That was a graceful gesture from UAE and signaled the beginning of a new chapter in the relations between Sikhs and UAE government.