East York Mirror
The Pape Mosque or Pape Cami, located just a few steps north of Gerrard Street East on Pape Avenue, is one of those local landmarks the public rarely gets a chance to explore.
For Doors Open Toronto this past weekend, the east-end place of worship, which also goes by the name Canadian Turkish Islamic Heritage Association, welcomed hundreds of visitors eager to learn more about one of the city's oldest mosques.
A smaller mosque compared to others in the GTA, the building that houses the Pape Mosque used to be a movie theatre before becoming a live theatre then the city's first lesbian club. The site was also home to a church back in the late 1890s.
The Canadian Turkish Islamic Heritage Association purchased the property at 336 Pape Ave. in 1982 and after two years of renovations officially re-opened the space as a mosque in 1984.
"It started as a place of worship and it's now a place of worship. We've come full circle," said Suat Ozturk, vice-president of Canadian Turkish Islamic Heritage Association, during a Sunday afternoon tour.
Ferit Ozalp, another Doors Open volunteer tour guide at the Pape Mosque, pointed to the unique wood "minbar" or pulpit, which was handcrafted in Turkey.
As in all mosques, Ozalp explained, the minbar faces eastward towards Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Islam's holiest city.
He also noted the Pape Mosque contains a few decor items representing Turkish culture.
"It's not like other mosques here," Ozalp smiled.
Every Friday, about 250 Muslims from all backgrounds gather at the local mosque for prayers.
Muslims also gather there during the holy month of Ramadan to pray as well as for weddings, funerals and other important occasions in the Islamic calendar. Daily prayers are also held at Pape Mosque.
Aside from being a mosque, the building also serves as a cultural centre for Toronto's growing Turkish community.
The Canadian Turkish Islamic Heritage Association organizes larger celebrations for the special religious festivals of Eid al-Fitr, celebrated at the end of the holy month of Ramadan, and Eid al-Adha, which takes place about two months after Ramadan when Muslims from around the world make a pilgrimage to Mecca. These larger events usually take place at nearby community centres or other spaces that can accommodate hundreds of people.
The local mosque, at 336 Pape Ave., also runs a school on Sundays at Riverdale Collegiate where, on average, 70 to 100 people study their faith, culture and the Qur'an.
"In the future, our plan is to open up our own school," said Ozalp.