A couple of weeks ago, I got the opportunity to visit Oslo. I had been invited to take part in a panel discussion about multiculturalism, Islam and freedom and used the generous amount of free time I had to look around the city.
Among the places I visited was Oslo’s medieval cemetery which also houses the remains of St Hallvard’s cathedral. I found a note in English which said that the cemetery also contained the grave of King Sigurd the Crusader (died 1130 C.E.). Sigurd was so named because he took part in a crusade in 1107 which saw him assist in the capture of Sidon. I went round looking for Sigurd’s grave and coudn’t find any marker which explicitly said it was his grave. So I took a photo of the most distinguished looking grave (above) – I have no idea if it is actually Sigurd’s actual resting place though.
Anyway, today, Oslo contains a large and growing Muslim community whose members hail originally from Pakistan, Somalia, Iraq, Turkey and North Africa. I was told that the Muslim quarter was in the east of the city so I walked there – Oslo is not very large and you can walk from the north to the south of the city in less than an hour. East Oslo’s Muslim area is centred around Gronland. I performed my Salah (daily prayers) at a mosque there (pictured below).
Oslo appeared to be a very expensive city to live in. A halal restaurant sold a 500 ml bottle of diet cola for 25 NOK (Norwegian Krones) – that’s over £2.50!
In Gronland I met a young Somali who recognised me from his time in the UK – he used to live in Glasgow and moved to Oslo when he got married three years ago. He said that overall he preferred Norway to Scotland despite the cost of living.
I couldn’t help wondering what King Sigurd the Crusader would have made of the thriving presence of so many Muslims in his own city?