Arctic mosque’s incredible journey to Inuvik passes through Edmonton


Truck and barge will haul structure to Muslim community in Inuvik

By Mariam Ibrahim, September 5, 2010 

A mosque built in Winnipeg that will find its home in Inuvik, N.W.T. to serve a small Muslim community of about 100 people is parked for the weekend south of Edmonton at a truck stop on Highway 21on Sept. 4, 2010. The turn-key mosque has been shipped by truck from Winnipeg to Hay River and then will travel by barge to Inuvik.

EDMONTON — By the time it reached the Edmonton area Saturday afternoon, after travelling along back roads for nearly 1,500 kilometres, the soon-to-be most northerly mosque in the Western hemisphere was almost halfway to its home in Inuvik.

The little mosque with prairie roots began its journey to the Northwest Territories on Sept. 1 in Winnipeg, where it was built. From there, long-haul trucker Kevin Anderson pulled the 36-tonne structure through Saskatchewan and into Alberta.

“I would say we probably added another 300 to 500 kilometres by staying off the beaten path,” said Anderson.

While it’s the longest haul Anderson has pulled in his 25-year career moving buildings, he said the trip has gone smoothly so far, save for the strong headwinds he’s faced since Winnipeg.

“It takes a lot of our speed,” he said. “Slows things down quite a bit.”

He said he’s been driving for 12 hours a day, and despite the winds and the 18 different highways he’ll need to travel along in Alberta, he’s right on schedule.

From Edmonton, Anderson will pull the 32-foot-wide mosque north to Hay River, hoping to arrive by Thursday. That’s where the final leg of the 4,200-kilometre road trip will finish; the mosque will complete its journey to Inuvik by barge.

The mosque will sit at a gas station truck stop on Highway 21 until Tuesday morning, when Anderson and his team of three other drivers can resume their journey. They had to pause because of laws in the province that prevent extra-wide loads from travelling on Sundays or statutory holidays.

“It can be a logistical nightmare,” said Hussain Guisti, who has planned much of the long trip. “It’s a puzzle you have to manage.”

Guisti is one of the founders of the Zubaidah Tallab Foundation, a Manitoba charity that helps build mosques for Muslim communities in need of a holy space.

It wasn’t the first mosque the charity had funded, built and hauled. In 2007, the foundation’s first project brought a mosque from Winnipeg to Thompson, Man.

And with the Inuvik-bound mosque set to make history, Guisti said all of the efforts he and other have devoted to the project — including fundraising about $250,000 since April — are worth it. “This is making Islamic history,” he said. “The reward is great. For me, this is like Star Trek — it’s going where no one else has gone before.”

According to Statistics Canada’s most recent figures, Islam is one of the fastest-growing religion in the Northwest Territories.

The mosque is set to serve Inuvik’s small Muslim community of about 100 people, who have been forced to use a trailer for prayer services — a problem made even more challenging now that the Muslim holy month of Ramadan is underway.

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