Both, the Islamic mosque and the Christian Orthodox church are religious locations of central importance for the believers. The significant notion lies in the joint act of praying, which strengthens the communal spirit and unifies the religious identity.
While the construction of the mosque follows the model of the mosque of the Prophet Mohammed in Medina, the round church of Ethiopia is built in analogy to the temple of Solomon in Jerusalem.
The mosque is usually constructed as a rectangular yard. In order to guarantee the religious purity of the place it is forbidden to wear shoes inside. The hall for prayer includes a niche (mihrab) at the wall, which indicates the qibla, the direction towards Mecca, to which the building is aligned. This is also the direction for the prayers. The floor is usually covered with mats, carpets or skins.
The church building in Ethiopia consists of three concentric rings. The inner circle (meqdes) is the place where the of the Ark (tabot) is kept. Only priests are allowed to enter this part of the church. The second circle (qiddist) is reserved for those who received the Holy Communion. The rest of the congregation stands in the outer ring (kine mahlet), always barefooted, on the covered floor.
The tabot is a model of the Ark of the Covenant of the Old Testament and the central element of religious activities in the Orthodox Church of Ethiopia.