Athens: 1st Muslim prayer center in 170 yrs opens

Immigrant organizations on Friday opened the first official Islamic prayer site to operate in Athens since the end of Ottoman rule more than 170 years ago. Government plans to build a mosque that would serve tens of thousands of Muslim immigrants living in the capital have stalled, and the downtown cultural center was funded by businessmen from Arab countries. "This is the first time in all the 35 years I've lived in Greece that we have a proper place to pray," said Naim El-Gandour, the Egyptian-born head of the Muslim Association of Greece. "It's hard for be to describe what's happening, I am overcome with emotion." Most Muslims in Athens currently use makeshift mosques for prayer, including sites prayer set up in basements, apartments, and converted coffee shops.