With its broad expanses, well-tended lawn, minarets, and palm trees, the Centro Cultural Islamico is the largest mosque in Latin America. The project began under the influence of former President Carlos Menem, who though Catholic at the time of his presidency, is of Syrian Muslim descent. Construction began in 1998, and the building was opened in 2000. The center is open to the general public for free tours twice a week in Spanish and sometimes in English, Tuesday and Thursday at noon. The Centro offers classes of Koran and Arabic language and it has a library open to the public daily from 10am to 5pm (the Centro is closed to the public on Muslim holidays). Estimates of the Islamic and Arabic community in Argentina run at about 750,000. Many Argentines call anyone of Arabic or Muslim descent Turcos, or Turks, regardless of their country of origin, based on the fact that the majority came here from places such as Syria, Armenia, and Lebanon, areas once controlled by the Ottoman Empire, the capital of which is now in modern-day Turkey.
The time of the obligatory prayer