Saleh Sbenaty was asked more than once Friday how he slept the night before. He didn't.
How could he when a longtime dream was about to be fulfilled?
Friday afternoon, Sbenaty and other Muslims in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, entered a brand new mosque, Tennessee, and fell in prayer to their knees.
They'd waited more than two years for the opening of their new Islamic center, delayed by legal wrangling and anti-Muslim sentiment that surfaced through protests, arson and vandalism.
Friday, Sbenaty, a mosque board member, struggled for words that adequately captured his excitement. So did his daughter, Lema.
"Oh my goodness it's gorgeous. It's gorgeous," she said entering the prayer room for the first time Friday.
It was sanctuary.
She bowed her head to the red carpet in prayer pose, tears filling her eyes, her voice quivering.
"We've come such a long way from where we were to where we are now," she told CNN. "And I mean this is the fruits of our labor. It's emotional because we never thought we'd be here this fast. It's absolutely overwhelming."
Others streamed in at 1 p.m. for afternoon prayers.
A sign says the maximum capacity is 636. Saleh Sbenaty expected between 400 and 500 on the first day.
No more were they crammed into one room of a small building. They took off their shoes and placed them in rows and rows of racks and entered the prayer room. Among them were non-Muslim visitors who came to show their support. One wore a T-shirt sporting a slogan saying as much.
Saleh Sbenaty sat among the men on the front row as the imam began the prayers by recalling all that has happened. He reminded his congregation that no challenge in life was too great to overcome.
Not once in the long and stressful process to build the center had Sbenaty given up hope, though sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel seemed woefully dim.
"We never had doubt," he said. "We are citizens of this great country. We are believers of the constitution."
The 12,000 square-foot center next to Grace Baptist Church on Veals Road is still not fully furnished and is lacking an audio system. But it was important, Sbenaty said, to have Friday prayers inside the new facility during Ramadan, Islam's holy month, which ends August 19.
The center plans a grand opening in a few weeks when everything is in place.
Murfreesboro's Muslims had outgrown their older and much smaller space tucked away from a road in the southwest part of town. In 2009, they purchased 15 acres of land for a new Islamic center a few miles to the east. Construction began the following year.
The plans were to eventually grow the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro to 52,000 square feet and will include the mosque, school, gym and a swimming pool.
But from the start, the new center divided this small city 35 miles southeast of Nashville that has 104,000 people, more than 140 churches and one mosque.
Opponents of the mosque protested, citing zoning concerns and worries about radical Islam.
Proponents cried religious intolerance.
Early on, Kevin Fisher, who led the protests, said opponents are going to contest "every brick that's laid."
Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey didn't mince words, either.
"You could even argue whether being a Muslim is actually a religion, or is it a nationality, way of life, a cult, whatever you want to call it," he said during his failed run for governor.