So a few weeks ago I was in Abu Dhabi and on the recommendation of my boss, I decided to visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Abu Dhabi (also called the Grand Mosque). The UAE has some pretty amazing architecture- the Burj Khalifa, most of Sheikh Zayed Rd., but I had heard great things about the mosque and so I wanted to check it out.
I made it in time for the Sunset tour at 5pm on a sveltering sunny Friday afternoon. Certain parts of the mosque are open to public visits during fixed hours of the day. There are free guided tours of the mosque and I would recommend these because you learn a great deal about the significance of the architecture and design. Women must wear the traditional Abaya to enter the mosque. It is restricted to take pictures of women within the premises unless they are wearing an Abaya. On the outside, the beautiful white structure looks imposing and serene at once.
The architecture combines elements, materials and designs from various countries such as Iran, Morocco, France, Germany, India, Turkey, China and Greece among others. The mosque is surrounded by reflective pools on the outside. Materials used for construction include gold, semi precious stones, ceramic and marble. They don’t call it the ‘Grand’ mosque for nothing!
The mosque consists of 82 domes in Moroccan design (the number has no special significance). The outer shell of the main dome is supposed to be the biggest in the world. The mosque can accommodate about 41000 worshippers, which is usually the case during Eid-Al-Adha and Eid-Al-Fitr. The columns in the courtyard are adorned with white marble and semi precious stones like amethyst and lapis lazuli. The lighting in the night reflects the various phases of the moon and artificial clouds are projected to create the visual effect of grandeur.
The floor of the courtyard is of white marble adorned with a stunningly beautiful floral mosaic to signify the presence of gardens in heaven, The grand chandeliers inside the mosque are made in Germany and of Austrian Swarovski crystals. The carpet on the floor of the prayer hall is the world’s largest handmade carpet and was made by artisans in Iranian villages. My favourite part of the design is the Qibla wall- a wall adorned with the 99 names of Allah in Arabic calligraphy. The wall is illuminated with fibre optic lighting and consists of a niche for the religious leader to stand in during prayers. The niche is made of gold and marble and the wave like design signifies the rivers of honey and milk in the Islamic interpretation of heaven.
The mosque is a must visit for anyone visiting the UAE. Attending the guided tours requires no prior registration or fees.
For general information to help you plan your trip to the UAE or Dubai in particular, including money-saving advice and recommendations for off-the-beaten-path day trips from Dubai, culture in Abu Dhabi, cool hotels, or popular places of interest such as the Dubai Miracle Garden and At The Top Burj Khalifa, check out my UAE Travel Blog.