While Dubai may get more name recognition than its wealthy neighbor, Abu Dhabi, there’s one thing Abu Dhabi has that Dubai does not: the breathtaking Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
One of the most important architectural treasures of UAE, the majestic Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is located in Abu Dhabi and is one of the most beautiful creations in the world. No trip to Abu Dhabi would be complete without a visit to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
I really wanted to write down about this unique beauty from Abu Dhabi, because this week I read that it was named the second world’s most popular landmark by Trip Advisor. This week, the travel website TripAdvisor released its list of the world’s top 25 landmarks, with the capital’s Grand Mosque beaten only by the ancient Incan site of Machu Picchu in Peru.
There has been a lot of traveling for me in 2012. But beyond fashion which I hold closest to my heart, traveling comes very close after. I have seen so many beautiful things that year, visited magical places and socialized with great people during my travels. I hope next years will be filled with lots of trips (maybe not as many, but just as fun) as well!
One of the magical places I visited in 2012 is the incredible Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. The only regret I have about this trip is that I missed the visit inside the Mosque because I got there on Friday morning when it’s opened only for worshipers. But I could say I was lucky to see it during the night and my dream of wearing the ‘Abaya’ was granted also. It was something almost unreal and so magical for me, captivating in its scale and whiteness!
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is open for travelers of all nationalities who wants to visit and appreciate the artistic splendor of the mosque. They can take an informative tour or simply get in to soak up the tranquility and architectural greatness.
As you cross the bridge onto the island of Abu Dhabi, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque greets you with a shock of white marble, domes and minarets. From the moment I saw this white magical monument I was simply amazed and felt enamored by the architecture, beauty and tranquil atmosphere. The marble domes are dazzling in its white color especially on the mid-day. The intricately ornamented colonnaded walkway around the courtyard looks so stunning. Clipped hedges and pink bougainvilleas add color to the big white structure. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is said to be a combination of Arab, Mughal and Moorish architecture and is seen as a construction to “unite the world”. Initiated by the late President of the United Arab Emirates, HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque design and construction were done by more than 3,000 workers and 38 renowned contracting companies with artisans and materials from countries such as Italy, Germany, Morocco, India, Turkey, Iran, Greece and U.A.E. Much of its design and construction were done using natural materials including gold, marble, stone, semi-precious stones, crystals and ceramics.
Though the planning to build the Mosque began in the late 1980’s, it’s construction started only in 1996. The maximum capacity is approximately 41,000 people and the overall structure is resting on 22,412 square meters which is approximately equals the size of five football fields. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque features 82 domes of Moroccan design decorated with white marble. The main dome’s outer diameter measures 32.8 meters and stands at a height of 85 meters from the outside, being the largest of its kind. The world’s largest chandelier (10 meters in diameter, 15 meters in height and weighing over nine tones) is in the main prayer hall under the main dome. The Mosque’s seven gold-colored chandeliers feature thousands of Swarovski crystals from Austria. The world’s largest hand-knotted carpet is laid in the main prayer hall, also.
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque has been supported with more than one thousand columns in its outer areas, that are clad with more than 20,000 marble panels inlaid with semi-precious stones and pearls. Around thirty different types of marble have been used in the construction of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. The pools along the arcades reflect the Mosque’s spectacular columns, which becomes even more glamorous at night. The striking white and gold colors shining in the sun are transformed at night by a unique lightning system which reflects the phases of the moon. It’s a beautiful experience to watch the Mosque during night. It’s better to visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in the evening just before sunset. You will get an amazing opportunity to view both the sunset and night views of its breathtaking exterior. Beautiful bluish gray clouds are projected onto the external walls and every day the mosque appear little different from the last day.
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque grounds hosts the final resting place of the president of U.A.E., HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan who was buried in the courtyard of the Mosque after his death on 3rd November 2004.
If you are not Muslim, visiting a mosque (especially this mosque) may be a bit intimidating. You must know upon arrival that there are rules to follow. If you’ve never visited a mosque before, these rules might be a mystery.
Here’s what you need to know:
All visitors are bound to respect the religion and place of prayer and follow some simple dress codes in the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Abu Dhabi. Visitors must be dressed appropriately on arrival because it’s a sign of respect. If not their entry will not be provided. No transparent clothing, no shorts and skirts must be ankle length. Shoes will be removed before entering the mosque. So it’s recommended to wear slip off shoes. Inside the mosque women must keep their hair covered. If you are not covered you will be provided with an ‘Abaya’ (loose fitting robe) and ‘Shaila’ (headscarf) near the entrance. The women must wear loose clothing that covers their arms and knees. Also the gents on shorts are requested to put on ‘Kandura‘, a long white gown. Also, refrain from any displays of affection between men and women. This means no touching. Even when posing for photographs. Visitors are requested not to touch the Holy Quran and other architectural elements inside the main prayer hall. Unlike other mosques in Abu Dhabi, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is open daily to visitors and there are no entry fees. Please note that Friday morning is strictly for worshipers only and afternoon tours are available at 2 pm, 4.30 pm and 8 pm.
I think the best time to visit the mosque it’s 5pm when you can take the Sunset Tour. It’s the perfect time to take beautiful because you can feel the afternoon breeze. Tours are 60 minutes long and run several times a day except Friday. A tour is essential to your visit to the mosque. How else will you learn about the world’s largest chandelier and the world’s largest hand-knotted carpet? Your tour guide will be able to tell you all about it. Also you can ask many respectful questions about their culture and Islam.
Visiting the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is truly a cultural and educational experience. You can learn new things about the mosque, Islam or the Emirati culture.