It glistens in the mid-day sun, and it is mesmerizing, under the velvet evening skies. Abu Dhabi’s recently completed mosque is, quite simply, an architectural masterpiece. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque takes its name from the Emirate’s visionary and inspirational leader, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who is laid to rest here.
Over 80 domes are incorporated into the design, including the world’s largest mosque dome measuring in at 75 m high. The mosque is dressed in white marble evoking a sense of sophistication under the dazzling desert sun. As dusk turns to night the Mosque is lit from 22 light towers, which are coordinated to reflect the current phase of the moon and creating a vision of serenity and Arabian splendour.
Like many religious buildings around the world, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque encourages visitors, but does ask that you to dress modestly.
Hushed amusement is often to be heard from the ladies changing room as assistants help female visitors to correctly don their shaylah (headscarf) which along with the abaya, are loaned free of charge. Men should also dress respectfully. Shorts are not permitted and a thobe or dish-dash, as it is often referred to, is available, free of charge, for male tourists who arrive unsuitably covered.
Despite the grandeur of the mosque the first photo shoots of many visitors are in fact of themselves in their new attire and not the breath-taking beauty surrounding them. Shoes are also removed and the marble remains pleasantly and surprisingly cool even during the mid-day sun.
It is fascinating to join one of the regular guided tours of the mosque, led by a local Emirati. These are free of charge and really are a great way to discover more about both the building of the mosque and of worship here. You are also free to wander around on your own, though you may miss some interesting facts in doing so. The carpet in the main hall is currently the world’s largest handcrafted knotted carpet and measures a staggering 6,000 sq m. Other impressive statistics include the appreciation that 40kg of 24 carat galvanized gold was used in the making of the chandeliers. There is much to take in as you walk around the mosque. Intricate designs of flowers are inlaid in the marble with semi-precious stones and internal columns are decorated in mother of pearl, creating a rich ambience. The footprint of this impressive building is reported to be 22,412m sq, roughly equivalent to the size of 5 football fields, allowing up to 40,000 to come and worship together here at any one time.
The magnificence of the building, with its verses of the Holy Quran hand-painted in gold, is a blend of traditional Islamic combined with the talents of worldwide workmanship from the 21st Century.
*Visitors should arrive in modest dress.
*Open daily 9am – 10 pm except Friday when the mosque opens to the public at 4.30pm – 10pm (closed first day of Eid Al Fitr and Eid Al Adha holidays and reduced hours during the holy month of Ramadan).
*Admission is free.
*Ladies are asked to loan (free) an Abaya and Shaylah.
*Men should be modestly dressed (no shorts).