Surrounded by beautifully manicured gardens, imposing and a gem in the desert, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is a wonderful welcome to the city of Abu Dhabi. Conceived by the first president of the country, Sheikh Zayed, the mosque also marks his final resting place. His mausoleum is on the approach to the entrance of the mosque. However, only sitting presidents are allowed to enter his tomb. The Grand Mosque can accommodate up to 50,000 worshippers and is only one of the few places of worship in the region which is also open to non-Muslims.
While driving towards the mosque, the domes suddenly appeared on the horizon and upon seeing a glimpse of the white marble, all I could say was “Wow”. It may look very nice in pictures, but they don’t do the mosque justice. Nothing beats seeing it in person. The mosque has more than 80 marble domes held aloft by 1000 pillars with four minarets measuring 107 meters each. It has been hailed as a masterpiece in Muslim architecture and design.
No expense was spared in the building of the mosque. More than 100,000 tons of pure white Macedonian and Greek marble were used in its construction. It is decorated with delicate floral designs inlaid with semi-precious stones such as jasper, abalone, lapis lazuli and red agate. The mosque is contemporary and innovative using modern materials such as brass, steel, and gold. However, it also has references to the Fatimid, Ottoman and Mamluk styles of architecture.
One of the most impressive features of the mosque is the world’s largest carpet made by hand and flown in from Mashad, Iran on two airplanes. It is made of New Zealand wool and Iranian cotton. Imagine all the hours spent creating the carpet!
Visitors are allowed to enter the halls except during prayer times of the worshippers. There is a free 45-minute tour of the mosque that helps explain the fundamentals of Islam while highlighting some of the decors in the mosque’s interior.
Opening times are 9am to 10pm Saturday to Thursday and 4.30pm to 10pm on Friday. Check the website for the prayer times before going there because it changes daily.
There is no entrance fee so make sure you put it on your must-see list.
HOW TO GET THERE
Gettig from Dubai to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is quite easy. You can take a taxi that will cost you between 250AED to 300AED and take 90 minutes each way. If you are going to the Grand Mosque from the Abu Dhabi International Airport, you can take bus A1 and pay US $2. You can find more your transport options at Moovit.
WHAT TO WEAR
Mosque etiquette requires visitors to wear long, loose-fitting garments which are below the ankle. Women are required to wear long sleeves and headscarves. If you are not dressed appropriately, you may borrow hooded abayas at the entrance.
EATING AT THE GRAND MOSQUE
Eating is not allowed in the Grand Mosque and its grounds and there are no cafes or restaurants nearby so make sure you have a full stomach before going there.