The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Abu Dhabi is one of the most remarkable places in the world. The mosque is dedicated to Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founder and late President who inspired and commissioned many of the United Arab Emirates most daring projects.
The mosque doors are open to everyone besides being a place of worship; it has become a location of learning and tourism that has become one of the genuinely must-see sights for everyone travelling to Abu Dhabi.
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Abu Dhabi
Construction of The Masterpiece
So how did the third largest Mosque in the world come into being?
Sheikh Zayed had dreamed of building the grand mosque as far back as the 80s but wouldn’t live to see it completed. Construction began in 1996 and the prayer halls opened for worship on Eid Al Adha in 2007, but Sheikh Zayed passed away in 2004.
After Sheikh Zayed’s death, construction was overseen by Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan and became an expression of world unity by utilising materials and art from Italy, Germany, India, Turkey, Malaysia, New Zealand, and many other countries.
Today, it has become one of the premier tourist destinations in the world, with thousands of visitors every week in addition to the thousands who continue to use the prayer halls for worship. Visitors are drawn to the Mosque Center, as well as the Library in the North Minaret, and Sheikh Zayed’s tomb.
Design And Materials
The Mosque sits on the edge of Abu Dhabi and features a marble courtyard, three prayer halls, four minarets and no less than 82 imposing white domes.
The construction reflects Sheikh Zayed’s desire to blend tradition with modernity by combining traditional Islamic architectural styles with Mughal and Moorish influences borrowed from other iconic buildings like the Taj Mahal.
The 107-meter tall minarets reflect traditional Islamic design, but their function here is more decorative than the standard towers that were used to spread the call to prayer.
The materials used include 30 different kinds of marble, plus stone, ceramic, and semi-precious stones. The glitter of the central dome is the result of the careful placement of thousands of Swarovski crystals and Italian glasswork.
The outer columns are inlaid with panels of lapis lazuli, amethyst, mother-of-pearl, and other semi-precious stones.
The domes are based on Moroccan architectural styles and the marble floors and columns eschewed the traditionally compact design in favour of a floral pattern based on real buds.
The main prayer hall features a prayer carpet with a traditional floral design. It’s the largest carpet in the world, crafted by over a thousand weavers.
The Mosque was carefully designed to showcase the diverse beauty of both the UAEs past and its present. It was placed to be easily visible from the three bridges connecting the island to the mainland of Abu Dhabi to symbolise the connection between the hearts of all the citizens of UAE and the tomb of Sheikh Zayed.
The Grand Mosque Abu Dhabi is open to visitors from 9:00 am to 10:00 pm daily except for Fridays when it’s closed to tourists. There are special hours of operation during the holy month of Ramadan, so you’ll want to check the mosque’s website before visiting.
There is no fee to enter and conservative dress is required. Women should wear traditional abaya robes and headscarves, which are available to borrow on site.
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque holds a special place in my heart. My wife and I were married in Abu Dhabi and after the celebrations, we took our extended families on a tour of the city including the Grand Mosque. The guides could not have been more hospitable and everyone had a fantastic time. The beauty of the Mosque and the city surrounding it made our special day unforgettable.
Have you visited the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Abu Dhabi? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.