Sheikh Zayed Mosque Abu Dhabi
Twenty minutes drive from Abu Dhabi city centre and you approach the silhouette of a grand building with features like no other landmark in the UAE. As you enter the exterior vicinity of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque your jaw drops at the enormity and scale of this iconic masterpiece. Goose bumps dominate and then a sudden warmth as its rich elegance starts to unfold…
Background on Sheikh Zayed Mosque
The incredible Sheikh Zayed Mosque or Grand Mosque as it is also known, was named after the UAE’s former ruler and President - Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan whose body was also buried at the grounds in 2004. It was Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan’s dream to build a grand mosque meters above sea and street level in order for it be seen from miles afar. It's beauty and elegance has without a doubt given it the label of national icon and is a definite must see, even if you are visiting Abu Dhabi for the day. It is clear that the design of the mosque is unique in that it does not follow one style influence but many from around the globe such as Italy, Germany Morocco, Turkey, Iran, Greece, China, India, UK and the UAE. The numerous style influences clearly reflect how the nation welcomes different faiths and cultures. Plans for its design began in the 1980s and the mosque was complete in 2007 after 12 years of continuous work. It required over 3000 workers and a cost of over US$2 billion to complete. The Sheikh Zayed Mosque is the largest in the UAE and 3rd largest in the world after the Grand Mosque in Mecca and the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina both in Saudi Arabia. The Sheikh Zayed Mosque can accommodate up to 40,000 worshippers – 32,000 in the courtyard outside and 9,000 inside.
The design of Sheikh Zayed Mosque
The design of the Sheikh Zayed Mosque is a mix of Arabic, Mughal and Moorish architecture and the fusion of all three styles works very well to complement one another. The relaxing light colours give the mind a feeling of calmness and the intricately designed floral marble area gives elegance and an inner state of love and happiness. Artists from around the world have written verses from the Holy Quran in three different types of Arabic calligraphy. These appear throughout the Sheikh Zayed Mosque. There are over 1000 columns in the mosque and outside which are encrusted with semi precious stones and signify the palm tree. Along with the 80 plus domes, you can just about get an idea as to how huge this magnificent mosque is. There are 4 huge minarets rising to 115 metres in height. There is a significant reason for the use of Minarets. In the past, before speakers were invented, a Muezzin would shout the call to prayer standing at the top of the Minaret. Nowadays, thanks to electronic speakers the process is made much easier. At the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, every dome is covered with pure white marble and 24 carat gold and the main dome, the largest in the world, is 32.7 metres in diameter and 85 metres high. The main prayer hall is simple in design in contrast to the rest of the mosque so as not to distract worshippers when praying.
Map of Sheikh Zayed Mosque Abu Dhabi
The architecture of Sheikh Zayed Mosque
Just by walking through each and every area of this outstanding building, you can see how much thought and detail has gone into its formation. All the necessary classic features of a mosque exist, with additional accents to make it really unique and unforgettable. There are over 80 domes, the largest of which is the world’s largest dome to exist in any mosque at 85 meters high and 32 meters in diameter. There are 4 minarets rising to the height of 115m. Various materials make up the mosque including 28 different types of marble and a huge amount of stone 220,000 square meters in fact! The hunt for the purist, whitest marble went from country to country and didnt stop till a perfect pure white marble was found which was equally durable and sufficient to withstand the extreme climatic conditions such as high temperatures, humidity and sandstorms of the UAE. In the end 28 different types of marble were used. The pure white marble used mainly for the exterior, was found in Macedonia. The warm white marble used for the interior sections was found in the snow peaks of Lasa, Italy. Various other pieces used in the intricate floral design found on the columns and in the courtyard area, where individually handcut into cubes and only the right colours were used. Each piece had to be cut accordingly to fit inside the pre-cut white marble to make the floral design. Pure brilliance. The huge Qibla Wall within the prayer hall (which guides the direction of Mecca) has the 99 names of Allah written in Kufic script inscribed into the wall surrounded by beautiful floral designs. The whole wall is illuminated with fibre optic cable to give it a magnificent finish. The floral design made of mother of pearl and gold with semi precious stones has been used extensively throughout Sheikh Zayed Mosque’s with 17,000 square meters of floral marble used just in the courtyard. All the careful planning and preparation has also included trying to make the Sheikh Zayed Mosque as earthquake- proof as possible, using the strongest materials possible.
World records of Sheikh Zayed Mosque
The Sheikh Zayed Mosque may not have the title of largest mosque in the world but it definitely holds a couple of titles:
The world’s largest carpet
Made in Iran by 1200 female weavers working in 3 shifts over 2 years, the mammoth carpet measures 60,500 sq ft and weighs 47 tons. Made with 25 natural colours, the dominant colour is green which is said to be the late Sheikh’s favourite. Incorporated into the weave of the carpet are raised horizontal invisible lines, used for worshippers to align themselves. So its not just a huge and pretty carpet – its practical too! You’re probably wondering how the world’s largest carpet managed to get from Iran to Abu Dhabi. Easiest method was for it to be cut into sections and brought to Abu Dhabi in batches where it was re-fixed again. Simple!
The world’s largest chandelier
We all know the UAE loves bling – but who doesn’t?! Ok so it’s not a necklace, but at least it can be admired by many! The world’s largest chandelier sits in the Sheikh Zayed Mosque and was made in Germany measuring 33ft in diameter and 50ft high and weighing a whopping 12 tonnes. It hangs at the centrepoint of the large dome, so the designers obviously had to makesure the dome was strong enough to take on the mammoth weight of the crystals! Just to give you an idea of its sparkle capability - it has 40 million pieces of Swarovski crystals - mhmm I bet you'd like to see the receipt! There are 7 chandeliers in total of varying height with copper and gold plating. There is even an in built staircase within the chandelier for maintenance purposes! This may all sound like it’s over blinging and you made need sunglasses – but truly, go and see it especially if you are a fan of crystals, its elegance simply takes your breath away.
Tours of Sheikh Zayed Mosque
What adds to this great landmark is the free tour that they offer, where your local Emirati guide will brief you on the detail of the mosque and Islam. This is open to anyone, Muslim or non-Muslim, tourist or resident which is pretty novel in its own right. The tour guides have been trained well and will answer any question that you have on Emirati culture, Islam or the mosque itself. No question is too taboo and it’s a great way to learn about the UAE and its culture. If you’ve never seen a mosque before, make sure you visit this one. Not many mosques are open to non- muslims and it was the late Sheikh Zayed’s wish to open the mosque to all nationalities and religions so people could have educational tours and learn about Islam, it’s art, it’s history and the Muslim culture.
The Sheikh Zayed Mosque is open to non-muslims everyday except Friday. There is free entry. Guided tours are available Sun – Thurs from 10am and they last about 90 mins. If you are visiting with less then 10 people there is no need to pre book, just arrive by 10, and join the public tour. Parties above 10 should get in touch with the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority or call 800 – 555 (within UAE) to make an exclusive tour. Please note to dress conservatively when visiting Sheikh Zayed Mosque. Women should wear lose clothing, either long trousers or skirt and cover their hair with a scarf (this can also be provided when arriving at Mosque). Men should avoid wearing shorts. No shoes permitted in the building, so slip off shoes are easier. No intimate behaviour is permitted i.e. holding hands. Photography is permitted but avoid taking pictures of the locals.
The tour starts at 10am and lasts 45 minutes to an hour depending on the number of questions. They have started trialling other tours at 1030, 11am, and 5pm, but be aware that you may not get much time to view the mosque due to prayers being recited. It’s best to go for the 10am tour.
Points of note:
- Dress appropriately – women should wear loose clothing and wear long skirts or trousers. Men should wear trousers or jeans. Women will need to wear an abaya and headscarf once inside the mosque which will be provided for free. Men who wear shorts will be provided with a kandura to wear. You’ll need to take your shoes off on entry to the mosque, so slip ons are better
- Photos – you can take as many pictures as you want, and it’s a photographer’s haven with all the detail in the mosque. However, on entry to the mosque grounds, don’t photograph to the right where Sheikh Zayed’s body rests – and do ask first before you take any photographs of the locals, especially women. The tour guides are usually very obliging.
- Don’t touch the Qurans in the prayer halls unless you have performed ablution and are Muslim.
- Wash rooms are in the basement at the far end of the mosque. Swap your shoes for the slippers provided.
- Don’t drink water or eat food in the mosque.
- After viewing the Mosque, we would suggest combining with The Souq at Shangri La, Qaryat al Beri
- You don’t have to go for the tour if you don’t want to and can just go for a walk around if you want, as long as it doesn’t clash with prayer time.
When – Free tours 10am sharp, Sunday to Thursday Friday
How long - 2 hours, for the tour and to walk around
Location – “Sheikh Zayed Mosque”, between Al Maqta Bridge and Mussafah Bridge, 20 minutes from the city.
Cost – Free
Booking – not required
More Info - http://www.szgmc.ae/