One of the things I love about travel is getting to see unique cultural and architectural wonders around the globe. I had seen various pictures of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque before, but in real, it wowed me even more than expected.
With a capacity for around 40,000 worshippers, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is the largest mosque in the UAE and the 8th largest in the world. This monument commemorates Islamic culture and is a significant place of worship located in the country’s capital, Abu Dhabi.
Founded and instigated by the first president of the UAE, late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, this mosque was his vision, and it became a reality when it opened in December 2007. He passed away before construction was complete, and his mausoleum is within the same grounds in the gardens beside the mosque (Photography in this area is not allowed).
The notion of diversity and the ideology of uniting the world come alive in details of the mosque. Materials were sourced from various countries and the design is heavily influenced by art and architecture from all over. Due to their enduring quality, natural materials such as marble, gold, ceramic, crystal and semi-precious stones were used in the construction.
I was instantly reminded of the Taj Mahal and for a good reason. Mughal architecture was a major source of inspiration for the design, along with Islamic and Moorish architectures. Repetitive patterns and symmetry are prominent in the design.
Marble from Macedonia contributes to the most distinctive feature of the mosque, the striking white color. Other areas also boast the finest marble from Italy and Greece.
There are 4 minarets and a total of 82 domes. Moroccan artwork beautifully adorns the inside of the domes, along with scriptures from the Quran.
Another marvelous feature comes in the form of a large floral marble mosaic in the courtyard.
There are beautiful ceramic tiles on the outer walls that are unmistakably and traditionally Turkish. As for columns, there are over a thousand of them! The colorful flowers were formed on the marble using semi-precious stones including Mother of Pearl from India.
The German-made gold, colorful and colossal crystal chandeliers are nothing short of spectacular and look like upside down palm trees. The blue chandelier in the foyer entrance looked exquisite too.
In the main prayer hall is also where you will find the world’s largest carpet. It doesn’t come grander than this! Imported from Iran, it’s a massive hand-knotted carpet with subtle horizontal lines which makes it easy for worshippers to align during prayer.
The main wall, known as the Qibla wall, in the center of the prayer hall really drew me in. Fiber-optic lighting is integrated into the design; and engraved with 99 names (or qualities) of Allah, it faces the direction of Mecca.
And’s there’s a wall clock that describes prayer times.
Imported from Italy, Murano glasswork carved in floral design can be found on the walls and doors.
A few things worth keeping in mind:
As always, while traveling anywhere, respect is important. While in the premises, behave and dress conservatively.
Evenings are a great time to visit as you can see how stunning the mosque looks as the sun sets, and as night falls when it is illuminated according to phases of the moon.
There is no entry fee for visiting the mosque. Plus, there are free guided tours daily and each lasts a little under an hour. I found the tour quite informative and entertaining. For timings and more details, you can check the official site of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
I was very impressed with the mosque’s architecture and gorgeous details – pictures don’t do justice. A beautiful place of worship and a great work of art; Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is indeed a grand masterpiece. Don’t you think so?
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, but as always, all opinions are my own.