Nearing the Sheikh Zayed Mosque on our drive, my sister said lookout for a huge gleaming white mosque – that’s the Grand Mosque. I did and can only describe my first sight of it as truly special – a magnificent structure in white with domes in multiple sizes and beautiful minarets against the setting sun, green palms and white sands. Quite unforgettable.
I had been wanting to visit the Grand Mosque for a while and for some reason or the other it just didn’t materialize. So when I finally landed there, expectations were very high and thankfully it didn’t disappoint. And I am sharing my impressions and photographs of this visit below –
The Grand Mosque is the largest place of worship in the UAE and the third largest mosque in the world. It was commissioned by (and named after) the late president of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan as a means to establish a structure that will unite the cultural diversity of the Islamic world with the historical and modern values of architecture and art. Sadly he died before its completion and his mausoleum is located beside the mosque on the north side.
My sister’s recommendation was that we should visit the mosque either at sunrise or sunset as the glorious natural lighting and colors make a beautiful backdrop against the white of the mosque. We decided to visit around dusk and I totally recommend this timing to everyone for a visit.
We collected our abaya at the entrance to the mosque itself and they didn’t ask us for any fees, deposits or ID cards. We then entered the complex and as required, removed our shoes at the entrance. The place was quite crowded but everything was extremely well-managed by their team.
The first thing that struck us, when we entered the mosque, was the sheer grandeur and scale of the place. There was a huge central courtyard with 1000+ columns all around, beautiful arches in between and 82 domes as their crown.
The design of the mosque incorporates both the modern and classic Islamic styles and beautifully combines elements from Arab, Mughal and Moorish architecture to create a spell-binding masterpiece.
Walking along the corridors we couldn’t help but marvel at the white marble columns inlaid with precious and semi-precious stones using the special inlay technique called Pietra Dura (one of my favorites from the Mughal masterpieces at Taj Mahal andTomb of I’timād-ud–Daulah in Agra). The overall design has been inspired from the date palm tree and the golden top is the in the shape of a palm treetop.
Even the central courtyard has a huge floral artwork on white marble.
We then entered the main prayer hall and were further enthralled with more stunning floral artwork on the walls, domes with traditional Moroccan artwork and verses from the Quran in gold work, the largest and hand-knotted carpet in the world (in the main prayer hall) and glass mosaic in the windows. Every element tastefully merges with the other to enhance the overall beauty of the hall.
However I felt that the highlight in the main prayer hall are the stunning crystal chandeliers incorporating millions of Swarovski crystals and glittering like millions of diamonds on display.
We then exited the mosque and spent some time admiring and photographing the reflective pools that surround the mosque, tiled in different shades of blue. These pools lend an overall element of serenity to the entire place and beautifully reflect the numerous columns around the mosque.
We had a long drive back to Dubai and hence didn’t wait to see the mosque all lit up but I am sure, like everything about it, that too is a stunner.
Overall I loved our visit to the Sheikh Zayed Mosque and totally recommend it to everyone for a visit on their trip to Abu Dhabi.
Tips for the trip –
- Entry to the Grand mosque is absolutely free and you don’t need to book any tickets.
- They have specific visiting hours and walking tours and updated information on the same is available here. They also have an option of e-guides and you can obtain one from the Visitors’ Service Desk at the main entrance. Do note that they need an ID as a deposit for the same.
- This is a religious place and everyone is required to dress and behave appropriately. You need to be fully covered and skirts, shorts and transparent clothes are not allowed. Women also need to cover their heads and they provide abayas for free.
- For the abayas they normally take an ID. We went in the evening and they didn’t take one from us but I have read on other forums that they take an ID as a security deposit and passports are not accepted. So please do carry an ID card or driver’s license to be on the safer side.
- Detailed instructions on how to reach the mosque are available here.
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