WanderlustEverything you need to know about Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

This architectural masterpiece will take your breath away

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No trip to Abu Dhabi is complete without a visit to Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. With its 82 domes, sky-piercing minarets and acres of gleaming white marble, this religious edifice will take your breath away. Here’s everything you need to know about Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

 

It’s the largest mosque in the UAE

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is a colossal place of worship; big enough to accommodate over 40,000 visitors. The largest mosque in the UAE and third largest in the world, the complex covers over 22,400sqm. The main prayer hall can hold more than 7,000 worshippers, and there are two smaller prayer halls with a capacity of 1,500 each. Such is the mosque’s size that more than 100,000 tonnes of Greek and Macedonian marble were used in its construction.

 

It’s a masterpiece of modern Islamic architecture

The  2.5bn AED project took 12 years to complete, starting in 1996. The mosque draws on classic Mamluk, Ottoman, and Fatimid architectural styles, and features a lighting system that reflects the lunar phases, projecting colours onto the mosque’s exterior that change nightly according to the moon. Its interior marries classic Middle Eastern arched doorways and geometric shapes with contemporary, innovative design.

It was built by an international team of artisans

While Arabic in appearance and design, the creation of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque was a collaboration between construction companies from around the world. Italian engineers Salini Impregilo led 3,000 workers from 38 contracting companies, while artisans from India, Germany, Egypt, Turkey, United Kingdom, China and Pakistan all lent their skills. The main prayer hall’s carpet — the world’s largest — was hand-knotted by 1,300 Iranian craftsmen using New Zealand wool. It’s so heavy that it had to be dismantled, flown in on two aeroplanes, then re-stitched on arrival.

 

All in the detail

It’s the details that make Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque so stunning. Semi-precious stones such as amethyst, lapis lazuli and jasper are embedded into columns. Delicate floral patterns in mother of pearl radiate from the walls. Six Faustig chandeliers made from twinkling Swarovski crystals and 24-carat galvanised gold hang from the ceiling. The largest chandelier is suspended from the roof of the central dome at a height of 15m.

 

The mosque was conceived by the first president of the UAE

The Grand Mosque takes its name from the UAE’s first president, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who was the driving force behind this majestic construction. He chose the location – the entrance of Abu Dhabi island between Musaffah Bridge and Maqta Bridge – and gave architectural direction on the project. His wish was for it to be his final resting place, and his body now resides in the mosque’s courtyard.

 

It’s open to non-Muslim visitors

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque offers free guided tours in English or Arabic. It’s open to visitors from Saturday – Thursday between 09:00 – 22:00 and on Friday from 16.30 – 22:00. Abayas are provided for women and long trousers for men. Don’t forget your sunglasses for those dazzling white surfaces.