With its 82 domes, sky-piercing minarets and acres of gleaming, ice-white marble, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque will take your breath away. A visit to Abu Dhabi isn’t complete without a visit to this magnificent religious edifice where you can experience the sheer majesty of its gilded columns, intricate décor and polished tile courtyard. Here, we reveal everything you need to know about Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
It’s the largest mosque in the UAE
Spacious enough to accommodate over 40,000 visitors, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is a colossal place of worship. The largest mosque in the UAE and third largest in the world, the sprawling complex covers over 22,400 sq m. 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.
It’s a masterpiece of modern Islamic architecture
Beginning in 1996, the AED 2.5 billion project took an incredible 12 years to complete, opening in 2007. More than 100,000 tons of pure white Greek and Macedonian marble were used in the mosque’s construction. Harmonising classic Mamluk, Ottoman, and Fatimid architectural styles, the gargantuan scale and intricate detail of the mosque render it a breath-taking masterpiece. It’s unique lighting system reflects the lunar phases, projecting colours onto the mosque’s exterior that change nightly according to the moon, while 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 unmistakably Arabic in appearance and design, the construction of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque was a collaboration with Abu Dhabi’s international friends using globally-sourced materials. Italian engineers Salini Impregilo lead 3,000 construction workers from 38 contracting companies from all over the world. 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 with over 2.2 million knots. It’s so heavy it had to be dismantled, flown in on two aeroplanes, then re-stitched on arrival.
It’s astonishingly opulent
Look closely and you’ll discover the luxuriant tiny details about Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque that make it so stunning. Semi-precious stones like amethyst, lapis lazuli and jasper are embedded into columns. Delicate floral patterns in mother-of-pearl radiate from the walls. Six shimmering Faustig chandeliers made from twinkling Swarovski crystals and 24-carat galvanised gold hang majestically from the ceiling. The largest chandelier at a record-breaking height of 15m is suspended in the central dome.
It was conceived and executed 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 conceived the majestic construction. He chose the location, at the entrance of Abu Dhabi island between Musaffah Bridge and Maqta Bridge, and took architectural direction of the project. His wish was for it to be his final resting place and his body resides in the mosque’s courtyard.
It’s open to non-Muslim visitors
You can find out more about Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque on a free guided tour in English or Arabic. The mosque is open for visiting Saturday to Thursday between 9am – 10pm and Friday 4.30pm – 10pm. Abayas are provided for women and long trousers for men. Don’t forget your sunglasses for those dazzling white surfaces.
Just 20 minutes from Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the regal Jumeirah at Etihad Towers is the perfect base from which to experience the splendour of Abu Dhabi’s Grand Mosque.