So far you’ve seen me climb dunes in Abu Dhabi, visit a falcon hospital, paddle some mangroves and hang out at a chi-chi beach club in my Abu Dhabi trip journals. But Abu Dhabi isn’t just nature and excesses, it is home to the 3rd largest mosque in the world, the Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque.
The idea of the mosque was conceived in 1986, though work only started 10 years later and finally completed in 2007, utilizing over 3,000 workers and materials from all over the globe. At any one time, the mosque can accommodate up to 40,000 worshippers in its indoor and outdoor courts!
While you can visit it on your own time, I highly recommend taking one of the free English tours because not only do you get a very thorough explanation and background of the mosque, you also get special access and get to walk beyond the barriers of where the normal tourists are directed. The English tours are at 10am, 11am and 4pm (no pre-booking required unless you have a particularly large group)
The tour started quite promptly – it’s a pretty informal set-up where the guides welcome you at the entrance and then split the groups up among the guides. Each guide takes his group to a different area and explains its background and history in detail. A lot of intricate craftsmanship when into building this mosque, and I can’t imagine how much work is needed to keep it this white. Because we were on tour, we got to cut across the courtyard, while other visitors were directed to keep within the marked pathways.
The inside of the mosque is no less impressive than the outside, and it’s hard to decide what to gaze in awe at, whether it’s the huge, glittering chandeliers, the very beautiful wall designs, or what is apparently the world’s largest carpet that covers the interior floor of the mosque. Our guide was very helpful in telling us all this information, and willing to answer any question we had about Islam in general – we were the last group to leave the inner halls which were closed to prepare for prayer time.
Check out the pictures for more details, and while I might not remember the exact details about everything, I think the visit was an eye-opener about Muslims and Islam in general and I definitely recommend anyone visiting Abu Dhabi to pop by the mosque for a visit.
One important thing – what to wear when you’re visiting a mosque. Of course you want to err on the side of modesty, but in the event you forget, don’t worry, they provide free Abayas (the black coverall hooded dress that the local women wear) and Thobes (the white tunic men wear), which might be an experience in itself for you. If not, I was considered appropriate in jeans with a thin long sleeved jacket and a scarf to cover my head.
One other time to consider visiting the mosque is during the evening when it gets dark – the mosque has a rather unusual outdoor lighting feature where the colour projected onto the external walls reflects the phase of the moon, ranging from a deep bluish colour during the new moon and getting progressively brilliant as the moon gets fuller! Here’s a photo from the mosque’s website and it looks pretty incredible. Hopefully I’ll be able to come back and see this for myself some time!
Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque
Tel: +971 2 4416444
Email: [email protected]
Opening Hours: The mosque is generally open from Sat – Thurs from 9am – 10pm, but is closed during prayer time and on Friday till 4.30pm, so keep an eye out here for more details on opening hours and tour timings before you visit.