VISITING THE SHEIKH ZAYED GRAND MOSQUE
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi's iconic landmark that opened in December 2007, is a stunningly beautiful site. Influenced by the architecture of Moorish and Arab mosques, the mosque boasts eighty two white gleaming domes and over a thousand columns with intricate golden tops. The lustrous marble floors with colorful flower inlays, the world's largest hand-knotted carpet, and a regal crystal chandelier make this a spectacular place to visit. No wonder the mosque took twelve years to complete at the reported cost of around $545 million.
The generous open-door policy allows tourist to visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. However, being an active house of worship, certain areas are closed to non-muslim guests. The guards are numerous and they will make sure you don't step too close to the restricted areas.
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is open daily from 9am to 10pm, except for Fridays when it is open only in the afternoon from 4.30pm to 10pm. Entrance to the mosque is free.
GUIDED TOURS OF THE SHEIKH ZAYED GRAND MOSQUE
The mosque offers complimentary one-hour guided tours. Catching the tour during sunset makes the most of the romantic lighting. The guides are knowledgeable and even when there are twenty people attending the tour, it is easy to hear them with the help of personal sound amplifiers.
The tours start at the magnificent colonnade of jewel-encrusted and gold-topped pillars. The building boasts more than 1,000 columns, covered in white marble and inlaid with colored marble, amethyst, abalone, and mother of pearl. The white marble flooring, sparkling clean, features incredible floral mosaic designs.
THE LARGEST CARPET IN THE WORLD
The iconic main prayer hall of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque houses the largest hand-knotted carpet in the world, stealing the record from neighboring Oman. Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat, which was opened nine years earlier, had held the record before. The carpet measures more than 5,600 square meters (60,500 square feet) and it took 1,200 Iranian artisans nearly two years to create. They used a whopping 38 tons of cotton and wool to make and the final product that weighs twelve tons. The prominent color is green and the intricate flower patterns feature Islamic and traditional Iranian floral art and motifs.
The carpet is wonderfully soft on the feet. When you step on it, you may feel very subtle raised lines on the surface—this is intentional in order to guide worshippers into neat rows during prayer. More than 40,000 worshippers can fit into the grand hall at a time.
CRYSTAL CHANDELIER WITH A MILLION SWAROVSKI CRYSTALS
It is not only the rug that is unbelievable. The grand mosque's prayer hall has seven beautiful 24-carat gold plated Swarovski crystal chandeliers. The chandeliers were imported from Germany at a cost of about 30 million dirhams (over $8 million). The largest one - the biggest in the world - is ten meters in diameter and incorporates one million Swarovski crystals. Just like the largest rug, the spectacular Sultan Qaboos Mosque in Muscat had held the record before.
Beautiful calligraphy, etched with verses from the Quran and painted with gold leaves in An-Naskh lettering, encircles the dome where the largest chandelier hangs.
TIPS FOR VISITING THE SHEIKH ZAYED GRAND MOSQUE
DRESS CODE FOR THE SHEIKH ZAYED GRAND MOSQUE
Modest dress is a must when visiting and there is a handy guide about what is acceptable on the mosque's website. Abayas and scarves are available for free at the entrance. However, women are allowed to enter without an abaya if wearing loose-fitting clothing that it is not transparent and covers the arms and legs. That said, most women chose to wear an abaya when we were visiting. The guards make sure that the scarf covers your hair at all times and remind you to cover up if it has slipped off your hair in the wind. The dress code for men is long trousers but short-sleeve shirts are acceptable.
HOW TO GET TO THE SHEIKH ZAYED GRAND MOSQUE
The quickest and most convenient way to get to the mosque is by taxi. It is just a 20-minute ride from the city center and the fares are reasonable, about 40 dirhams ($11). There are taxis waiting outside the mosque to take you back to the city.
TOURS OF THE SHEIKH ZAYED GRAND MOSQUE
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is open daily from 9am to 10pm, except for Fridays when it is open only in the afternoon from 4.30pm to 10pm. Entrance to the mosque is free. Hourly 30-45 minute tours are held from Sunday to Thursday starting at 12pm but there are also some tours on Fridays and Saturdays. Check the timings on their website: https://www.szgmc.gov.ae/en/visit-mosque-visitors
OTHER THINGS TO DO IN ABU DHABI
For ideas of other things to do in Abu Dhabi from historical sites to having a cup of cappuccino with gold, please read our post: BEST THINGS TO DO IN ABU DHABI