The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is on the top of the list of things to do in Abu Dhabi. I missed this tourist attraction on my many holidays to Dubai before I moved here but I’ve been a few times with visitors and I feel amazed every time as if I’ve never been before.
He who does not know his past cannot make the best of his present and future, for it is from the past that we learn.
7 facts about the Grand Mosque
- The mosque cost $545 million to create.
- The mosque was completed in 2007 and is the largest in the UAE.
- Over 41,000 worshippers can be accommodated in the mosque including 7,000 in the main prayer hall.
- The huge carpet (5,625 sq.m.) in the main prayer hall made by Iranian craftsmen is the largest in the world.
- There are seven imported chandeliers from Munich, Germany that incorporate millions of Swarovski crystals.
- The mosque features 82 domes of Moroccan design.
- You can find over 1,000 columns covered in white marble inlaid with coloured marble, semi-precious stones and mother of pearl.
The lowdown on visiting the Grand Mosque
On arrival, you’re split into 2 queues; male and female. You will go through metal detector before entering the mosque so take the basics to avoid holding up the queue. Believe me, I’ve been that person behind the woman with her kitchen sink in her bag and not 1 but 3 bottles of perfume. Bring your camera and phone, leave the rest in the car.
Dress conservatively and think loose fitting clothes. Men should not wear shorts. Remember you’re visiting the mosque not the beach.
Ladies, again, dress appropriately but you will be given an abaya regardless unless you bring your own. After the metal detectors, you are guided to a side room full of standard issue abayas for your use, the one you are handed may not necessarily fit but keep moving. On my second visit to the mosque, the sheer length of our abayas was out of control, I envisaged tripping over and face planting on the marble, not a good look! We tried various ways; holding the extra length and fashioning a knot at the hip until a guard politely shook his head at our new look and kindly advised us to tuck it into the waist of our shorts. Perfect answer, he’d clearly come across this before from daft Westerners.
Good idea to wear slip off shoes as you need to remove before entering the mosque. Stating the obvious but go for flats not heels! Sunglasses are also a must to cope with the mix of the sunshine and the glaring white marble.
Be respectful and abide by the rules on your visit; no touching the Quran as a non-muslim, avoid affection, keep your hair covered as a woman either with the hood of the abaya or a scarf and keep your voices low, this is a place of worship.
Finally, all you need to do is marvel at the beauty of this magnificent mosque. The chandeliers are exquisite, the gleaming marble is blinding, the floral wall is delicate and the prayer clock so impressively ornate, you really need to see it to believe it.
Choose your time of day wisely. My first visit was in the middle of the day and wearing the abayas felt a little bit like being in a greenhouse. My second visit was later in the day which was cooler but not cold by any means and we got to see the sunset behind the beautiful structure as we left.
What else you need to know
The mosque is free to enter so what are you waiting for?
The opening times are Saturday-Thursday from 9am-10pm, Fridays 4.30pm-10pm. Times will vary in Ramadan and will be closed on Fridays.
Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Street – 5th St – Abu Dhabi – United Arab Emirates | Telephone: +971 2 419 1919
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