The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is an important place of worship, not just in Abu Dhabi, but throughout the entire United Arab Emirates (UAE). Despite its religious and cultural significance, the mosque is a modern construction, having been completed in 2007. Its impressive architecture draws visitors from around the globe, who can not only enter, but also take a guided tour.
Conceived by Sheikh Zayed, the first president of the UAE, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque was designed as a symbol of unity. Builders constructed the mosque using natural materials from a diverse range of countries, including Italy, Turkey, the UK, China and New Zealand, and took inspiration from various architectural styles from Persian to Moorish. The result is a breathtaking structure that features 82 domes, more than 1,000 columns and four grand minarets that each rise to 107 metres high. The mosque is one of the largest in the world, with a capacity for more than 40,000 people. Spread across 12 hectares and surrounded by lush gardens, it has cemented itself as an icon of the Abu Dhabi skyline.
Unlike other mosques in Abu Dhabi, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is open to tourists. Step inside and marvel at the stunning interior that boasts design features including 24-karat-gold chandeliers that incorporate millions of Swarovski crystals. There are 7 chandeliers in total, the largest of which measures 10 metres in diameter and weighs 12 tonnes, making it one of the biggest in the world. The marble, ceramic and semiprecious-stone accents throughout add a mystical beauty, as does the world’s largest hand-knotted carpet, which resides inside the mosque.
Opening hours are 9am until 10pm daily except for Fridays, when the mosque is dedicated to worshippers until 4:30pm, at which time it reopens to tourists. Admission is free, as are the guided tours that run daily and start on the east side of the mosque. Remember that this is a place of worship, so keep cultural sensitivity in mind. Both men and women must wear long, loose-fitting clothing that covers the ankles, and women are required to wear a headscarf.