Saturday, 25 January 2014

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi

One reason why we're apprehensive about taking public transportation in a foreign country is the language barrier. Although my mother still understands and speaks some Arabic, it's useless when you take a taxi or bus and have to converse or give instructions. Drivers are usually South Asians, and with all due respect to their degree of fluency in the English language (matched by my absolutely nil grasp of Gujarati, Punjabi, Urdu, Hindi, Bengali, and many others), it is most often a challenge to understand each other. 

But that didn't deter me, my sister, and mother, from taking the bus for a nearly two-hour ride to the UAE's capital Abu Dhabi from Sharjah to see the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. With our version of halting English, we made it to our destination as any other clueless tourist would have.

The 40,000-capacity Grand Mosque's back view, which the bus driver reluctantly agreed with me as the point to alight. Should you ever decide to visit the mosque, please take a taxi from the main bus station. That will set you back roughly 60 Dirhams (£10 or USD 16) return.

Let's start again, at the front.

The front side featuring the water mirror, columns, and one of the four minarets that lead to the entrance and inner courtyard. The unique lighting system reflects the phases of the moon.

This view is even more spectacular at night due to the lighting design, so go and visit during that time if you can.

The north/east minaret serves as a community library which holds books and publications about Islamic subjects and studies.

The main entrance that leads to the inner courtyard and the prayer room

The main entrance's dome which features lacy floral pattern and calligraphy

To the water mirror and columns....

A ceramic wall décor at the main entrance sets off the floral motif of the Grand Mosque.

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque was constructed between 1996 and 2007, and inspired by Arab, Persian, Mughal, and Moorish architecture. The 8th largest mosque in the world, its design influences are the Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, Pakistan, and the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, Morocco.

The sprawling inner courtyard, measuring 17,000 sq metres (180,000 sq ft), is said to be the largest marble mosaic construction in the world.

My first ever selfie, and my smile scrawls how unsure I was with what I was doing. I'd choose a proper abaya and shayla anytime over the above required little black riding hood.

Looking out from the vestibule of the main prayer hall, where all visitors had to take off their shoes before entering.

Vestibule chandelier. This is one of the seven German-made chandeliers that used millions of Swarovski crystals.

Panoramic shot of the vestibule

The Qibla wall greets you at the main dome of the main prayer hall. The Qibla directs Muslims to where they should face during salat or formal worship.

The third largest chandelier in the world

The Syrian chair with lectern on the left, and the minbar at the right, where the Imam delivers sermons. I thought the minbar was a very modest fixture against the majestic backdrop.

The grandiose main prayer hall that can hold up to 7,000 worshipers. There are two smaller ones, both of which can accommodate 1,500 individuals, with the other solely for female mosque-goers.

The Islamic clock showing prayer times

Adjacent ceilings of different designs separated by an arch

Mother-of-pearl inlaid pillars

Glass crystal mosaic looks out through the courtyard

Flower mosaic on the wall, made of semi-precious stones

The Grand Mosque's carpet is the largest ever made by Iran Carpet Company. At 5,627 sq metres (60,570 sq ft), the maker employed up to 1,300 carpet knotters to finish the job within two years. The carpet pieces were flown into Abu Dhabi via two airplanes, and were hand-stitched by artisans for the final fitting. It was so plush on my feet, each piece deserved its own first class seat.

Now, what was I thinking when I was secretly hoping for a café in the mosque premises? The peace and quiet, and the beautiful weather (22 degrees Celsius, tops) were conducive for sitting down and enjoying a cuppa.

If Dubai aims to impress via her gargantuan ultra-modern infrastructures, Abu Dhabi takes the more conservative route and builds up the cultural and religious background of the Emirates. 

If you live in London or other European cities where a studio flat is the size of one toilet cubicle in a mall in Dubai, anything bigger is striking. So, go on, book a flight and be awestruck.


  1. Such an impressive mosque! I will add it to my to visit list for sure. And nice to see your selfie. I agree it feels strange at first but I can imagine that it is something one can quickly get addicted to.

    1. Thanks Anouka! You must include a trip to the mosque should you ever find yourself in the Emirates. Aww..selfies..fingers crossed I don't get addicted to it :)

  2. Fascinating. It's incredible how pristine the exterior is.

    You look beautiful in your selfie. x

    1. Thank you, and good to hear from you. It's been awhile :) The selfie seems to get positive reviews x

  3. The setting… sheer magnificence!
    The selfie… sheer beauty!
    The smile… sheer trepidation!

    1. This made me laugh as usual! Thank you for composing a lovely comment. Hahaha x

  4. All I can say is WOW. I love this post! These images are stunning and I can only imagine how breathtaking it must've been to see the sights in person. I also love how you and your sisters just bravely ventured into Abu Dhabi on your own -- I guess your adventurous spirit was definitely rewarded.

    On a side note, did you have to rent the black hood to enter the premises? Or was that your own?

    1. Thanks Rhona. It's so flattering if comments such as yours come from a professional photographer. Our brother-in-law couldn't get some time off work, so we went on our own. WE don't have enough time so we couldn't wait for when he'll be free.

      The black robe is free and comes in two lengths. Nothing to pay. But you're welcome to bring your own abaya and shayla, especially if you want to look fashionable for the photos :)

      Thanks Rhona x

  5. Is this one of the most beautiful things you have ever experienced because it is for me and I'm only looking at it through pictures. It's so imposing and I can just imagine how amazing it would be at night with the lights. I wonder how many people they employ to keep it looking so beautiful and clean. Some great shots babes, the detail has really come through and it just looks stunning - the Islamic clock would look perfect in my dining room, a little smaller of course. Anyway congratulations on the selfie, I think you nailed it - I look forward to more ha ha xx

    Have a great week hun

    1. I knew you're gonna find something in the mosque to put in your house. Hahaha. I bet you'll be waiting outside where the shoe racks are, looking at the shoes. Hahaha. Thanks, you find my shoots beautiful :) It was so easy to take photos there coz the place was stunning. Aha, the selfie....hhahaha..I'm having fun with it. For you, I'll post more. Hahaha. Have a lovely week x

  6. Damn, I'd definitely be awestruck!! This is frigging huge! And it's the EIGHT largest mosque??? I wanna see the biggest one now, I have to google it and see some pictures.:) You're very ballsy to take a 2 hour bus drive with limited communication options - you could've really ended up in the middle of nowhere had there been a misunderstanding.:D I've been to Jordan once and I know how it is when you literally have nothing left but to wave your hands like a mime... Anyhow, these shots are gorgeous, that blue skies and the white magnificence of the building, that's a photographers dream!

    And yes, my dog's name is Leos. He had that name when I got him and I kept it, because our previous family dog was Leo and I thought it was fate or something.:)

    1. I checked out the largest one and it's a frigging city!! I think it's bigger than my town.:D

    2. Some say it's the 3rd, and some say it's the 8th. So I'm confused. But whether it's the 3rd or 8th, it still is in the top so let's just say it's really big. I did some mimes in Abu Dhabi just before the bus reached the back of the mosque, I found myself outside the bus, with the driver about to shut the door on my face with my mum and sister still in. Hahaha.

      Thanks, I'm really happy with these shots as everyone seems to like it :)

      So Leos is more Leo, that's why the s :)

      I need to find out the name of the biggest mosque too!

      Thanks Peet x

  7. Absolutely stunning and you managed to take some wonderful photos. The chandelier, carpet, wall décor and the attention to detail - truly amazing! We had actually been talking about visiting the Grand Mosque later this year. The exterior in particular reminds me of the Grand Mosque in Muscat, Oman although it's obviously on a much larger scale in Abu Dhabi.
    Thank you very much for your lovely comment on my 'Pearls' post. The silk Lulu Guiness scarves were for sale in the V&A shop (fifty pounds I think)

    1. Thanks miss you are a frequent Dubai visitor, you must visit the mosque. You'll love it. I love it's tribute to femininity. It's just a beautiful place to visit :) I'll check out V&A if it's sold there. Have a lovely week :)

  8. Wow, I must say, these are pretty amazing, breathtaking really ... it's quite incredible just taking in all of the artwork and architecture surrounding you there. I also fancy hand work, as I used to be a costumer so I really appreciate the embroidered carpet. Thanks for sharing! xx/Madison

    1. Thanks Madison. I love lacy patterns and embroidery, too, so to see them on a monumental structure and hard surface was amazing. In a way, it softened the whole look of the mosque. It became less imposing in size. You're welcome. Have a lovely day xx

  9. This mosque is almost full on every Friday as it is the biggest mosque of UAE and on Eid prayers Sheikh Zayed Mosque is visited by many Muslims around the UAE. Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque


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