A must-do for POCOs: visit the majestic Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Arguably Abu Dhabi’s most iconic structure, the magnificent Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is one of the most admired attractions in the world for its size, beauty, and architectural brilliance. During the day, the purity of the white marble is luminous, and after sunset a unique lightning system, designed to reflect the phases of the moon, projects undulating bluish clouds onto the external surfaces of the mosque. No matter the time of day, the sheer majesty of this building shines through, and we guarantee that you will not come away disappointed.

Vision of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

One of the largest mosques in the world, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque was built in the vision of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the Founder of the UAE: to incorporate architectural styles from different Muslim civilizations and to celebrate cultural diversity by creating a haven that is truly welcoming. The mosque embodies Islam’s foremost message of peace and tolerance, welcoming people of all beliefs.

Uniting the world was paramount in its design and construction, using artisans, craftsmen and materials from numerous countries including Italy, Germany, Morocco, India, Turkey, Iran, China, United Kingdom, Macedonia, New Zealand, Greece and the United Arab Emirates.

Abu Dhabi Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Construction of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Abu Dhabi called upon a legion of artisans from all over the world to create Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. More than 3,000 workers and 38 contracting companies took part in the construction of the Mosque between 1996 and 2007. The building complex covers an area of more than 12 hectares and can host up to 50,000 worshippers. The construction cost a total of USD 545 million.

Every artistic design element has been carefully considered to fit into the overall vision of the mosque. Natural materials were chosen for their long-lasting and beautiful qualities, including Macedonian marble, stone, gold, semi-precious stones, crystals and ceramics.

Architecture of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

The exterior of the mosque features reflective pools and a courtyard with one of the largest marble mosaic artworks in the world. Dotted all over the mosque are 82 white marble domes of different sizes with onion shaped crowns and gold-glass mosaic crescents as well as 106-meter-high minarets in Mamluk, Ottoman and Fatimid styles.

Inspired by date palms, the thousands of palm-crowned columns, flanking the external arcades, are made of white marble panels inlaid with precious and semi-precious stones such as lapis lazuli, red agate, amethyst, abalone shell and nacre. Each column has been hand-carved by craftsmen on site, using a centuries-old technique called Pietra Dura. Taj Mahal is another example of this technique.

Abu Dhabi Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Inside the mosque, 96 columns stand in groups of four as structural support for the three main domes, clad with white marble inlaid with mother-of-pearl vines. Inside the halls and foyers are seven 24-carat gold gilded chandeliers inlaid with thousands of Swarovski crystals. The largest chandelier in the main prayer hall weighs about 12 tons.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque holds the Guinness World Record for the largest hand-woven carpet, measuring 5,700 sqm. It took 1,200 artisans two years to knot and weave the carpet with the intricate Islamic medallion design for the main prayer hall.

Visiting Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Due to the mosque’s open-door policy, visitors from around the world are welcome inside the mosque. Located at the entrance to Abu Dhabi City Island, visiting hours are from Sunday to Thursday 09:00am to 10:00pm. Entry is free.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque offers daily guided tours for visitors, led by guides explaining the various elements of the architecture and Islamic culture. You can also choose a free e-guide – an audio-assisted tour – which details the mosque’s architecture, calligraphy styles, Emirati national dress, Sheikh Zayed, construction details and much more. The audio is currently available in 11 languages: Arabic, English, Chinese, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Urdu, French, Japanese and Russian.

Mosque manners

Please be aware that you are not allowed to enter the mosque with shorts, skirts or in sleeveless, transparent or tight-fitting clothing. Basically, you need to cover your shoulders and knees. Appropriate and respectful clothing is long, loose fitting, ankle length trousers or skirts for women and men. Women must wear a headscarf.