Abu Dhabi’s most famous landmark is Sheik Zayed Mosque. Maybe you can tell from the photo above why I call Sheik Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi a gem of the desert. I only had a few hours to explore Abu Dhabi while on a layover to Kathmandu, and I decided this mosque is one of the main attractions in the United Arab Emirates and well worth leaving the airport to see. I was right. It is the second most beautiful building I’ve ever seen, second only to the Taj Mahal.
First, I have some stats about this beautiful mosque. This is reported to be the seventh largest mosque in the world with the ability to hold 40000 worshipers at one time. It has over 82 domes and 1000 columns, but what makes it so beautiful is its simplicity, elegance, and symmetry. All of the things that make the Taj Mahal so beautiful.
Most of all, I can’t mention this mosque without mentioning the costs involved in building it. Costs are reported between 545 USD to 1.5 billion USD to construct and it took seven years to complete. The first ceremony held at the mosque was the funeral of its namesake, Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Nahyan. Hopefully he got to see it before his own funeral was held there.
The taxi will drop you at the side of the building, but the best pictures can be taken from the road in front. The entrance is around to the right of the picture you see above. So don’t make the mistake of parking in the car park and never walking around to the street in front to get this view.
Each of the columns has colorful inlayed marble leaves and flowers, especially the tulip which symbolizes Allah. The mosque is surrounded by reflecting pools which must have been the cleanest pools I’ve ever seen. How they keep the sand out of them, I will never know.
Inside the mosque is no less astounding than the outside. There are three chandeliers, each adorned with Swarovski crystals. The grandest of the three was hidden by scaffolding, unfortunately, and another was off limits as is half of the interior, but one of them was on full display and screamed ‘take my picture!’ The largest one in the center has 10m diameter and is 15m tall. I’m not sure about this one in the photo, but it wasn’t much smaller than the one in the center. The carpet inside is the largest hand knotted carpet in the world.
The entrance has its own style and beauty. And chandelier, of course. Every wall, ceiling, and floor is marble. The interior walls and outdoor columns are inlayed with colored marble and precious stones, although I was assured no diamonds were used or harmed during the construction of the mosque.
I have one last photo to show the true opulence of this mosque. Unfortunately, I couldn’t take photos of the bathroom or the ablutions fountain, but they were spectacular. However, I could take a picture of the entrance to the women’s bathroom. Here it is. I believe these are Iznik tiles from Turkey, but I couldn’t find any information to confirm that. I love how it has its own spotlights. Some of the walls and fountains outside the mosque are adorned with similar tiles as well.
I visited the mosque in the morning when it opened at 9:00AM, but there is a sunset tour of the mosque every day except Fridays. This tour is at 5:00PM and would be well worth it, I think, to see the mosque lit up at night. When I visited, English tours of the mosque were offered at 10:00AM and noon.
Dress Code and Photos
Most importantly, female visitors must cover their hair and if not dressed appropriately (covered arms, chest, and ankles) they must wear an abaya which is provided for free. The room is in the underground parking garage. Men must wear long pants and cover their upper arms at least. No tank tops and no shorts. It is free to visit the mosque.
Next, please be respectful when taking pictures and do not pose inappropriately. I chose not to have my picture taken at the mosque because it is primarily a place of worship, not a tourist attraction.
If I return to Abu Dhabi, I would love to visit here again. This mosque is a true work of art.