Every time I visit Abu Dhabi, I am always mesmerized by the huge white mosque that majestically stands along the busy five-lane E11 highway. It is a reminder that the long bus ride from Dubai will soon be ending and I will be in the heart of Abu Dhabi in 30 minutes or so. It is the capital's iconic structure that I was able to visit during my recent trip.
The marvelous structure is Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, established by the Late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan. I have learned from SZGMC's official site that "the Mosque is an expression of a visionary leader who believed that nothing is impossible and conceived that the most gracious achievements start from the heart."
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is the largest mosque in United Arab Emirates. It is mainly a place for worship, but it is also open to the public for free during designated visiting hours. Since Ed and I visited on a Friday, when the Grand Mosque only accepts visitors from 4:30 to 10:00 pm, we had the chance to see the the magnificent structure both at sundown and at night.
There is a strict dress code to be followed when visiting the Mosque. For female guests, an abaya (black cloak or loose over-garment worn by Muslim women) is given. Male visitors can freely go in without changing. However, those who are wearing shorts should use the white robes provided at the entrance.
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is Abu Dhabi's most important landmark. It has a diverse Islamic architecture which features four minarets and eighty-two domes. It is clad with SIVEC marble from Macedonia, giving the majestic structure a pure white colour which symbolizes purity and piety.
Guests are required to leave their shoes at the racks near the entrance. Food and drinks are also not allowed inside the mosque to protect the delicate marble and hand-crafted carpets. The world's largest hand-knotted carpet can be found inside the Mosque's main prayer hall.
On a weekend night, the Grand Mosque had a lot of visitors, but silence was still maintained. The prayer hall was filled with serenity. We followed the huge crowd along the visitor's lane and stopped almost every ten steps for photo ops.
The Grand Mosque is indeed GRAND in every angle! It is a masterpiece that displays traditional geometric Islamic designs and is intricately decorated from floor to ceiling. The walls are filled with sophisticated floral designs. There are seven huge chandeliers made of gilded stainless steel, gilded brass with 24 carat galvanized gold and decorated with Swarovski crystals. The largest chandelier hanging from the main prayer hall's ceiling is one of the largest in the world.
It was already pitch dark when we went out of the main prayer hall. The columns made of gold and marble gloriously sparkled and reflected at pools surrounding the mosque.
While walking at the courtyard, we saw the pure white mosque dazzled underneath the night sky! Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is illuminated with a unique lighting system that changes along with the lunar phases. When the moon is in its crescent phase, the mosque's external surface is lighted with bluish gray shade. And on a full moon, the lighting becomes more brilliant. It was a breathtaking sight, truly a must-visit in Abu Dhabi!
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Taxi Fare from the city: around 40-50 AED
For more information about Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, visit their official website: www.szgmc.ae.