Travel Diary: Visiting the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi

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It was a full moon when we visited this magical Sunni Muslim mosque in Abu Dhabi. Earlier in the day, we had been told by a hostess in the Etihad that the best time of day to visit was in the evening. I love photography and I was skeptical – would I be able to get good shots at night?

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I shouldn’t have doubted. It was like stumbling into Arabian Nights, albeit designed by Steve Wynn. There were acres of gleaming white marble, shimmering gold leaf columns, and chandeliers illuminated by millions of Swarovski crystals.

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The mosque is named after Abu Dhabi’s late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, whose goal was to build a venue representative of the cultural diversity of the Islamic world. He is buried on the grounds of the mosque.

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Built between 1996 and 2007, it is the largest mosque in the United Arab Emirates and the eighth largest mosque in the world – covering more than 30 acres.

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Notice how small the Imam’s minbar (pulpit) is compared to the rest of the room.

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The mosque features the world’s largest carpet made by Iran’s Carpet Company, and designed by Iranian artists Ali Khaliqi. It is 60,570 square feet and took 1300 knotters two years to complete.

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Sheikh Zayed Mosque is inspired by Mughal, Moorish and Persian mosque architecture – particularly the Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, Pakistan and the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, Morocco.

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During Ramadan, more than 35,000 people visit a day. A sign board for the daily prayer times is mounted on the wall.

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We were blown away by the level of detail and artistry everywhere.

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The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque has seven imported chandeliers made by Faustig in Munich, Germany. Each contains millions of Swarovski crystals.

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Women are required to cover their hair, arms and legs when visiting. The mosque provides covering if you didn’t bring your own.

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The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is situated between the three main bridges connecting Abu Dhabi City to the main land (Maqta, Mussafah and Sheikh Zayed bridges). It is a quick 30 minute drive from the Abu Dhabi International Airport.

Visiting Hours: Sun – Thurs 9am-10pm Friday 4:30-11pm

For more information go to: http://www.szgmc.ae/

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