Abu Dhabi’s awe-inspiring Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque: Promoting tolerance, love, and openness amongst cultures

By: | October 1st, 2016 | 0 Comment

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When we were planning our very short visit to Abu Dhabi (one day and 2 nights at Hyatt Capital Gate), the only thing that we were adamant about seeing was the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. The Grand Mosque was the reason we decided to visit Abu Dhabi instead of only visiting the more popular tourist destination Dubai. Abu Dhabi’s Grand Mosque is one of the most prominent and beautiful architectural monuments in the world. Anyone visiting Dubai or the UAE should make a trip to Abu Dhabi even if only to see the Grand Mosque. It will be worth the drive. It is truly awe-inspiring, but it’s beauty is not only external and extends to its message. The mosque was created to “promote mutual respect and understanding between different religions” and “enhance levels of communication, love, tolerance, and openness among people” according to its website. During a time in our society when people are doing terrible things to each other all over the world, these are very important messages. The Grand Mosque explains on its website that it “introduces a vision of tolerance rooted in the traditions of the golden Islamic era- traditions based on respect and exchange of ideas for the enrichment of human life and history.” Tolerance, respect, exchange of ideas- these are values we cherish as open-minded avid world travelers, and we think our world could use a lot more of them! Furthermore, the Grand Mosque was established to “embrace scientific and intellectual spirit and encourage future enlightened research.” It holds a library which facilitates public understanding of Islamic civilization, arts, and architecture. The Grand Mosque is a key site for worship in the UAE, but also a center for research, education, and culture.

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Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi is the UAE’s largest mosque

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Perfectly manicured gardens surround the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

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View of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque from the gardens at the main entrance

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Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque’s courtyard and entrance to Main Prayer Hall

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Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque’s arcades and Moroccan-inspired domes

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Gorgeous blue tiled reflecting pools surround the arcades at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, UAE, architecture, art, world travel adventurers, WorldTravelAdventurers, luxury travel, luxury, prayer hall, arcades, reflecting pool

Thrilled to be visiting an architectural masterpiece, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Work for this magnificent mosque began in 1996. It opened in 2007 as a platform to enhance culture and knowledge in Abu Dhabi and the surrounding region by organizing activities promoting a culture of tolerance, love, rationality, and mutual dialogue. Free hour-long guided tours are available daily and are excellent. Below Bertaut stands with our fantastic tour guide Abdullah, who was born and raised in Abu Dhabi and was extremely knowledgeable and informative. Do not miss the guided tour!

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Our excellent tour guide Abdullah with Bertaut at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

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Entrance to Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi

We highly recommend taking the last tour of the day when you can see the mosque both in daylight and then as the sun sets on it, which is a glorious experience. The mosque transforms into a magical sight at night with exterior lighting that follows the moon phases. Bluish gray clouds are projected onto the Mosque to reflect the phases of the moon. As the moon progresses through its cycle and becomes full, the lighting effect becomes more brilliant.

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Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque must be experienced both in the daytime and after the sun sets

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The arcades at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque are illuminated at night

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The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque transforms as the sun goes down and the lights turn on

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Arches in front of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque’s Main Prayer Hall glow at night

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Reflecting pools mirror the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque’s spectacular columns at night

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It’s magical as the lunar illumination lights up the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque at night

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Exterior lighting at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque follows the phases of the moon

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Feeling content to be in such a beautiful spiritual place at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

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Clouds of light illuminate the domes and exterior while marble surfaces of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque at night

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View of courtyard and Main Prayer Hall from under the arcades at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, UAE, architecture, art, world travel adventurers, WorldTravelAdventurers, luxury travel, luxury, prayer hall, arcades

Sheikh Zayed Grand Moque takes on a bluish gray color at night to mimic lunar illumination

The Grand Mosque, which is free to enter and allows non-Muslims, has a strict dress code. Either come prepared or you can borrow proper attire to keep covered while visiting. Below are photos of the sign with the dress code. We were able to wear our own clothing since Bertaut had just purchased his gandoora at Heritage Village to be allowed entrance to the Emirates Palace earlier that day, and I came prepared with a long loose dress, scarf to cover my head, and sweater to cover my shoulders and arms. Otherwise, we would have been loaned a hooded black abaya (females) and gandoora (males) like the ones in the images of allowed clothing.

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Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque dress code

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Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque dress code

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, UAE, architecture, art, world travel adventurers, WorldTravelAdventurers, luxury travel, luxury, prayer hall, arcades

We came prepared for the strict dress code at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Some more interesting facts about the Sheikh Zayed Grand Moque is that it was named for Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahran, the first president of the UAE and founder of the mosque. He is buried in the mausoleum there. The Grand Mosque sits at the entrance to Abu Dhabi City Island and is visible from the 3 main bridges connecting it to the mainland. Below is a photo of the mosque from afar. It has four 107 m-high minarets and 82 domes representing different Islamic styles “fused into one summation of art and beauty.”  The archways are Moorish and the minarets are classically Arab.

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Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque seen from across the bridge at night

The Grand Mosque is the largest in the UAE and one of the largest in the world, holding up to 40,000 people. Its design and construction “unites the world” by using artisans and materials from around the globe, including Greece, Italy, Germany, China, India, Macedonia, Turkey, Pakistan, Malaysia, Iran, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Morocco, and of course United Arab Emirates. Its exterior of white marble, sourced from Greece and Macedonia, is a symbol of purity and piety. Over 100,000 tons of pure white marble were used in its construction, and they searched the world to find the purest white. Gold and semi-precious stones add to its brilliance. Over 1000 marble pillars are decorated with floral designs of inlaid lapis lazuli, amethyst, abalone, jasper, mother-of-pearl, red agate, and other semi-precious stones. The marble courtyard with its floral floor design is considered the largest marble mosaic in the world. No expense was spared in the creation of this amazing mosque. The intricate details at every level are incredible!

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Pure white marble symbolizes purity and piety at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

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One of the four 107m-high minarets at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

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Peeking out at the courtyard from under the arcades at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

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 Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque’s courtyard has the world’s largest marble mosaic with a swirling floral design

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Perfect symmetry under the arcades at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

 

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There are 82 domes at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

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The arcades were one of my favorite things to photograph at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

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We were amazed by how clean and shiny the outdoor floors were at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

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Columns with inlaid seme-precious stones at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

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We cannot image the work and expense that went into creating all of these floral designs at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

The Grand Mosque’s mind-blowing beauty continues on the inside. Guests are asked to remove shoes before entering the Main Prayer Hall. Delicate floral designs made of semi-precious stones grow up the white marble walls of a gorgeous sun-filled entry room with a stunning chandelier and exquisite stained-glass windows and doorways. This room makes me think of a secret garden.

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Entry room to the Main Prayer Hall at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

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Magnificent door to enter Main Prayer Hall at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

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Floral designs in semi-precious stones grow around the doorways at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

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Gorgeous stained glass windows at Sheikh Zazed Grand Mosque

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Semi-precious stones create floral patterns on the white marble walls inside the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

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As the sun sets, the room begins to glow from the Swarovski chandelier at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

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Domes serve as skylights by day and are illuminated at night at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

The Grand Mosque has 7 chandeliers made of steel, gold, Italian glass, and millions of Austrian Swarovski crystals. The Main Prayer Hall holds the world’s second largest chandelier inside a mosque, which weighs 12 tons. Photos really don’t do it justice.

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World’s 2nd largest chandelier inside a mosque at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

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Breathtaking chandelier and dome inside Main Prayer Hall at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

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Swarovski crystal chandelier surrounded by beautiful columns at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

The Main Prayer Hall has the world’s largest hand-knitted carpet which was designed by an Iranian artist. It took 2 years to complete with 1200 craftsmen working on it. It measures 65,570 sq ft and weighs 35 tons. I’d hate to be the one cleaning it. 😉

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In awe of the beauty and intracies inside the Main Prayer Hall at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

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World’s largest hand-knitted carpet in Sheikh Zayaed Mosque features arabesque motifs

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Bertaut can’t help but stare in wonder at the unbelievable details throughout the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

The Main Prayer Hall’s 96 columns are inlaid with mother of pearl and shine brilliantly in the light. The craftsmanship is extremely rare.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, UAE, architecture, art, world travel adventurers, WorldTravelAdventurers, luxury travel, luxury, prayer hall, columns, mother of pearl

White marble columns inlaid with mother of pearl floral designs at Shiekh Zayed Grand Mosque

The Main Prayer Hall’s Qibla wall features the 99 names or attributes of God written in traditional Kufic calligraphy. The Main Prayer Hall walls and floor also feature fiber optic lighting to highlight aspects of the design. It is unlike anything we’ve even seen in a mosque or place of worship. The unique floral designs continue in the Main Prayer Hall on the wall, columns, and floor.

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Qibla wall and pulpit at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

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Walls glow from fiber optic illumination inside Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque’s Main Prayer Hall

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Beautiful floral designs decorate the walls of the Main Prayer Hall at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

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A security camera watches from above the door, so act appropriately or you will be asked to leave at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

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Artistic walls inside the Main Prayer Hall at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

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Fiber optics illuminate this flower on the floor of the Main Prayer Hall at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

We couldn’t stop taking photos of the beautiful arches throughout the mosque, which are inspired by Moorish design. We also loved the mosaics above the seating areas and water fountains. The bathrooms and ablution areas were equally beautiful but photos were not allowed in that area.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, UAE, architecture, art, world travel adventurers, WorldTravelAdventurers, luxury travel, luxury, prayer hall, arches

Meeting point for the guided tours at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

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Bright mosaics decorate this resting area at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

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Colorful mosaics around this lovely water fountain at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Whichever religion you associate with, Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism… one cannot help but feel a spiritual experience at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. We think that any vacation to the UAE should include a visit to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque to see this masterpiece of art of architecture. Make sure you have plenty of space on your camera, because if you are like us, you will take hundreds of photos! Remember to plan your visit near the end of the day to see the mosque in both sunlight and moonlight because both are glorious. Where is the most beautiful place of worship you’ve ever visited so we can add it to our list? If you liked this post and want to get tips to travel like a millionaire, please sign up for our email newsletter and our RSS feed.

About Bertaut & Alexis

Abu Dhabi’s awe-inspiring Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque: Promoting tolerance, love, and openness amongst cultures
Travel addicts and proud parents of two young kids who make exploring the world a priority while working full time. Bertaut & Alexis enjoy traveling like millionaires without spending a fortune and share their tips on how to get luxury for less.

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