The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is the first visitors attraction in Abu Dhabi and, recently, in the list of the most famous attractions in the world, within “classics” as the Colosseum in Rome and the Tour Eiffel in Paris. A new confirmation has recently arrived from the TripAdvisor community: more than 34000 reviews indicate Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque as the first must-see in Abu Dhabi.
The works for building the Grand Mosque started in in the late 1990s until 2007, when the Grand Mosque has been opened to the worshippers. The first stone has been posed by Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and his son, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and UAE President, guided the completion.
The works have employed about 40 contractors and an undefined thousands of workers, artists and artisans.
The Grand Mosque is the largest mosque in UAE and one of the 8 largest mosques in the world, large enough to accommodate about 40.000 people.
About the other records: inside you can find the largest Iranian carpet of the world, completely hand-crafted, thousands of columns, 4 minarets, 82 domes, wonderful chandeliers, gold and exquisite marbles.
But, numbers and records apart, let’s try to understand what makes the Grand Mosque a special place
What makes really special the Grand Mosque
The first interesting topic about the Grand Mosque is its history, and, say, its “message”.
The Grand Mosque has been strongly wanted from Sheikh Zayed, father of the Emirati Nation and modern political leader. According to the institutional site of the Grand Mosque, Sheikh Zayed has inspired all his whole life and the guidelines of his kingdom to “a tolerant version of pure Islamic faith far from fanaticism or extremism”, based on mutual respect, tolerance, and the appreciation of diversities. The Grand Mosque architecture “translates” this vision. An important concept is the mix of different Islamic architectonic styles , with elements of post-modern architecture, as well. This “mix” represents the strong connection between the past, with his respected traditions, and the opening approach to the future. The wide and impressive variety of exquisite materials and elements coming from all over the world express the value of diversity, the concepts of peace and love, according to the vision of Islam of Sheikh Zayed.
Curiosities about the Grand Mosque
|Muezzins of Abu Dhabi – When in Abu Dhabi you heard a call to prayer from the muezzin, wherever you are, remember that the voice is coming from the Grand Mosque, connected to more than 200 mosques in the city by a sophisticated system voice-satellite, and to the Islamic radio station Quran Kareem, on air 24hours a day.|
|Lights in the night – The Grand Mosque night enlightenment changes color and intensity according to the moon phases.|
|Spirituality – Even if you are not Islamic, the visit to the Grand Mosque will give you a deep real feeling of peace and calm.|
|Inspiration – The beauty and the harmony of the Grand Mosque inspire every year a photographic competition (follow the updates on our Facebook page)|
|Italians (everywhere!)– Inside the Grand Mosque there is a special contribution from Italy… try to guess where… (we are going to reveal soon)|
Visiting times and free guided visits
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is open for visits every day during the week, except for Friday morning, during the worship. Free guided visits used to be available, but during the pandemic, first check on the official site of the Grand Mosque: Opening times
During the visit to the Grand Mosque, you are required to dress and to behave in an appropriate way. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, at the entrance, women used to receive an abbaya to dress on, that has to be returned at the end of the visit. Women and men can access the interior barefoot. If you have doubts about the appropriate dress code, you can have a look to this clear infographic, from the official site of the Grand Mosque.
How to reach the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
To reach the Grand Mosque by car, the entrance is from South Gate, side Airport Road. From here, you will access a big parking area. To start your visit, go to the EAST area.
To reach the Grand Mosque by taxi, just give the taxi driver the “magic word” – landmark “Grand Mosque”.
As it can be a little difficult to find a taxi for the way back, you can ask the taxi driver to wait for you or you can agree the end of the visit. In any case, I suggest to have with you the toll free number of taxis in Abu Dhabi: 600535353.
To get the Grand Mosque by bus, the bus 054 stops at the Grand Mosque and connects Tourist Club area (Al Salaam street) to Umm al Naar (Khalifa University of Science and Technology).
* Tourist Club
* Madinat Zayed
* Al Wahda (where is the “regional” bus station)
* Al Hittihad
* Al Zahra (East St / Vehicle Licensing Dept)
* Al Zahra (East St / 31 St)
* Madinat Al Riyadiyah
* Grand Mosque (this is your stop)
* Umm al Naar (the former “Petroleum Institute”, today Khalifa University of Science and Technology)