Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Playing tourists in Abu Dhabi

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

We toured Dubai for a day, now it’s time to head to the next Emirate of Abu Dhabi!

Our first stop was Yas Marina Circuit and it was eerily quiet. We asked if we could get inside and the security at the gates said yes. We can see the sprawling wide Ferrari World roof at a distance but other than a few gardeners tending the green spaces, no one was there because there was no event.

We were lucky enough to catch a corporate racing event at Yas Marina Circuit. I don’t know anything about racing…except that boy, it makes so much noise!


There were only a handful of cars, less than 10. What happens during the grand F1 race (happens once a year)?

It was very hot that day in Abu Dhabi too, with temperatures swelling up to 37C. Our friend was amazed how lucky we are to be blessed with this kind of weather most of the year – yeah I almost forgot about that. How lucky we are to hang our wet laundry in the morning and get it in dry at midday. 

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque looked majestic against the perfect summer sky. The incredible Sheikh Zayed Mosque or Grand Mosque as it is also known, was named after the UAE’s former ruler and President – Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan whose body was also buried at the grounds in 2004. It was Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan’s dream to build a grand mosque meters above sea and street level in order for it be seen from miles afar.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

We’ve been to the Grand Mosque a couple of times before – this is a staple tourist spot that won’t disappoint but I think this is the first time we visited when it’s summer. It’s so hot outside you would want to run and seek cover inside an airconditioned room.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Did I mention, the mosque really looked beautiful against the sky that day? I wish I took more photos.

If it was beautiful outside, wait till you see what’s inside. This snowy white mosque – conceived by Sheikh Zayed himself – can accommodate up to 40,000 worshippers and is architecturally impressive inside and out.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Taking design cues from Morocco, Turkey and even India’s Taj Mahal, the interior is a made-to-impress mix of marble, gold, semi-precious stones, crystals and ceramics. The mosque also houses the world’s largest Persian carpet with seven massive gold-plated crystal chandeliers dangling above the domes.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

The large Persian carpet was made in Iran by 1200 female weavers working in 3 shifts over 2 years, the mammoth carpet measures 60,500 sq ft and weighs 47 tons.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

I love how the photos turned out so well (for my standard, at least!). I’ve attempted to get these angles since the first time we visited but with the lack of proper camera, I wasn’t able to. See the red cords? I am surprised they have blocked off the center part of the mosque. There were no restricted spaces and tourist trail when we visited a few years ago.

Other side of the mosque and my favorite blue chandelier.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Blue chandelier

The other changes include the abaya counter being more organized now and located at a different venue, at the basement of Building B. Also, you now need to present and leave an identification card when borrowing an abaya (women need to wear an abaya to get inside the mosque).  I left my wallet in the car so I did not have any ID with me.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Building B is at the farther side from the entrance, it’s a long walk.

I dreaded the idea of going back to the car but my ever reliable husband was luckily carrying my driver’s license! It as a coincidence that we had the car serviced the day before and he removed the important stuff there like my driver’s license and forgot to put it back. Otherwise, I could not bear think of walking through that hot and humid basement and to the car park in that heat!

p and me at grand mosque

You have no idea how fast we ran towards the shade the moment the camera clicked!

The Sheikh Zayed Mosque is open to non-Muslims everyday except Friday. Entry is free. Please note to dress conservatively when visiting Sheikh Zayed Mosque. Women should wear lose clothing, either long trousers or skirt and cover their hair with a scarf (this can also be provided when arriving at Mosque). Men should avoid wearing shorts. No shoes permitted in the building. No intimate behavior is permitted i.e. holding hands even if you’re a married couple.

Being a tourist is all about feelings of novelty and awe – it gave us a renewed appreciation of the place we live in. Have you played tourists in your own city lately?

Top photo credit

Visiting the Abu Dhabi Grand Mosque, again

Grand Mosque Abu Dhabi

This post was first published in 2011 but Abu Dhabi’s iconic Shaikh Zayed Grand Mosque has been named among the world’s most talked about attractions by Trip Advisor so I thought I’d resurrect this post again so new readers can see the beautiful photos. If you’re a regular of this blog and have seen this one, it wouldn’t hurt to see this beauty again. Enjoy!


When we went to Abu Dhabi last Eid, my husband insisted that we drop by the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. The first time we went there was three years ago. We decided to go again last Eid holidays because it was rare that my aunt (my mom’s sister who also is in Dubai) and my two cousins had off from their respective work.

It was still hot and humid in September even after 3 pm but the sky was blue and it served as a beautiful backdrop to the giant minaret of the mosque.

For those who are curious what is inside the mosque, this one’s for you.

I see some people raising their eyebrows…”But isn’t this exclusive for Muslims?” Yes, it’s a place for worship for Muslims. But this mosque is special.

…special in the sense that it is open to the public.

Not only that – even non-Muslims can enter! Here is the husband curiously looking at the worshipers during their mid-afternoon prayers.

Now, I don’t know if there’s a rule that says it is prohibited to take photos (and post them online) of people who are praying. If there is, please let me know. There were so many people taking photos of these worshipers aside from myself inside the mosque, though.

Moving on…other intricate details of the mosque includes these very pretty doors.

A bright colored mosaic flower on the floor.

These two very exquisite chandeliers – which one do you like more?

The grandeur of the mosque against a small subject, my daughter Pristine.

The mosque is open to anyone wanting to know more about Islam, or simply want to see what’s inside a mosque (this was not an ordinary mosque, though). However, there are rules. Ladies have to wear an abaya (black robe and head dress – provided at the entrance) and slippers/shoes are not allowed inside. Here’s my mom, aunt and cousin with their flowing black robes.

These abayas (black robes) are available at the entrance for ALL ladies. Don’t worry, every one gets  a fresh piece. Once worn, it goes straight to a hamper and they only give out freshly washed abayas, packed in plastics. Men don’t have to wear the traditional Arabic costume of long white dishdasha unless they come in shorts. Then they have to cover their legs.

More facts about the Grand Mosque in my past (popular) post: Getting to know the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.

Getting to know the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi


Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque will be one of the largest Mosques in the world; able to accommodate more than 30,000 worshipers. We were there, along with hundreds of non-Muslim Westerners to see the grandeur and experience what the buzz is all about.


1. The structure covers an area of more than 22,000 square metres and some 210,000 cubic metres of concrete and 33,000 tonnes of steel reinforcement was used in its construction.

2. The beautiful Mosque is completely clad in marble and also features intricate Islamic decoration and carvings as well as extensive landscaping works. The mosque design has different artistic style taken from all over the world. The outside marble is from Greece, interior marbles are from China, Italy and Morocco.

3. The mosque consists of forty-five small domes in addition to nine large ones. It boasts of having many features like stained glass panels, sand-colored walls and wooden shutters.

4. The Moroccan dome is not the largest in the world but definitely one of the most beautiful.

5. The largest dome holding a world record, is 32.8 in diameter, 85 m from ground to top, from ground to the middle, is 70 m. The dome is made in site and made by Moroccan designers.

Intricate work of the ceiling:

6. The mosque’s stonework is by Henraux of Querceta, Italy who made headlines in the international stone industry for his work in two enormous stone mosque projects in Mecca and Madina, Saudi Arabia.

7. The huge crystal chandelier in the main prayer hall, one of seven German-made chandeliers that costs more than eight million dollars. It is 10-metre (32.8 feet) tall, 10-metre wide and weighs nine tonnes. It is made up of millions of Swarovski crystals and 24K plated gold.

8. The wall design is taken from Sheikh Zayed’s love for the environment.


9. The 96 columns inside and 1,048 outside is decorated with thousands of rare and semi-precious stones like mother of pearl, agate, jasper and amethyst.

10. The centrepiece is a 6,000 square metre (64,583 square feet) hand-made Persian carpet, said to be the biggest in the world. More than 1,200 women from the Khorasan region in eastern Iran spent two years weaving the carpet, which weighs 45 tonnes and cost more than 8.5 million dollars.

11. The whole carpet area in the main prayer hall can accommodate up to 5,000 worshipers.

12. The Abu Dhabi Grand mosque, named after Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan,the UAE’s first president was also ruler of the oil-rich emirate of Abu Dhabi. When fully completed, it will be the third largest mosque in the world.

13. But unlike other mosques all over the world, what makes this mosque unique is that it is not off-limits to non-Muslims. In fact they are open to anyone wanting to know more about Islam, or simply want to see what’s inside a mosque (this was out of the ordinary, though). However, there are rules. Ladies have to wear an abaya (black robe and head dress – provided at the entrance) and slippers/shoes are not allowed inside. And non-Muslims must not touch the Koran, the Muslim holy book, copies of which are stacked in every prayer room. My mom and I were able to experience what it feels like to be covered in black cloth from head to toe.