We had a long weekend last week for the Islamic holiday, Isra wal miraj and we chose to spend it in more laid back Abu Dhabi.
What is a visit to Abu Dhabi without checking out the grand mosque? We’ve visited so many times, taking friends and family visiting us in the UAE. I wrote 13 facts about the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque after we first visited it in 2008. We visited a few times years and years after but what makes it different this time? It will be Benjamin’s first time! I want to see his reaction.
The grand mosque, one of the few in the world open to non-Muslims is about an hour drive from Dubai.
So many things has changed since we last visited a couple of years back when a friend from Japan visited and we played tourist guides, and included Abu Dhabi and of course the never to be missed grand mosque in the itinerary (see that post for pics!). First – there’s already a cafe and an Etihad Modern Art Gallery souvenir shop. We loved hanging out at the cafe, with lots of natural light coming in and great view outside.
But one thing never changed and never will – that if you go visit this religious site with arms and legs exposed (we were in shorts and shirts), you will have to wear the abaya for women and khandura for men. Before it was just a black robe though but now, there’s brown and blue abayas for ladies with attached covering for the head, like a hood. I prefer it this way than the separate cloth for head scarf as it keeps falling off.
Some other change is that people can’t freely roam anywhere they want now. The main square is off limits to visitors when it wasn’t restricted area way back in 2008, 2010.
There’s security guy who sits at the square and wards off people trying to enter the area. Since so many people want to take pics of the beautiful view behind him, he must be in thousands of photos! He is so chill and would just do some sign language to tell people not to proceed further.
There’s a specific cordoned route for visitors to follow. The place is more crowded on, unsurprisingly, weekends, especially on Fridays that it’s impossible to take photos without someone’s uncle or auntie in the background. Hold your children and never leave them out of your sight, it’s going to be tough finding them through the crowd!
So what was Benjamin’s reaction after visiting the grand structure? He said, it’s beautiful and can’t take his eyes off the massive chandeliers inside the mosque. And then? He asked why we were in robes and he wasn’t!
Have you visited the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi? If not, maybe plan it in the near future. It’s definitely a very popular tourist spot with what else but throngs of tourists you can’t avoid but I still believe your trip will be worth it.