We arrived in Abu Dhabi early morning so after we checked into our hotel room, unpacked, freshened up, changed and grabbed some breakfast we had most of the rest of the day to do as we pleased. It didn’t please me to spend the day working on my laptop – I wanted to see something of the city – so three of us decided we’d take a taxi out to see the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
Unlike in Dubai, where non-Muslims are forbidden for entering the Grand Mosque, the one in Abu Dhabi welcomes visitors provided they respect the dress and behavioural code appropriate for a Muslim place of worship. Visitors can wander around on their own, so long as they keep to designated areas, and there are guided tours several times a day. We managed to arrive in time to catch the 11 o’clock guided tour and also spent some time exploring on our own.
The Grand Mosque is the equivalent of a Christian Cathedral. It’s massive, covering 30 acres, and can accommodate over 40,000 worshipers. It’s architecture reflects cultures from across the Muslim world. It has 82 different sized domes in all, four minarets, loads of decorated columns and Moorish arches.
The mosque was constructed from 1996 to 2007 and is the eighth largest in the world. No expense has been spared. There’s high quality marble everywhere, in many places inlaid with different colours producing patterns and floral motifs.
There are sumptuous decorations on the ceilings
No images of people or animals, but lots of geometric patterns and floral decoration. This pattern rather reminded me of a William Morris wallpaper design.
Inside, there are seven imported chandeliers madein Munich Germany that incorporate millions of Swarovski crystals.
And the floor of the main prayer hall is covered by the world’s largest carpet
This is one of several clocks, made in England, that show the times of prayer
Columns are inlaid with jewels and precious stones.
Like the great European cathedrals, this Mosque is meant to impress, instil a sense of awe into visitors, and act as a symbol of the incredible wealth of the rulers of the Emirate.