Tips for visiting Abu Dhabi’s Grand Mosque

The third largest mosque in the world, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque holds more than 40,000 worshipers and has three Guinness World Records. An easy day trip from Dubai, visit for modern Islamic architecture or marvel at the delicate floral decorations made from semi-precious stones

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, located in the United Arab Emirates’s capital city of Abu Dhabi, is the largest mosque in the country and is a key place of worship for daily, Friday and Eid prayers.

An iconic landmark, the mosque took 12 years to build after constructed began in 1996 and is the third-largest mosque in the world at 22,412 square meters.

Sitting by manicured gardens, Sheikh Zayed’s vision for the Grand Mosque, which can hold 40,000 worshippers and visitors, was to incorporate architectural styles from different Muslim civilizations and celebrate cultural diversity.

Turkey, Morocco, Pakistan, Egypt and other Islamic countries were the inspirations behind the design, which includes calligraphy encircling the hollows of the domes, etched with verses from the Quran and painted with gold leaves in An-Naskh lettering.

Additionally, the mosque has three Guinness World Records: the largest handwoven carpet, the biggest chandelier and the largest dome of its kind in the world.

Visible from the bridges joining Abu Dhabi Island to the mainland, the building consists of 82 white marble domes, 1,096 exterior columns, 96 semi-precious jewel-encrusted internal columns and seven 24-carat gold plated Swarovski crystal chandeliers.

How to get there:

Abu Dhabi: If staying in the capital, the mosque is easy to reach. All taxi drivers will know where the mosque is and taxis are reasonably priced. You can simply book one through your hotel or flag one down by the roadside. The fare starts at AED 3.50 and goes up by AED 1.60 every 1km for up to 50km.

Dubai: Abu Dhabi is an easy day excursion from Dubai and is only one hour away by taxi or tour bus. A taxi from the city to the capital costs between AED 250 – 300 one way.

Alternatively, if you want to travel by public bus between the two emirates, the E100 and E101 buses provide regular services. A one-way ticket costs around AED 25 and the journey takes around two hours.

The E100 bus serves Al Ghubaiba Bus Station in Bur Dubai.

The E101 bus arrives and departs from Ibn Battuta and is recommended for those travelling to and from the Palm Jumeirah, Marina, JBR or JLT areas.

A full bus timetable can be found here.

Opening times:

The mosque is open from 9:00am – 10:00pm most days, except on Fridays when the mosque is only open to visitors after 4:30pm to 10:00pm.

TIP: If possible, visit during weekdays to avoid crowds. During the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, opening times change to Saturday – Thursday, 9:00am – 14:00pm and is closed on Fridays.

Entry cost: Free

TIP: Guided tours are available and are free, operating on a walk-in status. It is advised that you show up around 15 minutes before the tour starts. The tour will take around 45 mins to one hour. Tours can be found here.

Dress code:

The mosque operates a strict dress code and behavior policy.

Women’s arms, legs and hair should be covered. No tight clothing is allowed, nor is transparent clothing.

Men are allowed to wear t-shirts, but their shoulders must be covered. Long trousers are also needed. No shorts are allowed.

Click here for more information on the dress code.

Visitors are also asked not to hold hands, shout or make signs with their hands when taking photos.

TIP: Don’t forget to take sunglasses… not only is it sunny but the white marble can be super bright on the eyeballs.

What to look out for:

Designs

More than 90,000 tonnes of pure white marble was used in the mosque’s construction, that was shipped from the Republic of Macedonia.

Delicate floral designs inlaid with semi-precious stones, such as lapis lazuli, red agate and mother-of-pearl, decorate a variety of marbles and provide a delicate nature to the massive building.

The mosque’s main floral displays are the work of Royal College of Art’s designer Kevin Dean and depict flowers that can be found in the Middle Eastern region, such as tulips, roses and irises.

Chandeliers:

Inside the mosque’s main prayer hall hang three steel, gold, brass and crystal chandeliers filled with primary-coloured light.

The largest weighs approximately 11 tonnes and sparkles with Swarovski crystals, in addition to 40kg of 24-karat galvanised gold.

Carpet:

The world’s largest loomed carpet was made by 1,200 craftspeople who hand-knotted the 5,700 sq metres of woolen thread on a cotton base, taking two years to complete.

Made from Iranian cotton and New Zealand wool, it was flown in from Iran.

The carpet includes green, one of the colours in the UAE flag, while the yellow beige colour represents sand.

Domes:

There are 82 white domes, the largest located at the center of the main hall, measuring 85 metres high with a diameter of 32.8 metres.

The inner parts of the domes are made with Moroccan artistry.

TIP: Visitors are not allowed to walk through the center of the mosque.

TIP: Sheikh Zayed’s mausoleum is on the approach to the mosque entrance, but only sitting presidents are allowed to enter.

TIP: Photographs of the mausoleum are not permitted. However, visitors are able to photograph all other parts of the mosque.

Checking out C & J.

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