I was recently in Abu Dhabi for work. Even though I had been to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque on two previous occasions, I decided to revisit the mosque. It was the first time that I was at the mosque on my own (instead of hosting journalists).
Going through the photos that I’ve taken at the mosque on three occasions, I was surprised to see that I had only taken a handful of images. Perhaps it was because there were already so many great pictures made of the mosque or maybe I was overwhelmed by its superlative lavishness?
While the interior design is too extravagant for my taste, I like the architecture of the mosque. In particular, the juxtaposition of the brilliant white marble facade against the cool blue water pools that encircle the impressive edifice.
The design of the mosque is inspired by Arab, Persian, Mughal and Moorish architecture while its construction involved artisans and the use of natural materials from different countries. Apparently, the aim was to create a place of worship that unites the world where there will be at least one thing that any visitor can relate to.
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, like many other modern-day projects in the Middle East, is an exemplary case of superlatives and opulence.
Some interesting facts and figures about the mosque:
- It is the 3rd largest mosque in the world
- It features 7 chandeliers made in Germany with more than 1 million Swarovski crystals
- Situated 9.5 metres above street level, the mosque is visible from all directions
- Spanning 12 years, the construction involved more than 3,000 workers
- There are 82 domes topped with gold. The main dome (85 metres high, 32.8 metres wide) is the largest of its kind in the world
- The Qibla wall features 99 attributes of Allah, plus 1 empty flower to represent any other quality of Allah that has not been included
- It took 1,300 women in Iran 2 years to weave the carpet, which is the largest single carpet in the world and features slightly raised horizontal lines to align worshippers
- 2004 is the year in which its namesake, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan passed on and was laid to rest in the mosque
- The mosque can accommodate up to 41,000 worshippers
- Spanning 17,500 square metres and adorned with marble and precious stones, the courtyard is the largest mosaic surface ever made
- The construction cost 2.5 billion Dirhams
I’ve no idea when I’ll be back in Abu Dhabi. It is not a destination that I’d visit for leisure. If I were to return, I probably wouldn’t revisit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Three times is enough. I think I’d check out the falcon hospital or beach next time. Who knows, maybe the Louvre or Guggenheim would have opened their doors at Saadiyat Island…
Regardless, if you are visiting Abu Dhabi for the first time, do pop by the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and take your time to admire its grandeur. It may not be to your taste but it will make a worthy impression.