Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
A striking example of modern Islamic architecture and a space of worship, learning and cultural enrichment
At the entrance of Abu Dhabi, welcoming visitors and residents to the Emirate, is Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. The immense structure is the largest of its kind in the country – an impressive marriage of 82 domes, 1000 columns and four minarets bathed in white and crowned with touches of gold. The construction of the mosque was completed in 2007, with seven years and over 1 billion dollars invested in the project. Housed within its white marble walls is the world’s largest carpet, handmade by 1,200 weavers in Iran, which at 5627 square metres weighs a hefty 47 tonnes, as well as the biggest chandelier known to man, 15 metres high and 10 metres in diameter.
This grand landmark was initiated by and named after the founder and first president of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. He set the foundation stone for the mosque, marking its establishment. Sheikh Zayed, who passed away in 2004, is buried in a small courtyard near the mosque.
In 2012, the mosque welcomed around four million visitors and worshipers and was rated one of the world’s 16 most recommended global sites by users of the travel website TripAdvisor. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Center has managed the daily operations of the mosque since 2008, under the auspices of the Ministry of Presidential Affairs and the sponsorship and supervision of Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs. Among many other cultural and educational activities, the SZGMC organises complimentary guided tours of the mosque in both English and Arabic. The mosque also houses a library, which aims to instigate crosscultural conversations through its body of texts centred on the history, culture and art of the Islamic world. The mosque attracts a substantial amount of visitors during Ramadan. During the first week of the holy month in 2012, it received over 170,000 fasters. A special charitable Iftar programme was also organised by the SZGMC. The Armed Forces Officers Club in Abu Dhabi prepared and delivered approximately twenty thousand meals to the mosque, which were then distributed in Ramadan tents located in the lower gardens.
A paragon of modern Islamic architecture, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is considered Abu Dhabi’s premiere attraction. ‘It’s easy to get very engrossed in the intricate carvings on the mosque’s marble façade,’ says one visitor. ‘You feel a sense of peacefulness within the space.’