On a day trip to Abu Dhabi, my family decided to visit the gorgeous and world famous Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. I was so excited to be visiting this world-renowned mosque because I had heard about it before and seen so many beautiful pictures that I couldn’t wait to experience it firsthand.
According to the locals, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque was the Late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan’s dream, where he established its general vision and thus began a journey full of fulfilled dreams and achievements. The Mosque is an expression of a leader who believed that nothing is impossible and conceived that the most gracious achievements start from the heart.
Historical Facts About the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque was opened for worship in 2007, after work began in the nineties. The late Sheikh Zayed set the foundation stone of the Grand Mosque but it was ultimately completed under the guidance of the UAE President, his brother the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince, and under the supervision of the Deputy Prime Minister, who is also the Minister of Presidential Affairs.
The Mosque features four minarets and eighty-two domes in support of noble Islamic cultural values. The Mosque accommodates more than 40,000 worshippers; 10,000 inside and 30,000 outside. Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is well known for its diverse Islamic architecture and pure white color. White marble makes up the outside walls and columns, and features carvings of verses from Holy Quran and Islamic ornamentation.
Driving up to the mosque, you could see its golden minarets peek out in the distance. As you approach its pristine white domes appear and you immediately feel like you’re in the presence of something divine.
As we got out of the car all I wanted was to run up to the mosque so that I could get a fully unobstructed view of its bright white marble and detailed architecture. After going through a small security checkpoint, we were able to enter the grounds of the mosque. I was in awe to say the least.
According to the decree, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque aims to:
1. Emphasize on the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan’s noble deeds and contributions to humanity, in a way that commemorates his legacy and memory.
2. Cooperate with research centers as well as religious, educational and cultural institutions.
3. Enhance cross cultural communication and introduce the Center as a cultural tourism destination.
Upon entering the grounds of the mosque, visitors must adhere to a strict dress code. Women must be covered to the wrists, the ankles, and all hair on your head. Prior to our arrival, I was advised by our guide to buy an abayat (a simple, loose dress, worn by some women in parts of the Muslim world. Traditional abayat are black and may be either a large square of fabric draped from the shoulders/head or a long caftan) in a local market in order to be fully prepared.
Wearing the abayat was an eye-opening experience. I had always wondered what it was like to dress in this way, especially in the grueling heat of the summer. Even though my clothes were entirely black, it wasn’t unbearably hot under the abayat. Because it was made of cotton and is very flowy, it was pretty easy to adjust. I also thought I would feel weird dressing that way since I’m not used to being covered from head to toe, but it felt natural since everyone else was dressed the same.
Walking through the mosque and reading its history while allowing myself to enter as much as possible into the headspace of a local made this an unforgettable experience for me. The beauty of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is unmatched and being able to worship in a place like that is a blessing, regardless of your religious beliefs.
I absolutely loved my experience here and wish I could have stayed longer. It’s an absolutely stunning piece of architecture and is rich with history. I recommend anyone should visit when they take a trip to Abu Dhabi, I know I’ll definitely be back!