The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Abu Dhabi is about an hour down the road from Dubai. During my visit to Dubai in February 2017, I’d made up my mind to visit the Grand Mosque. I’d heard a lot about this architectural marvel, and was very keen to take it in first hand. I was also conscious that I would need to go out of my way to see it.

It has been my experience in life while travelling that when the opportunity presents itself, you’ll have far fewer regrets going the extra mile to make the most of it, rather than resigning yourself to letting it pass you by for another time.

I am glad that I stuck to this philosophy during this visit. The visit was more than worth it.

I might take a moment to say that I spent part of my childhood in the Arab world. To state that things have changed a bit since then is a bit of an understatement. The last time I was here, Dubai airport had a gravel runway. It is now one of the largest and most efficient in the world.

The construction boom extended towards the Grand Mosque. The last mosque that I had visited was the Jama Masjid in New Delhi, which is impressive both in its size, and its age. It was built by the same dynasty that gave the world the Taj Mahal, which is considered by some to be the most beautiful monument in the world. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque gives it a serious run for its money.

The mosque was built by the late president of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, with a view to unite the cultural diversity of the Islamic world with the historical and modern values of architecture and art. The mosque was completed in 2007. The mosque also has seven chandeliers which incorporate millions of Swarovski crystals. The largest has a diameter of 10 m and is 15 m high.

The mosque is open from 8am to 11pm. It is an active place of worship, and calls for prayer occur 5 times a day in Islamic tradition. It is open to visitors from all faiths. Entry is free. One will need to pass through security to visit. There is a dress code, and robes are available that will allow visitors to ensure that they are appropriately covered while in the grounds of the mosque.

This is a photography friendly location. However, this is a place of worship and it is important to be respectful while visiting here. The staff are very polite and helpful if you have any questions about where to go, and how to get there. There are parts of the mosque (including the central quadrangle) where tourists are specifically advised to keep off. There is also a section of the mosque that is a designated area for women to pray.

If you’re in the area, I would definitely recommend visiting this modern day marvel of architecture. The video above barely does it any justice.