Inside out of the magnificent Zayed Mosque – Abu Dhabi
How often would you visit a new city only to visit a recently built attraction? Not often I would guess. But if you’re visiting the United Arab Emirates, your choice of historically old landmarks is pretty much very limited. But who says newer landmarks are not as attractive?
Meet my number one favourite attraction in the UAE, the magnificent Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. The mosque was initiated by the ‘father’ of the UAE and its late President – HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. The mosque is one of the largest and most beautiful in the world. With UAE’s wealth it is unquestionable that a large sum of money was pumped in to build this magnificent mosque – a cool US$500 million. Located about 20minutes drive from the city centre, the mosque is situated between downtown Abu Dhabi and Yas Island.
Despite being arguably the best attraction in the UAE, The Zayed Mosque was one of the latter attractions I’ve visited within the country after the Corniche, Burj Khalifa and Dubai generally. I wished I’ve known this mosque before but as an architect, the lure of visiting the world’s tallest structure was too hard to resist. One of the most unique design concept of the mosque is to unite the world using different materials sourced from around the world. Marble, semi precious stones, gold, crystal and ceramics were sourced from countries such as Italy, Germany, Turkey, India, Iran and New Zealand. Hundreds of skilled artisans were employed to complete the craft.
It’s easy to be in awe with the scale and grandeur of the mosque. I’ve remembered this very clearly on my first visit. I was literally amazed to see a clean white coloured mosque glowing from quite a distance in the bright dessert sun. I was really captivated by the large white marble domes of Moroccan design, in fact there’s 82 of them.
The mosque can hold up to 41,000 worshippers at any one time. Up to 23,000 worshippers can be filled in the large courtyard alone. As you can see from the photo above, the courtyard has a beautifully crafted floral pattern constructed from marble and various semi precious stones. I think this is a first in a mosque design.
Note the pure white appearance of the mosque. The whole facade is cladded with sivec marble from Greece. If you want to know, sivec marble is a raw material that was first used by the Romans in 500BC. The stone was used to create original Roman sculptures. The pure whiteness was used to resemble purity, a clean slate. Obviously the whiteness of the mosque shines gloriously under the desert sun, reflecting finely the colours of the atmosphere!
Believe it or not, but there are over a thousand of these columns lining up the outer spaces of the mosque. The columns are all inlaid with semi-precious stone such as lapis lazuli, red agate, amethyst, abalone shell and mother of pearl. To complete with the opulence of the materials used, gold leaves have also been used.
Upon entering the Main Prayer hall, you’ll stumbled across this beautiful foyer decorated with floral patterns.
This is one of my favourite features of the mosque. This is a wall featuring 99 names (qualities) of Allah. It has a subtle yet cool fibre optic lighting system. I love the constant moving and glowing effect the wall beckons. Its like looking onto a magical wall in a children’s adventure. I think I’ve managed to stare at the wall for about 5 minutes!
This is a closeup at the fibre optic lighting. See the different light gradation on the stems of the floral design.
This is the main praying hall. The space could fit in up to 7,000 worshippers at any one time. On the left hand side is the mimbar, a place where the Imam gives sermon to worshippers. The hall also contains the largest hand-made carpet in the world. Yes, they’re expertly woven by over 1,300 artisans from Mashhadin, an Iranian village that is world-renowned for its fine carpet artistry.
My awe doesn’t stop there. This is the largest chandelier in the world. It is 10 metres in diameter and 15 metres in height. Having a largest chandelier in the world is not enough here in Abu Dhabi. You need 7 of these! Each chandelier contains thousands of Swarovski crystals from Austria and fine glass work from Italy.
The chandeliers are so amazing that I took several photos of it!
As an architect, I can only be in awe with the amount of details that has been put into the design of the Zayed Mosque. I don’t think anyone else will build a religious structure of this magnitude for quite a long time. So next time you head to the United Arab Emirates, why don’t you give this mosque a visit! I’m sure you too will be amazed.
The Zayed Mosque is open to the public daily from 9am-10pm free of charge. The mosque is however closed for tourist visits on Friday mornings due to the congregation of the Friday prayers in the afternoon. Free tours are available daily. Appropriate dress code applies but you can make use of their abayas (dress that covers the whole body) from the entrance. There are no credible public transportation options from Abu Dhabi apart from the hop-on hop-off buses that ply the route every half hour or so. The easiest way to get there is to hire a taxi for an hour or two from the city. The driver will wait for you after you’re done with the sightseeing. It is literally impossible to flag down a taxi from the Zayed Mosque.