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Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque - The Face of Abu Dhabi

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque - Face of Abu Dhabi

Every big city in the world has an iconic site which becomes a face for the city or the region - The Golden Gate Bridge for San Francisco, The Bellagio Musical Fountain for Las Vegas, The White House for Washington DC, The Red Fort for New Delhi and Burj Khalifa for Dubai are just some case in point for starters. The grand mosque in Abu Dhabi - Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque - is the one for the city and has become the most known image for the city. Located on the southern outskirts of the city, the mosque provides an opportunity to delve into the rich cultural heritage of the region.

The mosque is one of the most prominent tourist and cultural attraction of the city and if there is one thing you have to choose in the city for a visit, no doubt the mosque tops it all by way too much margin. Any traveler would know that exploring a city starts with understanding its culture, its traditions and what is important to the local people. Religion and beliefs are the most sacred of the aspects of this Islamic country and the mosque is an icon of its cultural history and a message of how open the beliefs of people are. We finally decided to spend a weekend morning visiting the monument and our visit was definitely enriching and rewarding. The mosque, one of its kind in the region, is one of the few mosques which are open to visitors and provides guided tours for the visitors so that they can delve into the religious and cultural beliefs.

Posing with the Monument in Backdrop
The mosque is located towards the airport side of the city and if you are in the city center, it may involve some drive to the location. Broadly it should take about half an hour to reach here from any corner of the city. If you like, public bus service is available too and drops you right at the mosque entrance. We were there by about 11 in the morning but what we failed to realize was that we were visiting on a Friday when the mosque is closed in the forenoon for weekly prayers. We later realized that Friday mornings are the time when there is special prayer conducted every week and a lot of establishments are closed or work at restricted capacity during the prayers. We do appreciate the local beliefs and took an excursion to the nearby Sheikh Zayed Bridge to view the stylish bridge. The approximately 850-meter long bridge is an important connection between the mainland UAE and the island of Abu Dhabi and hence is the skeleton of the travel route to the capital of the country. The several arching waves supporting the bridge provide an aesthetic structure to the bridge and reminds of the ability and passion of the city to create architecture marvels and combine aesthetics with engineering acumen.

We visited the mosque post lunch and were impressed with what welcomed us into this insightful monument. After a quick security check, where our luggage was scanned, we were directed to the premises. The security check was courteous and welcoming and only if an item concerned them, a few quick questions followed - you are allowed to carry cameras and other personal items unless something appears threatening to the officials there. Another aspect that officials have an eye on is your clothing - so dress conservatively keeping local traditions in mind. We breezed through the security and stepped inside the grand campus. Wide pathways surround the mosque and you first enter towards the back of the monument. The views that welcome you are nothing short of being spectacular - a shining white mosque structure surrounded by wide pathways and stunning greenery is definitely a pleasing scene. As we enjoyed the welcome we moved towards the front of the building.

The view of the mosque that welcomes you!
The front of the building is the location of all the hustle and activity. There is a fountain if the forecourt in front of the imposing white building. There is a water reservoir built around the monument - this is something which finds importance in a lot of religious centers.
The exteriors are done in pristine white which highlights the monument as a center of religious and spiritual purity which allows people of all faith to celebrate the beliefs of the region. There is a special lighting arrangement which illuminates the building like a pearl in the desert. It is but obvious considering the coveted status of the monument that tourists are busy posing and getting pictures. I always am amazed by how symbiotic transaction of clicking a picture can bring tourists together - you-take-my-pic-and-me-yours leads to an exchange of smile whenever you cross path. Once you have the architectural beauty sunk in you proceed towards the grand entrance. Yeah, you are required to leave your footwear behind - there are racks available to park your footwear.

The Front Entrance

Water Body Around the Monument - The Common Across Religions
The mosque is one of grandness - in many ways that one can think of. The size of the monument is such that allows a capacity of over 40,000 devotees to pray simultaneously. As soon as you enter the interiors you have long-huge corridors with innumerable pillars - the entire interior is very beautifully decorated and catches your heart instantaneously.  The entire interior of the mosque is artfully crafted on walls and large chandeliers on roofs. In fact, the chandelier in the main prayer hall is one of the largest in the world. The long corridors with a courthouse in the center add charms to the grand structure that the monument is. You are required to follow the route marked for tourists - there is a separate route for devotees - and it takes you through the central prayer room and provides a glimpse of the entire building.

The Central Courtyard

Long Large Corridors

Aesthetic Artwork Decorating the Walls

Aptly Complimenting Chandeliers
A visit to the mosque lasts something around one and a half to two hours and one would find themselves immersed in divine calmness and serene devotion as one passes through the corridors and halls. No doubt, this iconic destination is one of the foundational reasons which make Abu Dhabi, the cultural destination for the United Arab Emirates.

Things to Remember

  • Timings - Visitors should be aware that Friday Morning is time for weekly prayers and hence monument is closed to tourists for the first half. All public transportation is out of bounds of the campus and hence plan your visit accordingly.
  • Dressing - The mosque is a religious and cultural center and is an important spiritual place for locals. It is essential to consider the local sensitivities in mind and dress conservatively while visiting the monument. If you are not dressed appropriately, the authorities there would provide an additional clothing.
  • Behavior - Please be aware of local customs and appreciate the fact that it is a prayer place for the devotees. Kindly keep calm and maintain silence in the corridors and do not try to over-run others during your visit.

For other areas of interest and to know the city of Abu Dhabi, visit

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