This is the first of my travel diaries from my recent trip to the UAE! Huzzah! This one is all about the Grand Mosque Sheikh Al Zayed in Abu Dhabi. I was tempted to talk about all I did in Abu Dhabi in one post but the Grand Mosque is so beautiful and so awe inspiring, I think it deserves a blog post to itself. Hopefully as you see all the photos I took you will agree.
Before I went to the Grand Mosque I knew almost nothing about it other than it was a place I really wanted to go and that it the architecture and style of the mosque reminded me of the Taj Mahal. Now I know a lot more. The Grand Mosque is the largest outside of Saudi Arabia and is named after the first President of the UAE, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. Thanks to him the mosque is visible from all directions and when I was in the taxi from Dubai to Abu Dhabi it was in our line of vision for so long, looking beautiful in the sunlight.
Sister and I decided not to have a tour while we were at the Mosque though this is something they offer and if you want to learn a lot more about the history of it then it is something I recommend. From the research I had done I knew that dressing conservatively was a must, hair, legs and arms must be covered. The Mosque provides abayas for all women and sister and I both went deep into the car park to pick ours up. Borrowing the abayas are free but they keep your ID in return. Tip: they don’t accept passports because they are not allowed to hold them so take another form of ID with you.
Once we were ready we made our way back upstairs and went inside. The courtyard has 1,048 columns – all hand painted and all so beautiful I wanted to cry. It all looked like a palace.
The marble floor was perfect because it isn’t a great conductor of heat. Sister and I went to the Grand Mosque on a day when temperatures were past 30 centigrade. We were hot in our clothes and abayas and were so thankful with the cool floor. It was also decorated in beautiful flower motifs which went in all directions.
And the walls!
Before we could enter the main prayer hall we had to remove our shoes and continue barefoot or socked. The first thing that struck me inside was the carpet. It is the largest hand knotted carpet in the world and all 5,700 square meters of it were laid in front of us.
The next thing I noticed was the chandelier and the pillars inside. Hello Swarovski crystals (chandeliers) and mother of pearl (pillars)! It was the inlay here which really reminded me of the Taj Mahal where a very similar design was done all those years ago.
The Grand Mosque was certainly a highlight of not only my time in Abu Dhabi but of my whole time in the UAE. When I travel I love visiting places of worship and learning about a culture through their religious buildings. It’s always a fun and exciting thing to do but it is so important to remember that the Grand Mosque is a place of worship and sacred. It deserves our respect and I definitely recommend you do some research before you go – I definitely didn’t want to offend anyone when I went.