“Thanks to our ancestors who challenged the adversities of time and the misfortunes of life.
Due to their fortitude, our generation is living in prosperity and grace.”
– Sheikh Zayed Al Nahyan, 1918-2004
I felt the strong urge to visit Abu Dhabi halfway through Ramadan last June. Since Eid Al Fitr or the “festival of breaking of the fast” for Muslims was fast approaching (that marks the end of Ramadan, which also means 3 no-work days for us working in private sector), I went online in search for possible things to do and places to go during those 3 days. I stumbled upon this article about Abu Dhabi tourism and it suddenly hit me, and dude, it hit me hard (I kid you not!). I realized I’ve been living in UAE for more than eight years now but only visited the country’s capital city twice, and when I say visited I mean I-had-coffee-in-Marina-Mall-on-those-two-occasions kind of visit. A big chunk of me felt guilty somehow for taking AUH for granted (I dunno why though. Haha!) Yes, I’m based in my favorite emirate Dubai, but of course there were short holidays spent outside my home base in those eight years. We would go and spend a night or two in Umm Al Quwain, try the water park slides in Ras Al Khaimah, ride a speedboat in far-far Fujairah, but Abu Dhabi? No. NEVER Abu Dhabi! For crying out loud, Abu Dhabi is just less than two hours drive from Dubai!
Anyway, long story short, I decided to go to UAE’s capital. I told myself: by hook or by crook I would push through with the plan and no one and nothing can stop me, even the most ferocious and violent sand storm (Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating! 🙂 ). I had few things in mind on what to do in Abu Dhabi during the trip, one is to pay a visit to what they consider “The White Pearl of the Gulf”, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. I told the bestie about my plan, that I wanted to see the majestic mosque. And her response: “Ano ba yan?! Hindi ka pa nakapunta dun? Ang tamad tamad mo kasi.“. Oh well! Haha!
And so, on the last day of Eid holidays, at 1:30-ish in the afternoon, approximately 42 degrees in temperature (humid AF), together with the bestie and her colleagues, Paolo set foot once again on Abu Dhabi grounds (Wuhooo!). And our stop? Yes, the grand mosque.
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is situated in the heart of Abu Dhabi. Founded by Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the first president of United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, it is the third biggest mosque in the world, Mecca’s Grand Mosque being the biggest then Prophet’s Mosque in Medina, both in Saudi Arabia. The late ruler’s mausoleum is located beside the grand mosque on the North side.
The mosque has 4 minarets and consists of 82 domes, the largest dome located in the centre of the main prayer hall. The domes are cladded with pure white marble with onion shaped crowns and crescent shaped finials decorated with gold-glass mosaic. The inside of the domes feature traditional Moroccan artwork.
The Founding Father Sheikh Zayed was said to be fond of the colour white which symbolizes purity and piety thus the use of pure white colour marbles in the structure.
Since it is an Islamic place of worship, it is mandatory for everyone to remove footwear before entering the main prayer hall. So of course I obliged and removed my shoes before entering the hall but then had second thought of removing my socks. But man, was I glad I did! Had I not removed my socks I won’t be able to plant my bare feet in one of the mosque’s features that I was most impressed about. Let’s talk about the carpet, shall we? 🙂
The main prayer hall houses the world’s largest hand-knotted carpet (talk about Guinness World Record). The wool carpet which measures 5,700 square metres, made and transported from Iran was hand crafted by approximately 1,200 artisans. It took 2 years to create this masterpiece, took 8 months for the design alone. And the cost? A whopping AED30 Million. I must have rubbed my feet on the gorgeous carpet several times. Haha!
Another features of the majestic mosque are the chandeliers. The structure boasts 7 crystal chandeliers all imported from Munich, Germany. The largest chandelier, also located in the main prayer hall, is the world’s largest chandelier in a mosque that weighs 12 tons. They are made of gilded stainless steel and brass with glass panels studded by swarovski crystals. Apparently, the cost of the chandeliers is also AED30 Million. Say Whuuuut!
Admission to the mosque is free. It is open everyday for the public to appreciate except on Fridays during Ramadan. There are also scheduled guided tours which are also free of charge.
One important thing though that you have to remember before your visit is the dress code. Ladies will only be granted entry to the mosque if they are fully covered, meaning no shoulders and ankles should be visible. It is also mandatory for the ladies to wear headscarf. For the guys, you won’t be allowed to enter the mosque if you are wearing shorts. Luckily I was able to get in although in shorts prolly because I was also wearing crew socks? Haha! But hey, they confiscated my pack of Dunhill.
Silence is strictly observed inside the mosque, and yes, everyone is expected to “behave properly”, unless of course you want to end up like Rihanna who got kicked out after doing some “disrespectful” poses in the vicinity during her visit.
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Sheikh Rashid Bin Zayed Street
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
* This is not a sponsored post.