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Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque


Page update - Feb 26, 2022

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is the largest mosque in the UAE and one of the main attractions of Abu Dhabi. Although it is far from being even in the top ten in the world in size, it is definitely the most magnificent of all. You can see the world's largest marble mosaic, the world's largest carpet, and many other wonders.

As of February 2022, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is open to tourists. However, the schedule has been temporarily changed, there are no free tours, and advance reservations are required on the website. All the details are below on this page.

A visit to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is a must on all Abu Dhabi tours. It is the local "must see" attraction. According to the latest (prepandeic) statistics for 2019, the mosque was seen by 6,600,000 visitors. By comparison, Ferrari World Park was visited by about 1,000,000 people in 2019.

It is named after the first President of the UAE and Emir of Abu Dhabi, Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. It is his most famous and grandiose project. Read our detailed review "Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan" about him.

How to get there

The easiest way to get from Abu Dhabi hotels is by cab. The price of the trip will depend on the distance - from 12 to 40 dirhams. See the current exchange rates in our review "The UAE Dirham", and find the taxi fares in our review "Taxis in the UAE".

The cheapest way is by bus. In 2020, there were huge changes in bus routes in Abu Dhabi. And now 11 routes of buses stop next to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque (previously there were only 3). These are routes: 21, 22, 23, 44, 54, 94, 103, 161, 175, X4, X5.

If one of them stops close to your hotel, you can get there for 2 dirhams per person. Please note: the buses stop at several stops on opposite sides of the mosque. Look around when you get off the bus, the mosque building will be visible anyway.

From Dubai, you can take the E100 bus (departs from Al Ghubaiba subway station) or the E101 bus (departs from Ibn Battuta subway station). For the map of the subway see our review "Dubai Metro". And read our review "Transport between Dubai and Abu Dhabi".

As of February 2022, the Dubai-Abu Dhabi buses temporarily run partially. E101 and E100 run, but E102 do not.

Take the E100 or E101 bus to the terminus of Abu Dhabi Bus Station. Then take a cab for 30 dirhams to the mosque or wait for buses 44 and 54. You can ask the driver of the E100 (E101) to drop you off near the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, but keep in mind that he/she is not obliged to do this.

From Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Fujairah or Ras Al Khaimah we don't recommend traveling on your own. The trip will be long, expensive, and tiring. In this case it is easier to book a sightseeing tour of Abu Dhabi.



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Ticket price

Free. If you want to take a tour, it is also free.

From October 2020 you have to book your visit in advance on the official website visit.szgmc.gov.ae . This rule was introduced for covid-security purposes, so as not to create crowds of people. After registration a QR-code is sent to the mail. This this QR-code is the pass.

Opening hours

The opening hours for tourists have been temporarily changed due to covid security measures:

All days except Friday: from 9 am to 10 pm (from 9-00 to 22-00).

Friday: from 9 am to 12 pm (noon) and from 3 pm to 10 pm (from 9-00 to 12-00 and from 15-00 to 22-00).

The following block of information is temporarily out of date, do not read, skip ahead.

The mosque is open from 9 am to 10 pm. But there is an important nuance. Non-Muslims are allowed into the prayer hall only when there are no prayers.

Fajr (first namaz) ends with dawn. Zuhr (second namaz) begins just after the zenith of the sun. If you want to get to the prayer hall, you should choose this time - between dawn and the zenith of the sun. The moments of the zenith and dawn can be found on the internet on weather sites. For simplicity, you can remember that this time is about 10 am to 12 pm (noon).

On Fridays, the courtyard can be viewed from 4:30 pm to 10 pm. Non-Muslims are not allowed in the prayer hall.

During Ramadan, the courtyard is open from 9 am to 1 pm. Non-Muslims may not enter the prayer hall. On Friday of Ramadan, the mosque is closed to non-Muslims.

Guided tours

In order to observe covid safety measures, there are temporarily no free guided tours from SZGMC for the general public. Only for organized groups and by prior arrangement.

The following block of information is temporarily out of date, don't read, skip ahead.

Tours are free of charge in English and Arabic. You must arrive 15 minutes before the start of the tour and sign up with the guide at the east entrance.

Tours are at 10 am, 11 am, and 4:45 pm.

On Fridays: 4:45 pm and 6:30 pm.

On Saturdays: 10 am, 11 am, 2 pm, 4:45 pm, and 6:30 pm.

During Ramadan: at 10 am and 11-00 am.

The tour lasts 45-60 minutes.



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Rules and dress-code

What is NOT allowed on the mosque territory:

- Drinking or eating;

- Smoking;

- Being improperly dressed. The photo near clearly shows the dress-code, click on the photo to enlarge to full scren;

- Take a photo of Sheikh Zayed Al Nahyan's tomb;

- If entering the prayer hall, take of your shoes;

- It is forbidden to show any kind of tenderness, including light hugs and even holding hands;

- It is forbidden to touch any part of the interior in the prayer hall;

- Do not leave children unsupervised;

- It is forbidden to make noise and cell phones should be turned off;

- Of course, the whole list of rules of behavior in the UAE, which we discussed in the review "What is not allowed in the UAE" is valid;

Women must have their hands covered up to their wrists and legs up to their feet. No cleavage, open back, tight, transparent or translucent clothing. Men must have their shoulders and knees covered.

In the past, visitors were given appropriate clothing at the entrance to the mosque. Now they have temporarily suspended the service for security reasons. The next block of information is temporarily out of date, do not read, skip ahead.

If you dress inappropriately, you can get an abaya (for women) or dishdash (for men) for free at the entrance. A woman's head must be covered. If you didn't bring a headscarf, you can get a sheila (headscarf) for free at the entrance.

A bit of history

Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan wanted to create a center of Islamic culture in Abu Dhabi. He envisioned a new large mosque combining ancient and modern Islamic architectural styles. Sheikh Zayed in many of his speeches stressed the link between past, present, and future, always advocating the preservation and development of traditions. Read our detailed review "Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan" about him.

The chief designer on the project was the renowned Syrian artist Yusuf Abdelki, known in the Islamic world. The planning of the new big mosque began in the late 80's and lasted about 10 years.

The main design ideas are taken from the Mughal architecture, the Alexandria Mosque in Egypt, and the Indo-Islamic style of mosque architecture.

The influence of the Badshahi Mosque in Pakistan, especially the domes and the shape of the courtyard, is evident. The arcades in the Sheikh Zayed Mosque are in Moorish style, the minarets in classical Arabic.

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque was planned and became a stunningly harmonious mix of styles from different eras and regions of the Islamic world.

Construction began on November 5, 1996, and difficulties and disagreements between the contractors and the Abu Dhabi Department of Public Works began immediately. It wasn't until October 2001 that Halcrow took over control of the construction and things "moved on". By May 2002, the foundation was finished, although the original plan had called for the mosque to be completed in 2002.

Thirty-eight contractors were involved in the works and more than 3,500 workers were employed on the site. The total cost of the project rose from the originally planned 1.5 billion dirhams to 2.1 billion.

On November 2, 2004, Sheikh Zayed Al Nahyan passed away. The Great Mosque was not yet ready for ceremonies, and the memorial service was held at the Batin Mosque in Abu Dhabi (pictured right, click on photo to enlarge). The burial site was ready and Sheikh Zayed's body was buried in the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque on the same day.

The mosque opened at the end of the month of Ramadan in 2007.



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What to see

The mosque is a unique blend of ancient and modern Islamic architectural styles. Calligraphy and works of art from different regions of the Islamic world look harmonious. The scale of the structure and the luxury of the decoration is astounding. Let's talk about the most interesting places in the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. What tourists can see there.

The area around the mosque

The complex is 950 feet (290 meters) wide and 1380 feet (420 meters) long. That's not counting the gardens and the parking lot. There are information boards and signs all over the area, it is difficult to get lost.

If you come by sightseeing bus, you will find yourself in the parking lot. Cabs can take you to the parking lot or to the east entrance, where there is a large staircase and behind it two fountains in the shape of semicircles (in the photo near, click on the photo to enlarge to full screen).

On the north side, between the parking lot and the mosque itself, there are two interesting sites. The first is a cafeteria where you can sit, take a break, and drink tea or coffee. This cafeteria has air conditioning, which can be important in the very hot summer months (read our review "Weather in the UAE").

The second is the Sheikh Zayed Mausoleum, where you can see his tomb. Naturally, the body is not put on display, it is not customary in Islamic countries. Recall that the mausoleum is the only place in the complex where it is forbidden to take photos. The Quran is read over Sheikh Zayed's grave 24 hours a day by special servants, in one-hour shifts. It takes them 1.5-2 days to read it completely.

Courtyard

The area of the courtyard is 183,000 square feet (17,000 square meters). The first thing to look at there is under your feet, because you will stand on the largest marble mosaic in the world. See this mosaic, the domes, minarets in the photo near, click on the photo to enlarge.

Up to 30,000 worshippers can pray in this courtyard. On weekdays there are not so many people praying as there is enough space in the prayer hall. The courtyard is only used for prayer on Fridays during Juma prayer, during which time non-Muslims are not allowed into the mosque. Read our review "Friday in the UAE".

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque can be called a museum of marble. You probably can't see so many of its most valuable varieties anywhere else. Sivec from Greece and Macedonia, Lasa, Acqua Bianca from Italy, Makrana from India, Oriental white, and Green Minh from China.

A total of 28 expensive varieties of marble were used. The total area covered with marble and stone slabs is 2,368,000 square feet (220,000 square meters).

Minarets

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque has four minarets, one in each corner. Their height is 351 feet (107 meters). The minarets are finished with marble slabs. Note that the minarets are square at the bottom, then the shape changes to octagonal upwards, then it becomes round above.

SZGMC (Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Center) is located in the western minarets. In fact, it is the administration of the mosque. This organization conducts guided tours.

The northeastern minaret houses a library with a rich collection of books and documents on Islamic history, calligraphy, and culture.

Domes

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque has 82 domes of seven different sizes. The largest is 279 feet (85 meters) in height (230 feet or 70 meters high on the inside), 105 feet (32 meters) in diameter.

Columns

The courtyard is surrounded by 1,048 columns lined with more than 20,000 marble slabs with flecks of semi-precious shells, amethysts, lapis lazuli, red agates, and mother-of-pearl. The long colonnades look stunning, see photo below, click on photo to enlarge.

Ponds

The mosque building is surrounded by ponds (10 in total) from the north, south, and east. A special lighting system has been created for these ponds. Illuminated walls, columns and domes of the mosque are reflected in the waters of the ponds, reminiscent of the night sky with clouds and moonlight.

The brightness of the lighting changes depending on the current phase of the moon. The illumination is created by 22 special towers, it is impossible not to notice them. If you want to see it, come after sunset.

Prayer Hall

The prayer hall is fully open to non-Muslims only when the prayers are not in progress. That is, between morning (Fajr) and midday (Zuhr) prayers.

The main prayer hall can accommodate up to 7,000 worshippers, and the two secondary prayer halls can accommodate up to 1,500 worshippers. One of the secondary halls is a women's hall. It is in the main hall that the main wonders of the Sheikh Zayed Great Mosque are hidden.

The prayer hall has 96 columns covered in mother-of-pearl. On the walls you can see 80 mosaics made of Iznik ceramics from Turkey. The sulus style inscriptions on these mosaics were created by Turkish calligrapher Sheikh Hasan Celebi. Pay attention to the large glass gates, they are 23 feet (7 meters) wide, 40 feet (12.2 meters) long and weigh 2.2 tons.

In the main prayer hall, look up and see the big dome of the mosque from the inside. Note that the hall is shaped like an octagonal star.

Carpet

You have to look under your feet in the prayer hall. The carpet covering the floor is the largest in the world (in the photo above, click to enlarge). It is 60,570 square feet (5,627 square meters) in area, consists of 2,268,000,000 knots, and weighs over 35 tons. It was woven in Iran for two years by 1200 masters.

The design of the carpet was developed by Iranian Ali Kaliki. The production was supervised by the Iranian state-owned company Iran Carpet Co. This carpet cost 30 million UAE dirhams.

Qibla wall

A masterpiece of modern technology (pictured near, click to enlarge). The light on the Qibla Wall is supplied by the EFO system, that is, it is transmitted from remote sources by means of optical fibers. The EFO system is powered by 250 remote lamps. The developer of the optical system is Fiberstars EFO.

The 99 names (attributes) of Allah are written in Kufic script on the wall. The writing was done by Mohammed Mandi Al-Tamimi, a famous calligrapher in the UAE.

The Qibla wall is 164 feet (50 meters) wide and 75.4 feet (23 meters) high.

Chandeliers

Seven chandeliers by the German company Faustig illuminate the prayer halls. To get an idea of how expensive it is, you can look up the prices of ordinary household Faustig chandeliers on the Internet. And the chandeliers for the Sheikh Zayed Great Mosque are made of millions of Swarovski crystals.

The biggest chandelier is in the center of the main hall (see photo near, click to enlarge) is 33 feet (10 meters) in diameter, 49 feet (15 meters) high and weighs 12 tons. When the mosque was built, the chandelier was the largest in the world. Now the record has been broken, in 2010 in Qatar, in the building Ali Bin Khalifa Al Hitmi & Co. installed a LED chandelier weighing 18 tons.

These seven chandeliers cost 30 million UAE dirhams. The total weight of the gilding on them is 88 pounds (40 kilograms) of 999 gold!

Good to know

- They will not let you in with the smell of alcohol, even with the smell of yesterday's "fun". Read our review "Alcohol in Abu Dhabi and the UAE" for details;

- There is an application called "Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque" for Android and iOS. It is useful in that it shows the time of namaz. You need the Internet to use it. Read our review "Internet in the UAE".

Have a great visit to Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, and read our helpful and interesting pages about Abu Dhabi and the UAE (see the list of the pages below).

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