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Mosque welcomes visitors to explore its grandeur

Floor-to-ceiling artwork is infused in Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Center in Abu Dhabi including marble columns with inlay of floral designs. Photos by Gale Horton Gay

Floor-to-ceiling artwork is infused in Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Center in Abu Dhabi including marble columns with inlay of floral designs. Photos by Gale Horton Gay

Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is an ultra-modern city dominated by sleek contemporary skyscrapers and mind-blowing mega-malls, entertainment complexes, international hotels, lavish homes.

In the midst of all this is a religious site that may outshine them all—Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Center. It is a vast property with stunning architectural designs built and decorated with the best of natural and manmade wonders from around the world. It is considered by many to be the key worship site in the UAE.

Named for Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the first president of the UAE and ruler of Abu Dhabi, the mosque is both an active place of worship and tourism site. (The mausoleum of the late sheikh is located beside the mosque.) Visitors are welcomed with no regard to religious affiliation or beliefs. Exploration of the mosque, which charges no entrance fee, should top any Abu Dhabi visitor’s must-see list.

The hand-knotted carpet in the main prayer hall that took eight months to design and two years to complete.

The hand-knotted carpet in the main prayer hall that took eight months to design and two years to complete.

It is difficult to describe the mosque without the overuse of superlatives. Words such as “grand,” “beautiful,” “awe-inspiring” are all true but fall short of adequately conveying its magnificence.

Consider these mosque highlights:

  •  82 white domes with crescent-shaped finials
  •  Seven chandeliers studded with Swarovski crystals—the largest chandelier in the main prayer hall weighing 12 tons
  • Hand-knotted carpet in the main prayer hall that took eight months to design and two years to complete. The wool and cotton carpet is the handiwork of 1,200 artisans.

The construction of this worship and cultural center began in 1996 and finished in 2007. The sheikh wanted it to reflect the diversity of the Islam world in its architecture and art. 

Marble from Macedonia dominates the structure. Artwork is infused throughout from floral designs on the floors and along the columns as well as intricate patterns on ceilings. Intricate mosaic, carved and sandblasted glass creations capture the eye at practically every turn. 

While walking through the mosque, one is constantly looking up, down and side to side. It seems near impossible to take in every detail including reflecting pools and minarets.

Guided tours in English and Arabic that last approximately 45 minutes are provided for individuals and groups.

For more details on Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Center, go to www.szgmc.ae/en.

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