Must See: Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Must See: Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

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What if the Taj Mahal was constructed today?  What would a modern Aya Sophia look like?  What could a new Angkor Wat look like?  Luckily the United Arab Emirates has the money and Sheikhs willing to answer such questions, best exemplified in the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, an over-the-top architectural masterpiece that will be as revered in hundreds of years as the Taj is today.

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The design in meant to “unify the world” taking artistic details and artisan works from all ends of the earth.  Still under construction, at it’s peak more than 3,000 people worked on the construction of this 40,000 person capacity mosque in memory of late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.  Consisting of 82 domes, the largest rising to 279 ft (85m) and encircling a diameter of 106 feet (32m), it is of breathtaking scale, yet shocking detail to the smallest stone.

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The stone inlays are masterpieces in their own right, being composed of precious stones from around the world, inlaid in marble.  The center courtyard is the world’s largest marble mosaic, impressing in size (180,000 square feet/17,000 square meters).  The courtyard is just the appetizer for what’s to be found inside.

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People are dwarfed by the enormity of the interior, lighted by several of the world’s largest Swarovski crystal chandeliers.  The massive columns are marble inlaid with pearl and the ceilings even more examples of unrealistically opulent dreams come true.  The most important part of the mosque, the rug on which prayer takes place, has it’s own “world’s best” title as the “world’s largest handknotted rug” measuring a staggering 60,570 square feet (5,627 square meters).

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We spent hours inside the mosque because everywhere we looked we found something to admire.  There is not a single place that falls even to the realm of “normal” or “seen it before”.

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After exploring the inside, looking back towards the outside makes it clear that no expense was spared to make this a complete work of art.

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To pass through the entrance to the mosque requires proper attire, which is supplied for free, giving everyone a chance to model Arab fashion.  The dress code just adds to the experience which everyone visiting Abu Dhabi, even on a short layover, should have by visiting the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

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WHEN YOU GO:

Check visiting hours. There are only certain hours visitors are allowed inside, make sure you arrive during one of these times.

Take a tour. The tours do a great job of highlighting the architectural touches and enlightening visitors about how parts of the building tie into the practice of Islam.

Taxi is the easiest transport. Though you can take buses there getting to the visitor entrance is a long way from where the current bus stop is, making taxi the easiest way to get there from central Abu Dhabi.

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About the Author

thinkCHUA: Photographing and documenting the world on a 3 year round-the-world trip to help future travelers discover new places, travel longer and enjoy the world's great experiences.

About the Author
thinkCHUA: Photographing and documenting the world on a 3 year round-the-world trip to help future travelers discover new places, travel longer and enjoy the world's great experiences.
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