Sheikh Zayed Mosque ~ Floral & Exquisite

April 18th, 2013

Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi

I finally made it to the Sheikh Zayed Mosque—the most exquisite mosque I’ve ever visited. I had not expected to be dazzled, but I was.

What impressed me first was the striking white of the mosque and its grand scale. Next, it was the gorgeous floral motifs and overwhelmingly feminine style. Meanwhile, the various architectural accents—domes, columns and archways—were amazing, too.  

Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi

The mosque, which opened in 2007 in Abu Dhabi, was the vision of Sheikh Zayed, the founding father and first ruler of the United Arab Emirates. The tomb of Sheikh Zayed is located nearby the mosque.

The Design

The mosque is one of the largest in the world and accommodates over 40,000 worshippers. Stunning white with gold accents, the mosque is surrounding by reflective pools and features 1000 columns and 82 domes.

Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi

A fusion of Arab, Moorish, and Mughal elements, the design of the mosque was directly influenced by mosques in Morocco and Pakistan, as well as the Taj Mahal in India. 

Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi

More than 3,000 people took part in the building of the mosque, which included artisans and materials from many countries, including Italy, Morocco, India, Pakistan, Turkey, Malaysia, Iran, Greece, UK, Germany, New Zealand, and the UAE.

The archways are quintessentially Moorish.

Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi

The Courtyard

The courtyard is massive and the floral design in the marble floor is not only spectacular, but also the largest example of a marble mosaic in the world.

Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi

Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi

The four minarets, placed in the four corners of the courtyard, are classically Arab in design.

Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi

The Garden Foyer

Before entering the prayer area, one passes through the garden foyer, which echoes the flower motifs of the courtyard.

Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi

Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi

Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi

Main Prayer Hall

The Main Prayer Hall, which can accommodate 7,000 worshippers, is the heart of the mosque.

Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi

The Qibla Wall (direction wall) features the 99 names of God written in Kufic calligraphy and designed by an Emirati calligrapher.

Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abi Dhabi

The prayer niche is made of gold leaf. 

Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi

The Carpet

Inside the hall is the world’s largest hand-knotted carpet. Made of wool, the carpet is Iranian designed and made. It was crafted by 1,200 women and took two years to complete. The lines marked in the carpet tell the worshippers where to line up.

Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi

The Women’s Prayer Hall

Without a doubt, this is the most beautiful women’s prayer area I’ve ever seen. Built to accommodate 1,500 women, the area is spacious and bright.

Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi

The ceiling, which was designed in Morocco, is made to match the carpet, which was designed in Malaysia. The two patterns mirror each other.  

Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi

Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhbai

The mosque also houses a library with classic books on Islamic subjects relating to science, calligraphy, art, and civilization. The collection features a broad range of languages and includes rare and historic publications. Click here to find out more about the Sheikh Zayed Mosque Library.

Visiting the mosque

Opening hours and tour times vary slightly throughout the year. Currently, the mosque is open to visitors daily from 9:00am to 10:00pm and Fridays from 4:30pm to 10pm. I advise morning or evening visits during the hot months.

Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi

I highly recommend the guided tours. Our tour guide Khadija was very knowledgeable and well-spoken. Free tours are currently given daily at 10:00am, 11:00am and 5:00pm. Additional tours on Saturday are 2:00pm and 7:00pm. Friday tours are 5:00pm and 7:00pm. See website for up-to-date visiting hours and tour schedule.

What to wear

Of course, women must cover their hair. The mosque offers unique abayas for female visitors. The abaya comes with an attached hood with a tie. You can select either a long abaya (floor length) or short (shin-length), depending on what you are wearing underneath.

Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi

Alternatively, you can wear your own modest clothing: a loose-fitting tunic over a long skirt or wide-leg trousers (what I wore).

Sheikh Zayed Mosque - What to wear

Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi

Men must be modest, too—long trousers and shirt with sleeves. See the website sidebar for more information on mosque manners.

Did you know?

In Abu Dhabi, there is only one muatheen—that is, the man who calls the worshipers to prayer five times per day.  Yes, just one. His athan (call to prayer) is not recorded, but is projected live from all mosques in Abu Dhabi.

Question: Have you been to the Sheikh Zayed Mosque? What were your impressions?

  1. April 19th, 2013 at 04:56 | #1

    Holly, thank you for this beautiful tour! I am looking forward to visiting these when we move to Dubai in the new year. Also thanks for the food tour recommendation! We went on the Arabic tour when we were there in March! Arva was a fantastic guide! And the food was awesome!

  2. Jeannie Neely
    April 19th, 2013 at 08:29 | #2

    We also had a wonderful young woman guide, who patiently answered all our questions. It was nice to be graciously lent an abaya and headscarf to wear, and to see the astonishing grounds and building. The paradise hall was a vision, the building beautiful.

  3. Francine Soltani
    April 19th, 2013 at 17:04 | #3

    It’s an amazing work of architecture. Your pictures really capture the essence of it, especially the attention to detail.

  4. Holly S. Warah
    Holly S. Warah
    April 20th, 2013 at 12:13 | #4

    Hi Cindy, Jeannie & Francine, Thank you for reading & commenting! Yes, it’s a beautiful sight. I’m looking forward to visiting again.

  5. Theresa Dommett
    April 20th, 2013 at 20:13 | #5

    Great tour and beautiful photos. I love the photo of the reflecting pond with along the arches. Really nice – brochure material.

  6. April 21st, 2013 at 19:58 | #6

    Beautiful Holly! I’ve been to the Grand Mosque, it is absolutely stunning. Your pictures capture the beauty of it so well:)

  7. Deborah Mustafa
    April 22nd, 2013 at 19:08 | #7

    Salaam Holly,

    Thank you so much for sharing your mosque visit so descriptively with stunning pictures too. As you know, I have lived here 4 years and have yet to make the trip. It is on my priority list this year though. I remember reading about the Italian marble and the artist who designed all the motifs. His artistry and expertise in the craft is amazing and it looks absolutely exquisite! But what I want to know is who was on the core design team? Was it the Sheikh? I guess my big question is who exactly decided to fuse the 4 cultural architectural elements; who chose the color scheme; who decided to match the carpet with the ceiling and how did they do this? I realize I have the curiosity of an 8 year old, but have always wondered and maybe you know. Nevertheless, it is spectacular!

  8. Natalie
    April 23rd, 2013 at 20:13 | #8

    Stunning, Holly!

  9. April 30th, 2013 at 21:14 | #9

    Wow! Gorgeous mosque and grounds and design and truly beautiful photographs you took. A feast for the eyes! So many pix to Pin!!

    • Holly S. Warah
      Holly S. Warah
      May 11th, 2013 at 16:37 | #10

      Thank you so much for stopping by. I hope you all have a chance to visit this gorgeous mosque.

  10. kappy strahah
    June 3rd, 2013 at 08:25 | #11

    Hi Holly! Kappy here from Boulder.
    I was enchanted by this mosque, first the white contrast against a blue Arabia sky, then the contrasts of the beautiul art of ceilings, lighting, carpets and the never ending of ‘just one thing more” to drawn the eye. One should no miss it.

  11. September 30th, 2013 at 23:57 | #12

    I have been to many mosques in my life since reverting to Islam but this one needs to be seen and prayed in in person.It is beyond words ..Subhana Allah!
    JAH for sharing this with us!!!

    • Holly S. Warah
      Holly S. Warah
      October 3rd, 2013 at 10:35 | #13

      Mira, I agree. You have to visit it to believe it. Thanks for reading.

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