I’ve said it once and I’ll say it a million times more. If you have a long layover coming up make the most of your opportunity to explore a new city and get out of the airport for a few hours! Many flights en-route to Europe have stopovers in the Middle East and if you’re flying with Etihad in particular, that stopover will always be in Abu Dhabi, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates. The main sight there to see, at least in my eyes, is the incredible Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque!
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE SHEIKH ZAYED GRAND MOSQUE, ABU DHABI
HOW TO GET TO THE GRAND MOSQUE
To get to the mosque from the airport you have two options. The first is to catch the local bus. The bus doesn’t stop directly at the mosque but about a ten minute walk away. The mosque is huge and you can see it a mile away so you can’t get lost during the walk. Tell your bus driver that you are wanting to go to the Mosque and he should signal to you when to get off. The bus option is ridiculously cheap at only 4 Dirham ($1.50) and leaves the airport every 30-60 minutes depending on the time of day.
The second option is to catch a taxi, always make sure you use the meter to get a cheaper price. I caught a taxi back from the mosque just to be sure I didn’t miss my flight out. The taxi cost less than 40 Dirham ($15) so it’s not an outrageously expensive option either.
The United Arab Emirates was founded in 1971 after the seven emirates of the region joined as one country. In celebration of the federation Sheikh Zayed, the first president of the country, wanted to create a beautiful mosque that was open for everyone in the world to enjoy, not just muslims. After eleven years of construction the Mosque was opened in December 2007 and named in his honour – Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
The Mosque is as large as five football fields and can fit up to 55,000 worshippers at the same time. The Grand Mosque is one of the top ten largest mosques in the world and is a true masterpiece in modern islamic architecture. The mosque was built using 37 types of Marble from all over the world, the main supplier being Macedonia who provided over 100,000 tonnes of pure white marble. This was a really cool fact to discover as I am half Macedonian myself. The outside of the mosque is decorated by 15,000 columns and 82 domes of pure marble and surrounded by reflective pools that amplify its beauty, especially at night. The courtyard is 17,000m² and with the floral design created with semi precious stones is the largest example of mosaic inlaid marble in the world.
The biggest chandelier in the Mosque is believed to be the third largest in the world. It is 15 metres long, weighs 12 tonne and was made using 40 kilo’s of gold and 400 million pieces of Swarovski crystal. The most impressive piece in the whole mosque, however, is the worlds largest ‘one piece’ carpet that covers the floor of the main prayer hall. It was hand-knotted by over 1200 women and took two years to complete. To say that the Grand Mosque was designed thoughtfully and beautifully is an understatement.
WHAT TO WEAR
The United Arab Emirates is a muslim country so you will need to dress appropriately. Whilst visiting the mosque women must be covered head to toe in loose clothing. The only part of your body that can be visible is your feet, hands and face. Whilst I dressed appropriately I was still asked to wear an abaya, which you can borrow for free. I was happy to oblige, both as a sign of respect and because it’s not everyday you get to wear an abaya, it’s a unique experience! A headscarf is also necessary, feel free to bring your own.
During the rest of your time in the UAE the dress code is not as strict but you should still dress appropriately in long, loose-fitting clothing that covers your knees etc.
JOIN A FREE TOUR
The best way to learn about the Grand Mosque (besides reading this blog, of course) is to join one of the free tours. The tours are conducted in English at 10am, 11am and 5pm on weekdays and often more so on weekends. They run for 45-60 minutes and you’ll learn not only about the architectural design of the mosque but also the fundamentals of the islamic religion. I found the tour very interesting and definitely recommend doing one yourself.
Note that the Mosque is free to the public and is open from 9am – 10pm Saturday to Thursday and from 4.30pm on Fridays. For more information click here.
I absolutely loved visiting the Grand Mosque, not only was it interesting but absolutely beautiful. I visited first thing in the morning when it was completely empty, it was great as I managed to get beautiful photos before the crowds came at 10am. If I were to return again I would love to be able to visit at sunset so I could see the mosque lit up at night.
Over to you. Does the Grand Mosque sound like somewhere you’d like to visit?
Or if you have visited previously what did you think of it?
Let me know in the comments below!