Featured Photo: Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
When planning this trip, I wrote out an initial outline of an itinerary, highlighting my absolute must-sees around the world. Near the very top was the Middle Eastern nation of the United Arab Emirates. I have had a passion for great architecture for as long as I can remember and greatly desired to see the fanciful buildings that have risen out of the desert there over the past 20 years.
When I made plans last month to travel from Europe on to India, I knew I had to stop over in the UAE if only for a few days. When planning out my flights, I was only able to get reasonable airfare into Abu Dhabi and out of Dubai. The two most populous and rich of the country’s emirates are located 2 hours apart. Abu Dhabi is the nation’s capital and houses many central banking and other financial businesses. Dubai on the other hand is the center of tourism and insane architecture. I had no idea of what to see in Abu Dhabi, and began looking into transit options directly to Dubai.
Thankfully in my research, I came across two separate stories about the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi and how it should not be missed. Checking out a few photos online, I immediately altered my plans, and decided to spend my first morning in country exploring this beautiful building. And boy am I ever glad I did.
The Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque is the most beautiful religious structure I’ve ever visited. That might seem hyperbolic, but I think St. Peter’s, Hagia Sophia, the Sultanahmet Mosque, and countless others pale in comparison. Now that might not be entirely fair as the Grand Mosque was only completed in 2007, but the attention to detail and the overall craftsmanship is stunning.
The deep indigo sky perfectly complements the ivory white marble of the central domes and columns, while shallow pools surround the structure and were built specifically to reflect the phases of the moon.
Inside an international crew of artisans spent 11 years carving, sculpting, and sewing some of the world’s most stunning pieces of art. The world’s largest marble mosaic is in the courtyard contained within the four minarets. It measures an astounding 180,000 square feet. The carpet covering the floor is also the largest in the world at 60,500 square feet and contains over 2 billion knots! The seven massive chandeliers hung from high overhead were imported from Germany and each contain millions of Swarovski crystals. The centermost, measures over 33 feet in diameter and 49 feet in height, making it the third largest chandelier in the world.
Spending a half day wandering its towering halls was a peaceful and awe-inspiring introduction to the world masters of modern era architecture.
Where Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Stay I flew into Abu Dhabi airport, picked up a one way car rental and then dropped it off in Dubai. The drive from the airport to the mosque is about 20 minutes. From there to Dubai is about 2 hours. The total cost of the rental was $27 including fuel. You can also reach the mosque via public bus or taxi.
Notes The mosque is open to visitors from 9am to 10pm Saturday to Thursday and 430pm to 10pm on Fridays. There are daily free guided tours on site. Check for times when you arrive.