The sublime Grand Mosque Sheikh Zayed in Abu Dhabi

It is a mosque output of a fairy tale of One Thousand and One Nights, a dream born in the heart of a sheikh visionary, inspired by a verse in the Koran advocating tolerance, love and the meeting between cultures - today it is the landmark monument of Abu Dhabi.

View of the Great Sheikh Zayed Mosque from Abu Dhabi to the United Arab Emirates ©Odyfolio

An amazing architectural achievement of a exquisite taste, and maybe the most beautiful mosque in this world. If you only had one hour to visit Abu Dhabi, you would without hesitation go only to Great Mosque Sheikh Zayed. Its minarets, synthesis of several architectural styles, proudly pointing toward the starry sky. The 82 domes of Moroccan inspiration richly decorated cover an immense carpet made hand. Its white marble of a rare purity is decorated with Italian frescos refined.

A large mosque for Abu Dhabi

Dreamed of by the Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan in 80's, the construction of the Great Mosque of Abu Dhabi began on 5 November 1996 and was completed eleven years later in 2007. Sheikh Zahed, who died in 2004, could not attend the achievement : he now rests in peace inside the mosque. As the image of its visionary creator, the mosque aims to be the link between cultures and wishes to welcome visitors from around the world with a message of tolerance and love. Visiting Abu Dhabi Mosque is a dive in the golden age of Islam, when arts, ideas and knowledge ruled illuminated the world.

Today, a decade after its completion, it is a young emblematic monument of the city of Abu Dhabi which enchants the visitors from around the world and whose fame begins to exceed the boundaries of the emirate.

Thousands of workers have succeeded to build the building. The design of its base has been particularly delicate because the sandy and unstable soil had to be consolidated by large quantities of concrete. 6.000 pillars of steel anchored twenty meters under the ground ensure the stability of the building.

The most beautiful materials have been sought to the four corners of the world: thirty types of marble were selected in India, Greece, Macedonia, Italy and China. A lot of gold, semi-precious stones, crystals, ceramics.

Not to be missed during your visit

The impressive entrance inspired by the Taj evil in India gives the ton of the visit. Admire the four minarets of 107 meters each and the 82 domes. The largest in the center measures 70 meters high and 35 meters in diameter. The courtyard covered with white marble always remains cool even in full sun; it is bounded by a thousand columns covered walkway .

The Great Mosque Check Zayed of Abu Dhabi can accommodate 10,000 faithful in its three indoor prayer rooms, and 30.000 on the outdoor esplanade. After you take off your shoes, enter the lobby of the mosque and admire the murals.

Wall with floral decoration in the Great Mosque of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates ©Odyfolio

In the prayer room interior, the biggest hand made carpet of the world covers 5,700 square meters. It is composed of 70% wool and 30% cotton. Its floral pattern has been the subject of a 8 months study. Then its weaving lasted a year, and mobilized 1,200 artisans.

Under the main dome, the largest chandelier in the world has a weight of approximately 12 tonnes. It is inlaid with hundreds of Swarovski crystals from Austria. Two secondary domes have smaller candlesticks.

Prayer carpet of Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates ©Odyfolio

Admire the mendbar at the summit which the imam officiates, in sculpted wood inlaid with white gold and precious pearls.

An imposing chandelier inside the prayer hall of the big mosque Sheikh Zayed of Abu Dhabi, the biggest mosque of the United Arab Emirates ©Odyfolio

The illuminations of the Great Mosque of Abu Dhabi are spectacular: they change depending on the phase of the moon. During certain occasions, it is a true spectacle of light that takes place thanks to the 44 headlamps of high power. Maybe you will have the chance after nightfall to attend one of these magical shows.

Practical information (timetables visit)

The hundreds of mosques in Abu Dhabi are not open to non-Muslims, with the exception of the Great Mosque Sheikh Zayed which opens very widely its doors to tourists from around the world.

Il est possible de la visiter tous les jours de 9h à 22h (ouverture à 16h30 le vendredi en raison de la grande prière). La plupart des visiteurs optent pour une visite libre mais vous pourrez choisir une visite guidée gratuite d'une heure (« walk-in tour »). Les visites s’interrompent plusieurs fois par jour et pendant environ trente minutes pour les prières quotidiennes. Il peut être astucieux d'entrer juste après une prière et ainsi avoir les espaces entièrement dégagés pour admirer la vue et prendre des photos. Ces horaires étant susceptibles de changer mieux vaut vérifier leur mise à jour sur le site de la mosquée.

How to be dressed to visit the Great Mosque of Abu Dhabi?

Pour vous rendre à la mosquée qui est à l'écart des autres attractions touristiques d'Abu Dhabi, la solution la plus simple est de prendre un taxi (compter environ 50 dirhams depuis la corniche, tous les chauffeurs connaissent). Si vous êtes en voiture, dirigez-vous vers le parking touristes au Sud (voir le plan ci-après, attention le secteur est un grand nœud autoroutier). La grande mosquée Cheikh Zayed est sur le circuit des « big bus tours » rouges accessibles aux détenteurs du pass journée ; compter 30 minutes depuis l'Heritage Village. Le bus de ville 054 partant du terminal de bus d'Abu Dhabi (près d'Al Wahda Mall) est l'option la plus économique (2 dirhams le trajet).

We advise you to visit the Great Mosque at the end of the afternoon. In full day, the white marble may be too sparkled. Once night falls, we recommend you to continue your evening at The hotel Shangri La and the souk Qaryat al Beri, or in the Ritz Carlton even closer.

It will be asked women to veil for the visit, but not a concern ladies, everything is perfectly organized for tourists: an abaya will be graciously loaned and employees will explain you how to use, the promise of beautiful souvenir photos. For the gentlemen, they will be asked to wear proper clothing with trousers, therefore do not wear a short.

Sunset on Abu Dhabi Grand Mosque, seen from Shangri-La Hotel ©Odyfolio

Access maps and location

The outskirts of the Great Mosque are currently in work for the construction of underground car parking. If you come by car, use the visitor parking to the north (access from Airport Road). The map below should help you.

Location of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. ©OpenStreetMap contributors

Detailed access map to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque of Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates ©OpenStreetMap contributors

Hotels and restaurants nearby

The site is relatively isolated and does not have restaurants, except the café in the souvenir shop. However, after a few minutes taxi drive to a water channel separating Abu Dhabi island to the continent, you can reach sublime hotels with plenty of bars and restaurants, some of which have a very beautiful view on the mosque.

Just next to the mosque The Ritz Carlton (even if it is just on opposite side of the road, take a taxi because the pedestrian access is too complicated) has several bars and restaurants (Arabic cuisine, Asian, Italian and international). Our blow of heart is the restaurant lounge Li Jiang which is one of the best Asian restaurants of the city. If you take a drink in the sofas in terrace, you can enjoy a beautiful view on the Great Mosque of Abu Dhabi.

On the other side of the channel, The Fairmont Hotel and The Traders Hotel. The beautiful complex of the Shangri La and its souk Qaryat al Beri is without hesitation the best choice for amazing going out experience.

Hotels with no beach are in the range of 350AED and 600AED the night). Opt for the two hotels Rotana to the North of the mosque. There is also the faded The Officer's Club in the South.

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