X – Xploring the Grand Mosque | #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterA2Z
Today let me take you to the ‘Taj Mahal’ of the Middle East – their star attraction.
The Grand Mosque or as it is popularly known, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is located in the capital of UAE, Abu Dhabi. It is the largest mosque in the country and one of the largest mosques in the world. The sheer whiteness of the structure makes it comparable to Taj Mahal (maybe because I am an Indian) as there is hardly any other building in the world like this. If you are visiting in the after, it is literally blinding for the naked eye to stare at the monument.
It is an important place for daily prayers, Friday gatherings and Eid prayers. The mosque has a massive capacity and on Eid, it can accommodate up to 41000 people. The construction of the mosque started in 1996 and it took about twelve years to complete.
This mosque is unlike other mosques that you would find around the world. Its uniqueness lies in its architecture that captures seamless interactions between Islam and world cultures. Sheikh Zayed’s vision for the Grand Mosque was to incorporate architectural styles from different parts of the world including many Muslim civilizations. He wanted the mosque to stand out as a symbol for togetherness of cultural diversity and heritage.
One look at the Mosque and you will feel that it is a celebration of cultural diversity. The mosque’s architects were British, Italian and Emirati, and design inspiration was borrowed parts of Turkey, Morocco, Pakistan, and Egypt among other Islamic countries. Syrian architect Yousef Abdelky designed it, which covers an area of 22,412 square meters and was made in collaboration with 3,000 artisans from 38 global construction companies.
It has soon become one of the most popular destinations not only in the UAE but in the whole world. In 2017 it saw a staggering 3.4 mn visitors and Tripadvisor rated it as the world’s second most favorite landmark with only Angor Wat in Cambodia beating it to the top spot.
It was made at a whopping cost of AED 2bn and is world’s third largest mosque with its 82 domes carved out of white marble, 1096 exterior columns, 96 semi-precious jewel-encrusted internal columns and the awe-inspiring seven handmade 24-carat gold plated Swarovski crystal chandeliers.
The Grand Mosque also holds three Guinness World records to its name – the largest hand-woven carpet in the world, the biggest chandelier and the largest dome of its kind.
The world’s largest carpet measures 5,627 sqm (60,570 sq ft) and was made by around 1,200-1,300 carpet knitters putting in an astounding 2,268,000,000 knots within the carpet. The weight of this carpet is 35 ton and is predominantly made from wool (originating from New Zealand and Iran). The carpet alone took approximately two years to complete.
When you enter during sunlight the spectacular ancient-cut domes, the reflective pools that engulf the courtyard and the iconic prayer hall will mesmerize you. The pool looks surreal at night, which is illuminated reflecting the mosque’s columns.
It is named after UAE’s founding figure, Sheikh Zayed and after his death in 2004; he was buried in the mosque’s courtyard. Just like the Taj Mahal, its radiating brilliance lies in its carvings and patterns on the columns, which are studded with precious gems and stones like amethyst and Jasper.
To promote an open-culture-open-door policy the mosque is open for everyone and that too free of cost. One can also go for a one-hour guided tour of the mosque and this is also completely free – it definitely worth signing for as it gives an insight into the structure, heritage and architecture.
The mosque is always full of visitors but its extravagant size makes it feel very spacious and you will not feel cramped or overcrowded.
Timings: 9:00am – 22:00 Saturday-Thursday and 16:30-22:00 on Fridays
During Ramadan – 9:00am-14:00 Saturday-Thursday and the mosque is completely closed on Fridays.
If you are staying in Abu Dhabi take a taxi and within 20 min you will be at your destination. If you are traveling from Dubai, although there is a direct bus service from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, the preferred option is a taxi. The taxi will cost you around AED 250-275 per side and will only take about 90 min.
When traveling to the Grand Mosque, do plan to visit a couple of other attractions in Abu Dhabi, that way you can make the most of your trip. Try to have meals before you come to the mosque, as you will not find many options in proximity.
Please dress modestly as it is a Muslim religious site. The ladies will be provided with free ‘abayas’ to cover themselves fully. Remove shoes and socks before entering the main site.
Any time is a good time to visit the Grand Mosque but during summers try to visit in the morning or early evening. It is perfect for photography then. Don’t forget to carry a pair of sunglasses, as the glare might not make it comfortable for you.
It has a seductive captivating vibe, which makes you sit in silence and just observe and soak in the opulence. Irrespective of the faith you follow – you must visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque for its spectacular architecture.
For all those who love the Taj Mahal,
For all those who like architecture,
For all those who like visiting religious sites,
For all those who are amazed by The Grand Mosque…
It’s not a goodbye,
But it’s a GOOD BYE.
Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul
This is the 24th post for the #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterA2Z. My theme in Travel Category is ‘Dubai – the City of Gold’, where I would be covering everything about the city in the course of 26 posts.
Read the Previous post here: Dubai – City of Gold
Please do visit tomorrow for the next post with the letter ‘Y’
I am also taking part in the #AtoZChallenge #BlogchatterA2Z using another theme –‘IPL – Indian Parliamentary League’. If you are keen on following key issues pertaining to the upcoming General Elections head over to the Politics Theme and share your feedback.