The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

In the early 1990’s the then president Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan issued a royal decree for the construction of a grand mosque in the capital city of Abu Dhabi. Construction began in 1994 and was completed in 2007. Aligned to the direction of Kaaba in Mecca in Saudi Arabia, its location is in keeping with the way the Islam dictates prayers. The complex covers an area of over 30 acres and measures around 290 by 420 metres. The late president, fondly remembered locally as the Father of the Nation is buried in the courtyard of the Grand Mosque.

Sheikh Zayed appointed architect Yusef Abdelki who took inspiration from the Abu Al Abbas Al Mursi Mosque in Alexandria, the Badshahi Mosque in Lahore in addition to Persian, Mughal and Indo-Islamic styles. The architecture of the archways is unmistakably Moorish while the minarets are distinctly Arab. Natural materials such as marble, gold, semi-precious stones, crystals and ceramics were used by the international team of 3,000 workers and 38 sub-contracting companies. The mosque has a capacity of over 40,100 worshipers and is spread over the main hall which can hold 7,000 and the two smaller prayer rooms which have room for 3000 worshippers. With the rest praying in the courtyard and other parts of the complex. The four corners courtyard are adorned with four minarets each rising to about 107 metres. At 17,000 sqm and decorated in intricate floral mosaics the courtyard is the largest example of marble mosaic in the world. Measuring 5,627 m2, the carpet in the great hall is one of the biggest in the world and is designed by Ali Khaliqi. Millions of Swarovski crystals glisten in the many chandeliers across the mosque. The main prayer hall is marked with 96 marble columns each inlaid with fine mother of pearl. Three calligraphy styles Nashi, Tuluth and Kuffic decorate the entire complex.

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is also a centre of learning and the on-site offices located in the west minarets organizes cultural activities and programs. In the Northeast Minaret an extensive library houses classic books and publications covering the various sciences, civilization, calligraphy, art and coins. Rare books are also available and the library collection includes material in Arabic, English, French, Italian, Spanish, German and Korean.

The perfectly manicured grounds is home to the Souq Al Jami. Perfumes, jewellery, antiques and crafts and souvenirs are sold in the souq as well as a number of restaurants and cafes serving up traditional and international delights.

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is opened to everyone and visitors are required to dress appropriately with women and girls above the age of 7 covering their hair, arms and legs and men avoiding shorts and short sleeves.

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