Love affair with everywhere: Sheikh Zayed Mosque

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Flag of United Arab Emirates  ,
Friday, April 5, 2013

FINALLY!!!

If I counted backwards correctly, I was recently in the UAE for what might have been the 21st time in the last five years. I have seen and done pretty much everything there is to see/do, at least in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, but there is one place I have seen many times from the road going from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, but never actually made it to. It has been 'on my list' of places to visit since I first saw it in 2008! I guess not knowing how many more times I will get to the region (and a little bit of free time before my flight home) inspired me to actually make the trip to AD with the intention of visiting only the mosque.

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi was more amazing than I imagined. I still can't believe it took me so long to get here.

Regardless of religious affiliation, one must admire the stunning architecture and attention to detail in design. The structure was inspired by a combination of Arabesque, Mughal and Moorish architectural styles and materials from all over the world were imported to complete the design. The seven chandeliers (among the most beautiful lighting fixtures I have ever seen) were imported from Germany, the carpet was hand tufted in Iran with wool from New Zealand and is said to be the the largest single piece of carpet in the world at around 60,000 sq ft and the Kibla features the 99 names of Allah in traditional calligraphy.

There are many more fascinating details about the mosque, which you can learn about on one of the guided tours offered at the mosque (for more detail on times: http://www.szgmc.ae/en/). You can plan your schedule around the tour times, or if you prefer, tour the mosque on your own.

Remember that while the mosque is a tourist 'attraction' and open to the public, it is still an operating mosque and place of worship, and as such, it is important that you remember to dress appropriately. Even though the dress 'code' in the UAE is liberal, you are required to be appropriately dressed in order to enter the mosque. But not to worry, in case you are dressed for the desert heat, you can still visit the mosque, you just need to stop by the 'ladies dressing room,' where you can 'borrow' an abaya which will fully cover your body and head per mosque rules. A headscarf for women is a must. You will also be required to remove your footwear before entering the main hall of the mosque.

In general, the mosque is open to visitors from 9 am to 10 pm from Sunday to Thursday. Friday is the official holy day, so the mosque is not open to visitors until after afternoon prayer around 4:30pm. Muslims pray five times per day, and the mosque is closed to visitors during the call to prayer and the prayer times. If you are here during this time, you will not be allowed entry until the prayer is complete. If you are traveling there during Ramadan or Eid, check before you go as it is likely that the mosque will have limited hours during these holy days.

Even though I travel around the UAE regularly and freely, I was uncertain of the best way to get to/from the mosque (since I stay in Dubai when I am in the country). Since I was short on time, I chose to take a private car from Business Bay, where I was staying, to the mosque. For the round trip visit the cost was AED 600 (around US$ 165), a metered taxi will run you the same. This seems like a pretty steep price (and it is), but remember it is a 1.5 hour journey to/from and the car has to wait while you are inside. The website says it is hard to get a taxi from the mosque, but this is not true. There is a taxi stand outside with a number of taxis readily available. If you are on a budget, and you don't have your own rental car, I highly recommend taking the bus (25 dhs each way) from Dubai to Abu Dhabi bus station (2 hour journey each way) and from there a taxi.

My description and the pictures really do not do the mosque justice. I love architecture and design, and have an interest in the local culture and other religions, so regardless of my non-muslim faith, my time in the mosque was awe inspiring and touched me spiritually. I particularly enjoyed wandering away from the main hall along mirror pools on the exterior, where I found locals resting along the edge and women in abayas and their children sitting in a circle chatting away. I also planned it so that I would be there as the sun was setting and got to watch the sun set behind the mosque, creating beautiful silhouettes of the domes and minarets. I wanted to see it at night, as I hear the lighting effect against the white structure was designed to replicate the shades of the moon, but I had to head back to Dubai for my flight.

I hope that if you make the trip to Dubai that you will find some time to visit the Sheikh Zayed mosque in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

Thank you, as always, for reading.

love affair with everywhere is now on facebook and instagram. Would love for you to visit, "like" and share your own journey at www.facebook.com/loveaffairwitheverywhere and on instagram @loveaffairwitheverywhere.

Happy and safe travels.
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