In this day we went to the next to Dubai emirate – Abu Dhabi and its extraordinary Sheikh Al Zayed mosque.
Naturally, there are many more thing to visit but we hadn’t much desire for them.I will tell about them with few words, just to know if you make plans, but now the beginning of this travel diary 🙂
We wanted to visit the mosque at the late afternoon so we could see it in its night lightning when it’s just amazing.
We got our tickets in advance, I recommend to do the same since the mosque is visited by a huge number of people ant the first to enter are the ones with online tickets.
The entry is free but you register at the mosque site for a selected time. Here it is, you can get every information you may need, especially the proper clothing and attitude. But more about this later…
You can get to Abu Dhabi by rental car, a tour or public transport. We chose the last and it was easy and comfortable.
You just had to get to the Ibn Battuta bus station (it is reached by the red line of the metro) and to wait for the E101 bus. You can use your NOL card as ticket, one way is 25 Dirhams. The trip takes about an hour and forty minutes and on the road there was nothing worth showing 🙂
You arrive in the Abu Dhabi bus station which looked a lot worse than the one in Dubai.
Meaning ‘Land of the Gazelle’ in Arabic, Abu Dhabi was founded when a young antelope led a wandering tribe to fresh water, on an island with no more than 300 palm (‘barasti’) huts, a few coral buildings and the Ruler’s fort. This simple island settlement has since been transformed into the modern, cosmopolitan city of Abu Dhabi and the high-rise capital of the United Arab Emirates.
To the Sheikh Al Zayed Mosque you can get by public transport or a taxi. Bus 94 stops right in front of the station and its last stop is the mosque. You can’t buy tickets from the driver, you can get them from a machine at the station. Unfortunately, the minimum price is 10 Dirhams but the ticket to the mosque is 2. Nevertheless, it’s your only choice.
After about thirty minutes ride you reach the mosque and this magnificent building is right in front of you.
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque stands out as one of the world’s largest mosques, and the only one that captures unique interactions between Islam and world cultures. Sheikh Zayed’s vision for the Grand Mosque was to incorporate architectural styles from different Muslim civilizations and celebrate cultural diversity by creating a haven that is truly diverse and inspirational in its foundation. 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, revealing a glistening architectural marvel with an astonishing capacity of 40,000 worshipers and visitors.
This is the entrance in the beginning of the park and not close to the mosque itself. Don’t get mistaken, you can’t enter anywhere else.
The entrance is underground with few shops, fast food stalls and restrooms. You have to walk a lot and go through few security checks and a place where you can get clothes if you are not dressed properly. The decoration inside is quite beautiful also.
Here you can see the allowed clothes. If you are not dressed accordingly you have to get some of the free ones, the men as well as the women:
I was with a long skirt and a scarf but had to get one also. Here I am:
There are 82 domes of various sizes and the largest is located in the center of the main prayer hall. The design elements include pure white marble cladding; onion shaped ‘crowns’ and crescent shaped finials decorated with gold-glass mosaic. The elongated windows allow the natural light to enter the prayer halls.
The inside of the domes feature traditional Moroccan artwork which has been made from reinforced plaster. Encircling the inside of the domes are verses from the Holy Quran which are also molded from GRG and painted in gold colour.
Other domes are found on the grand gated entrance and other entrances. There are also fourteen green glass domes incorporated into the roof of the underground male and female ablution facilities. They are visible above ground and are an important feature of the Mosque’s Islamic garden design.
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque has four minarets, each of which is around 106 meters high. The minaret has been the most significant component of Islamic architecture across the ages. Each minaret is made-up of three different geometric shapes. The first is a square that forms the minaret’s base built according to the Arabic Moroccan architectural styles, as well as the Andalusian and the Mameluke styles. The second has an octagonal shape, which is a design that goes back to the Mameluke era. The third holds a cylindrical shape, which emerged during the Ottoman era. The crowning lantern covered with gold-glass mosaic goes back to the Fatimid era.
The word “Minaret” derives from the Arabic word “Manarah”, meaning lighthouse, so it is fitting that the library, a source of knowledge and education, is uniquely located at the minaret. It is the only library to be found in a minaret.
The mosque is surrounded by rectangular pools tiled in different shades of blue, which extend over 7874 m2. They reflect the mosque’s magnificent arcades and columns and become even more spectacular by the lighting at night.
The courtyard (Sahan) is usually found in larger ‘Grand’ mosque structures. It is an open area, usually has a shape of square or rectangular. The courtyard is used by worshipers during significant Islamic prayers and large gatherings such as the holy month Ramadan, Eid Al-Fitr (Feast of Breakfast) and Eid Al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice). The courtyard can accommodate up to 31000 worshipers and the area is approximately 17400 square meters.
Many thousands of finest marble pieces make up the design including beautiful floral elements and mosaic. The designs were illustrated by British artist “Kevin Dean”.
The edges adorned using different types of flowers that grow in the Middle East such as Tulip, Lily and Iris.
External Columns: The arcades of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque are flanking by thousands of columns, which are made of white marble panels, inlaid with precious and semi-precious stones such as lapis lazuli, red agate, amethyst, abalone shell and nacre. Their overall design has been inspired from a valued tree throughout Arabia, the date palm. From the golden capitals (anodized aluminum colored with golden color) which are in the shape of a palm treetop.
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque has 1096 columns around the arcade. Each piece was hand-carved and inlaid by craftsmen here on site and they used a special inlay technique called “Pietra Dura” which began firstly in Italy 16th century and reached Mughals in the early 17th century, and perhaps the most exquisite example is the columns of “Taj Mahal” in India.
Internal Columns: 96 columns stand in groups of four contribute to the structural support for the three main domes. The columns in the main prayer hall are clad with white pure marble inlaid with mother-of-pearl vines. This work was completed mainly by hand in Dongguan.
The main prayer hall houses the world’s largest hand-knotted carpet. The intricate Islamic medallion design was made by third generation carpet maker and artist, Dr. Ali Khaliqi. The predominantly wool carpet was hand-crafted by approximately 1,200 artisans.
Its creation was a two year project, the design took approximately 8 months, the knotting 12 months and the remaining time to transport, trim and weave the pieces together. The final single piece carpet is 5,700 square meters, about 70% being wool and the rest of 30% is cotton.
There are seven crystal chandeliers made by Faustig (Munich, Germany) situated inside the halls and foyers. The largest (located in the main prayer hall and considered one of the world’s largest in a mosque and is weighing approximately 12 tons.
Two smaller versions of the same design (located also in the main prayer hall) are weighing 8 tons each. Four blue coloured chandeliers of similar design and size are located in the foyer entrances surrounding the SZGM. The largest of them is weighing about 2 tons and located in the main foyer entrance.
All chandeliers are made from gilded stainless steel and gilded brass (approx. 40kg of 24 carat galvanized gold was used). Glass panels studded with Swarovski crystals were installed in all of them.
Before I can show you the amazing night lights, the reason we actually decided to visit the mosque this late, here are some more photos in daylight:
The unique lightning system was designed to reflect the phases of the moon. Soft undulating clouds of a bluish gray colour are projected onto the white marble external surfaces of the mosque including the facade and domes. Each day appears a little different from the next as the lighting cycle commences with darker clouds when the month is in its early stages and the moon is a small crescent. As the moon progresses through its cycle and becomes full, so does the lightning effect become more brilliant. There are twenty-two light towers consisting of an efficient number of light projectors to achieve this creative effect.
I have seen many photos of the mosque but absolutely not a single one was able to show its true magnificence and beauty.
If you want to see it in day and in night, I recommend to check when the sunset will be at the time of your visit and to get an online ticket for at least an hour and a half in advance. This way you’ll have the chance to see it in your own pace and to take photos without any rush. After all, there are many tourists visiting and the places where you can take pictures are little and you have to wait in line 🙂
This was the end of our trip to Abu Dhabi but I will tell you a few words about the other attractions you can see in the Emirates’ capital.
The Middle East’s most spectacular museum, Louvre Abu Dhabi traces the entire history of humanity’s artistic achievements, from the Neolithic right up to the current day. The wealth and diversity of art on display, from ancient Egyptian statuary to famous paintings by Picasso, is mind-boggling, while the museum’s contemporary architecture, with its galleries gathered under a vast silver dome, is a reason to visit in itself.
Ferrari World is a theme park that brings the thrill of Formula One racing to Abu Dhabi and is one of the city’s top things to do for thrill seekers and families alike. Small children can test out newly learned driving skills on the Junior GT track, while adrenaline junkies can buckle up and ride the Flying Aces roller coaster, which clocks up speeds of 120 kilometers per hour on a 52-meter loop (the tallest in the world).
There’s also a collection of Ferrari’s cars, with models dating back to 1947, and a Ferrari factory tour and Ferrari knowledge game show for true car nerds.
Abu Dhabi’s answer to the Burj Khalifa in Dubai is this observation deck, offering skyline views from the highest point in the city, on the 74th floor of the Jumeirah at Etihad Towers hotel. There is an entry fee for non-guests of the hotel, but the ticket price can be redeemed for food and drink from the observation deck’s restaurant, which serves snacks and light bites; soft drinks; and in the afternoon, high-tea. Having high-tea up here, with the city spread below you, is definitely an experience for your Abu Dhabi itinerary.
The recently restored Al-Hosn Fort, also known as the Old Fort or the White Fort, is the oldest building in Abu Dhabi and one of its major historical points of interest. The palace was built in 1793 as the residence of the ruling family and the seat of government. The interior of the Al Hosn Fort has been modernized and is now used as a museum that traces the history and culture of Abu Dhabi, with oral histories and plenty of historical photographs on show. The courtyard and the magnificent tile work over the main northern gate are notable features.
Abu Dhabi’s Heritage Village is an authentic replica of a typical Bedouin village that gives visitors an idea of Emirati life before the oil boom. It’s located in a pretty beach area of the city, which is a pleasant place to wander after a visit. There are exhibits featuring traditional day-to-day objects, workshops where you can watch craftspeople demonstrate Emirati metalwork and weaving skills, and displays introducing visitors to local agriculture and the pearl diving trade-the main economies here before oil was discovered.
The Corniche Road spreads across an impressive eight kilometers of manicured waterfront that includes children’s play areas, separate cycle and pedestrian pathways, cafes and restaurants, and the Corniche Beach – a lifeguarded beach park.
The visitor experience at Qasr Al Watan is an inspiring and educational tour of Emirati and Arabian excellence. Here, visitors will learn about the principles that have propelled traditional Arabian design to remarkable status. Visitors will also gain a rare insight into Emirati governance and culture through the Palace’s exhibits. Most notably, visitors will enjoy exploring the expansive selection of timeless books and manuscripts at House of Knowledge and Qasr Al Watan Library.
After spending almost the whole day in such amazing beauty we had nothing left to do but go back to Dubai and to get ready for the next when I would make a dream of mine true – to visit a desert.
Stay tuned and don’t stop travelling (when we have the chance again)!