I didn’t think Rihanna would ever dictate my travel plans, but sure enough, after seeing her (controversial) photos in front of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, I was intrigued. Not by her, but by the strikingness of the structure: blinding white marble, towering domes, minarets, and gold details. Visiting the Grand Mosque was, without a doubt, the highlight of my trip to the UAE and is a must-see if you’re planning to visit Abu Dhabi or Dubai.
A Quick History
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is the 3rd-largest in the world. It was named after the late president of the UAE, who wanted to build a symbol for the Islamic world that represented its cultural diversity. The Sheikh’s vision was to have the mosque visible in all directions, so he had it built 11 meters above the sea. Work started on the mosque in 1996, and it took 12 years, over 3,000 workers and over AED 2 billion to complete. It is now also the Sheikh’s resting place.
Visiting the Grand Mosque
After already being blown away by the grandeur of the Emirates Palace in the afternoon, I arrived at The Grand Mosque at golden hour: the time when the sun is low in the sky casting a warm glow over everything. For photographers, the Grand Mosque is already a dream because there are so many beautiful details to capture. At golden hour? It’s simply breathtaking. Take a look for yourself:
Inside The Grand Mosque
If you thought the outside of the mosque was opulent, wait until you see the inside. There, you’ll find the largest hand-knotted carpet in the world, made by about 1,300 Iranian artisans. You’ll also find the largest chandelier in the world, dripping in Swarovski crystals.
Tips for Visiting
- There is a dress code in place. Women should be prepared to wear an abaya and men should not wear shorts.
- The mosque is free to visit and is open from 9am-10pm daily for visitors, except for Friday mornings when there is prayer.
- Take off your shoes before entering the mosque, there is a place to leave them in front of the entrance.
This article was written in association with Cheapflights, where you can find cheapflights to Abu Dhabi.