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Abu Dhabi and the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nayhan Mosque

sunny 44 °C

On Saturday we were up and out early to drive down the coast to Abu Dhabi - a trip of just over an hour. We met up with Dave's friend Kevin Fearn and his wife Donna. Kevin and Dave have been HR acquaintences for years since Kevin worked with a competitor of Lafarge's in Toronto and they got to know each other through Labour Relations connections. Kevin's wife Donna is a journalist with The National a large daily newspaper in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Donna applied for the job on a bit of a whim while working in Canada. As they say the rest is history. Kevin and Donna have been here in the UAE since last October. While visiting them they took us to see the Shaikh Zayed Grand Mosque which is the largest in the UAE and the 8th largest in the world. This magnificent building is so large and so beautiful it is difficult to capture it in pictures. It would cover a number of typical city blocks and is still not completely finished. It was built as the tomb for Sheikh Azyed bin Sultan Al Nayhan who died in 2007 and is considered the Father of the UAE and remains a much beloved leader.

There are four minarets on the four corners of the mosque which rise over 100 m in height. There are 57white marble domes covering the outside yard and the main building as well.

The courtyard is paved with floral marble designs and measures about 17,000 m2 (180,000 sq ft). What is really amazing about the marble in this courtyard is that it feels cool on the feet despite the blazing sun and high temperatures.

Around the outside of the huge courtyard are outer areas with over 1,000 columns which are clad with more than 20,000 marble panels inlaid with semi-precious stones, including lapis lazuli, red agate, amethyst, abalone shell and mother of pearl. That is gold leaf on the top of each pillar.

Here is a close-up of one of those columns.

The entrance or foyer before you enter the main prayer hall is a spectacular room of white marble with many floral designs.

This is the Chandelier in the entrance - made of Swarovski crystals. It is one of the smaller of the seven chandeliers imported from Germany.

What is striking as you enter this building is that it feels very cool. It has been designed to ensure air flow. There is no airconditioning yet it feels that way. It is not only cool, it is quiet and has a very serene feeling. This calm, cool, quiet atmosphere is amplified in the main prayer room.
Note the spectacular chandelier which measures 10 m by 15 m high and weighs over 9 tonnes. It is made from gold plated copper and millions of Swarovski crystals.

The carpet is the largest in the world amd was made in one piece by 1,200 weavers. It weighs 47 tons and is made of wool and cotton. It is incredibly soft on the feet (everyone has bare feet in a mosque). It may be the reason the room has such a quiet atmosphere.

The 96 columns in the main prayer hall are round in shape and inlaid with mother of pearl. Here is a close-up of the detail.

Natural materials were used for construction which include marble, stone, gold, semi-precious stones, crystals and ceramics.
The Mosque is large enough to accommodate 40,000 worshippers. The main prayer hall can accommodate up to 9,000 worshippers. Two rooms next to the main prayer hall, with a 1,500-capacity each, are for the exclusive use of women. Here is Hazel in the center of one of these.

The Qibla wall (facing the direction of the Holy City of Mecca) is 23 metres high and 50 metres wide, and is subtly decorated so as not to distract worshippers from prayer. Gold-glass mosaic has been used in the Mehrab (the niche found in the middle of the Qibla wall). The 99 names (qualities) of Allah featured on the Qibla wall exemplify traditional Kufi calligraphy. Here is a picture of Dave and Kevin in front of the Mehrab.

Every aspect of the design and construction of this mosque reflects an amazing attention to detail. For example the ceiling design in one of the overflow prayer rooms

matches the design in the carpet directly below it:

There are several large clocks indicating prayer times which change daily.

Here is a closeup of the clock. Note that it has both the Georgian calendar as well as the Muslim calendar.

While we were only there in the day time, the Mosque has incredible lighting at night. The lighting has been designed to follow the phases of the moon. At times of the full moon the lighting is light grey. As the moon waxes and wanes the lighting becomes a darker and darker blue. This is truly a building you could spend a great deal of time exploring and admiring. If you are interested in learning more about this mosque you can go to its website at http://www.szgmc.ae/en/index

As an added note there is no charge for visiting this magnificent building, nor is there a charge for women to borrow freshly laundered abayas and hijabs (sheylas) and for men to borrow a khandura (dishdasha). There is a huge amount of security to ensure that you do not cross any cultural or religious borders.

Posted by DavidandHazel 07:39 Archived in United Arab Emirates

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Wow! I am learning more from your reports than from most travel articles. And the photos are amazing. You really have a flair for imparting atmosphere--I feel as if I am right there experiencing it all with you. I am really going to miss Dubai when you leave :-)

by Monica

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