The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque (its full name) is the largest mosque in Abu Dhabi and in the country, the ninth largest mosque in the world, and one of the most beautiful. And it is also one of the only mosques that non-Muslims can visit!
Located on the coast of the Persian Gulf, Abu Dhabi is the capital of the largest emirate of the United Arab Emirates and an ideal resort to spend a few days in.
If you are thinking of visiting Abu Dhabi, I strongly recommend that you include a visit to its so-called "White Mosque" in your schedule. Why? Simply because it is an impressive architectural masterpiece.
To make your visit as smooth as possible, I explain here everything you need to know about this magnificent mosque in Abu Dhabi. I tell you all about its history and also give you all the information you need to know before going there: schedules, address, prices, ....
The good deal ⬇️
Want to take a day trip to Abu Dhabi during your stay in Dubai? From Dubai, you'll have the opportunity to be driven to the largest city in the United Arab Emirates for a visit.
Take a day trip to Abu Dhabi to see the famous Sheikh Zayed Mosque and other landmarks of the city.
For my part, I had opted for the Sheikh Mosque + Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum excursion (see below), but this one will give you a more comprehensive view of this destination 🙂
THE HISTORY OF THE SHEIKH ZAYED MOSQUE
The construction of the Sheikh Zayed Mosque was decided by the founder of the United Arab Emirates, Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyane (and therefore bears his name).
It is a recently-built mosque. The works, which lasted between 1997 and 2007, gave way to a building composed of 4 minarets and 82 domes of different sizes - the main dome is the largest in the world. The mosque also has 22 towers, numerous water features and gardens.
The central courtyard of 180,000 sq ft (17,000 m²) is surrounded by corridors and galleries supported by more than 1,000 columns.
The materials used during construction had to be able to withstand the extreme heat, the salinity of the air and the instability of the sand, mud and gypsum.
For example, the marble keeps the place cool, but you should know that it has also been treated to obtain a brilliant whiteness... So much so that you will have to wear sunglasses because of the reverberation!
Sheik Zayed wanted this mosque to symbolize the grandeur and pride of his country. He succeeded in building the largest mosque in the Emirates and one of the most beautiful in the world. He also wanted to show that Islam is a religion and a message of tolerance and peace. And it went without saying that it also had to amaze with its beauty, its grandeur, its brightness.... And the Sheik succeeded, because everything there will surprise you!
HOW TO GET TO THE SHEIKH ZAYED MOSQUE?
The Sheikh Zayed Mosque is located in the east of Abu Dhabi. The exact address is as follows:
Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Street، - 5th St - Abu Dhabi - United Arab Emirate
The best way to get there is by car (if you have opted for car rental in Dubai). But you can also get there by bus, using the 094 line. Just get off at the stop: "Grand Mosque - Wahat al Karama".
To get to this bus, go to Bur Dubai and take a bus from "Gubiba Station". There are buses every 40 minutes (25 AED/journey, about $7, or €5).
If you have rented an accommodation in Dubai or taken a hotel room, you can book a day trip to Abu Dhabi. I'll talk about this a little further down in the "Rates" section.
It takes about 1.5 hours to get there (by bus or car).
THE ENTRANCE FEE FOR THE GREAT MOSQUE
Visiting the mosque by yourself is FREE (except if there are special events going on, but they are rather rare).
You can also book guided tours on the net, via specialized platforms.
For example, if you are in Dubai but only want to spend a day in Abu Dhabi, I recommend opting for a tour, it will be much easier!
For $51, you will be driven from Dubai to the Abu Dhabi mosque, spend 2 hours there and then be driven back to Dubai: click here to see this tour.
But if you are already in Abu Dhabi, I suggest opting for the combo tickets Louvre Abu Dhabi + Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque (with transportation from Dubai and back) for $85 per person.
I've already been able to test this tour and the best part is that you get to see the must-sees of Abu Dhabi in just one day. No need to drive, no need to rent a car: you get a driver for the day and your entrance tickets.
On the other hand, if you already have your own means of transportation to Abu Dhabi from Dubai, you can take a ticket with a guide, so as to receive information about the mosque. This ticket is not very expensive ($17 or 15€) and the visit is very interesting.
Remember that this is one of the only mosques in the world that you can visit if you are not Muslim!
As for me, I visited it twice already during my trips to Dubai, as I don't often have the opportunity to visit a mosque 🙂
To book a ticket with a guide, you can do it on this website in English directly.
WHAT ARE THE OPENING HOURS?
The mosque is open to visitors all year round from 9 am to 10 pm, except on Fridays morning, when it opens only at the end of the holy prayer. Attention, the last entry is at 9:30 pm.
Note that during the holy month of Ramadan, the visiting hours are adjusted: you can visit the mosque from 9 am to 2 pm only (with a last entry at 1:30 pm). Moreover, it will be closed on Friday during the Dhor prayer.
The mosque is also closed to the public on holidays, that is to say during:
- the Aïd El Fitr
- the Aïd Al Adha
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT THE ABU DHABI MOSQUE?
The best time to visit the mosque is in the late afternoon, just before sunset (45 minutes before).
The pictures you will take then will be really beautiful, because it is when the marble reflects the sunset rays. With the lighting of the building playing on the white marble, it will be absolutely breathtaking!
If you can, go there at sunrise too, the pictures will be just as beautiful.
You will also be able to take very beautiful pictures at night.
The Sheikh Zayed Mosque is the most photographed site in Abu Dhabi and one of the most photographed in the UAE.
HOW DOES THE VISIT TO THE MOSQUE WORK?
The mosque is huge, so plan between 45 minutes and 1 hour (or more) if you want to visit it fully (the courtyard, the interior, the basins...).
The prayer rooms remain inaccessible during the prayer hours, but don't worry: you can see them from outside. And of course, there is so much to see in the mosque that you will not be disappointed!
The mosque being a religious building, remember to dress appropriately. Respect the place by not being too uncovered or wearing transparent clothes.
Women must wear a veil to cover their hair, but should also cover their legs and shoulders. If you haven't thought about it, don't worry! At the entrance or at the laundry room (in the underground parking lot), the personnel will lend you a veil and an abaya. Men will be provided with a gandoura (traditional clothing).
Also remember that you will need to remove your shoes.
Note that :
- There are security checks at the entrance.
- Children are allowed to visit.
- Wheelchairs are available for people with limited mobility.
- It is forbidden to eat and drink inside the mosque.
- Animals are of course not allowed.
- Guided tours are in English only.
You can find more information about the tour schedule on the official website of the mosque.
A LITTLE MORE HISTORY ON THE GREAT MOSQUE OF ABU DHABI?
Unfortunately, Sheik Zayed never saw the completion of his project, as he died in November 2004 before the work was finished (he was buried inside). His son Khalifa ben Zayed Al Nahyane, who succeeded him in power, continued his project.
For the construction, the noblest materials were used for both the interior and exterior decoration. You will see marble everywhere, imported from Italy (Carrara marble), India or Greece. Some of the pieces were even cut in Dongguan, China!
During your visit, you can also admire the many materials, precious and semi-precious stones (gold, silver, Swarovski crystals...) that have been inlaid in most of the mosque's designs. There are some on the columns, the arches and even the walls!
The guide will also tell you about the glass cut in Austria, the crystal from Germany, the ceramics, the mosaic or the mother of pearl...
But what will especially attract your attention is the huge men's prayer room (180 ft x 164 ft x 148 ft high - or 55 meters x 50 meters x 45 meters high) with its gigantic crystal chandeliers hanging from the domes. They were made in Germany with gold-plated brass, and their glass plates were inlaid with crystal stones.
The largest of the chandeliers weighs 12 tons and measures 33 feet (10 meters) in diameter and 49 feet high (15 meters). It is the largest chandelier in the world.
Just below it is a huge Persian carpet - the largest in the world too! It took a year and a half of work to make this masterpiece designed by a great craftsman (Dr. Ali Khaliqi)! It is almost 6,818 sq ft in size (5,700 square meters), and was hand-woven (by 1,200 weavers) in Iran from Iranian cotton and wool from New Zealand. To bring it back to Abu Dhabi, it was cut into nine pieces that were reassembled on site.
And I don’t need to tell you about the numerous water features that bring an incredible freshness to the site and reflect the decorations, the beautiful gardens outside or the 99 names of Allah written in calligraphy on the wall giving the direction of the Qibla.
You will also learn during your tour that, in this project, everything has been designed so that the Islamic architecture of the mosque with its many decorative styles - Moorish, Indian, Ottoman, ... (with a predominance for Moroccan art) - mixes tradition with modernity:
- Moroccan craftsmen created the templates for the decorations, which were later computer scanned and then carved on site on a large scale.
- Some of the mother-of-pearl floral motifs were created by a graphic arts company in Milan.
- The night lighting system is unique in the world: it creates a lunar pattern based on the lunar cycle. Its reflection on the white marble is just sublime to see!
SOME FIGURES ON THE ABU DHABI MOSQUE
- The total area of the mosque is 241,240 sq ft (22,412 m²), but originally it was only supposed to be 236,806 sq ft (22,000 m²).
- In order for it to dominate the surroundings, it rests on a small hill 29.5 feet high (9 meters).
- Its construction required 7,769,227 pi3 (220,000 m3) of concrete, 20,000 tons of steel reinforcement and more than 1,300,130 sq ft of marble (120,000 m²).
- 6,000 steel pillars driven up to 27 meters into the ground stabilize the building.
- It cost a total of $545 million.
- 2,500 people worked on the site (in sweltering heat).
- The central courtyard is 180,000 sq ft (17,000 m²).
- It has 4 minarets of 351 ft high (106 meters), 82 domes, 22 towers and 1,096 columns.
- Its main dome is the largest in the world: 230 feet high (70 meters).
- There is a handmade Persian carpet of 60,570 sq ft (5,627 m²). It weighs 47 tons and costs 30 million AED (almost $8 million).
- It can accommodate 40,000 worshippers
- The first event that took place there was the funeral of Sheik Zayed.
- Prince Charles of Wales and his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, Camilla Parker Bowles, were the first people to visit the site in February 2007. Before the end of the works even!
- It was only in December 19, 2007, on the occasion of the Eid al-Adha prayer, that the mosque finally opened its doors to the public.