Reflections, Reflections. Everywhere.
From the pristine white marble floors to the inky blue pools around them, its all about reflections.
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, of course!
Because one is not grand enough. We have two.
One real & one a reflection.
Located in Abu Dhabi, the capital of United Arab Emirates and an hour and a half’s drive from Dubai, is The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Undoubtedly one of the grandest mosques today, it is visible from all the three bridges that connect the Abu Dhabi island city to the main land. & as you enter Abu Dhabi, it only takes ten minutes before this gloriously grandiose mosque in its pristine white and gold strikes a splendid welcome. Eighty two domes of Macedonian marble greet you from afar, and you know you have arrived at your destination.
The Grand Mosque, as it is popularly known, has to be one of the most iconic structures of the region. Also, probably one of the most photographed since it opened its doors to public in 2007. It is now the world’s second favourite landmark on Trip Advisor.
Why even Rihanna posed here for photographs and created quiet the stir!
Through a car park, a security building with screened-off ‘cover up’ rooms, and there you are out in the open. Where the glint of the sun reflecting off the glossy white surfaces gilded in gold is sure to catch you off guard.
Go closer and you see the sprawling complex of arches mirrored in the pools that surround the mosque. You are free to enter, wander around and take pictures to your hearts content as long as you maintain the decorum that one would accord a place of worship.
Once inside you are treated to a visual spectacle. Unending rows of crowned columns, a thousand to be precise. Ceilings into which Moroccan artwork is etched alongside verses from the Holy Quran. A courtyard, whose minarets stretch out to touch the sky and semi precious stones of hues ranging from the stunning blue of lapis lazuli to the blood red of agate come together with mother-of-pearl, in a floral motif on the floor. And the prayer hall brings it all to a stoic still, with shafts of natural light streaming in through the windows, onto handwoven carpets and massive Swarovski chandeliers that gleam with the forty kilos of 24-carat galvanised gold in them.
While the experience of taking in its beauty can only be described as overwhelming, it is the vision behind its founding father that makes the Sheik Zayed Grand mosque truly grand. It was for him, the first president of UAE, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, an expression of Islam’s true religious values. One of the few mosques that is open to people of all faiths alike it is surely worth a visit.
Distance from Dubai: 125 Kilometres
Trip Duration: Half a day
Best Time To Visit: Sunset. The facade lighting has been designed to shift with the changing phases of the moon. Everyday the mosque lights up anew as the moon progresses from a crescent to a whole. So as night falls and colours fade, watch the whites transform into brilliant reflections mirrored in its pools.
Timings: Open to visitors from 9am to 10pm all week, except on Friday mornings when it is open to worshippers alone. During the Holy Month of Ramadan, the mosque is open only in the mornings, Saturday through Thursday.
Remember: It is recommended for both men and women to dress modestly. If found inappropriate, you may be asked to wear an abaya (for women) / kandura (for men) over your clothes.
PS: The mosque is very tourist friendly with a cafe on the grounds, free wifi and complimentary guided tours.