No visit to Abu Dhabi is complete without making a stop at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, an architectural marvel on its own. It is the brainchild of its namesake, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, UAE’s founding father, who oversaw everything from the architecture to the interior design and materials used throughout this superstructure. Sadly, in 2004, Sheikh Zayed was laid to rest at the Grand Mosque before it was completed.
First conceptualised in 1996, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque took almost 12 years to build, at a cost of about AED 2.5 billion (about $1b) with approximately 38 construction companies and over 3,500 workers coming together to bring this singular grand vision to fruition.
Like everything else in Abu Dhabi, the Grand Mosque doesn’t shy from grandeur and opulence. Spanning a floor area of more than 22,000sqm, Sheikh Zayed used only the best materials and architects for the construction of this breathtaking monument. For one, the Grand Mosque boasts an amazing count of 82 domes, all clad in pure white marble, with the crowns and crescents decorated with gold glass mosaic. Elsewhere, the sahan, or courtyard, has a total of 1,048 columns with the floor embellished with coloured marble and floral decorations, painstakingly designed by British artist Kevin Dean. Covering 17,000sqm, the courtyard is regarded as the world’s greatest artwork featuring marble mosaic.
The main prayer hall at the Grand Mosque is covered with the largest carpet in the world. Featuring an intricate Islamic medallion design, the carpet was handmade by about 1,200 craftsmen. Woven separately by the artisans, the different sections of the finished work were then intricately put together inside the mosque.
Another stunning feature of the mosque is its seven dazzling chandeliers, with the largest one in the world hanging right inside the prayer hall. Made of gilded brass, stainless steel and glass panels studded with Swarovski crystals, it weighs about 12 tonnes and is a sight not to be missed.