Stretches of white marble dripping in pure gold and embellished with Swarowski’s finest crystals, reflected against the shimmering blue waters of the surrounding gardens… You’d probably assume I was talking about a palace, if you hadn’t visited the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. Widely considered one of the most beautiful mosques in the world, the mosque stands proudly in Abu Dhabi, open to both Muslims and Non-Muslims alike. If you want to learn about the Islamic faith, the UAE’s rich history or simply to appreciate stunningly intricate and lavish architecture then this is your place. A must-see when in Abu Dhabi and worth a trip from surrounding Emirates too, the Grand Mosque is a rare glimpse into the Islamic world of the United Arab Emirates.
The vast majority of mosques are not open to the general public and are open to worshippers only. For Non-Muslim tourists, the only options for visiting mosques within the UAE are the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi, and the Jumeirah Mosque in Dubai. Whilst both are beautiful and the latter is somewhat more intimate, the Grand Mosque is the most impressive of the two and the one which we most recommend paying a visit given that it is the country’s largest place of worship.
What to wear?
For once, this is somewhere where it’s actually easier to be a woman! Come wearing something cool and comfortable (the Abu Dhabi summer is just as unforgiving as Dubai) and the kind people at the mosque will provide you with an abaya, which is a dress you can wear over your own clothes. Ladies must cover their hair as well, and the abaya has a convenient hood on the back, which you can use to do so. If you prefer to wear your own clothes, feel free, but they must be modest and cover everything from your ankles to your neck and wrists. Be mindful though, sometimes even when you are wearing your own modest clothes you may be asked to wear an abaya to enter if what you are wearing isn’t deemed suitable. For guys, no shorts or vests are permitted. For everyone, wear shoes which are easy to remove and put back on as shoes are not permitted inside of the mosque. During the hot summer days, the floors can get really hot so it’s worth bringing a pair of socks with you to avoid burning your feet.
When is the best time to visit?
The mosque is open daily from 9am until 10pm, except on Fridays when it opens 4:30pm until 10pm. The mosque is beautiful both at day and night, but we recommend visiting either very early or later in the evening to avoid the midday bus tours as well as the hot sun. Like everything else in the city, the mosque looks stunning during golden hour so visiting just before sunset will provide a gorgeous backdrop for your photos (which you will inevitably take hundreds of!) On our most recent visit, we went on a Friday around 5pm which turned out to be a great time to go. Through it was relatively busy since Friday is a weekend here in UAE, it wasn’t overly crowded and the lighting was amazing. We left just as the sun was starting to set and if it wasn’t so hot we’d definitely have stayed longer just looking at the beauty of the building.
With easy access from both Abu Dhabi and Dubai, free entry, and tons of cool things to do in the surrounding areas, we can’t think of a reason why you wouldn’t want to visit the incredible Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. We thoroughly recommend going with an open mind, asking questions, or even taking a guided tour if you really want to learn more about the mosque and its history. There’s a coffee shop within the premises as well as a book store so you can grab some refreshment and escape the heat with stunning mosque views.
If you have any questions about the mosque or any other aspects of Abu Dhabi, fire away! Also, let us know if you’ve visited and head over to our Instagram page to see what else we’ve been up to!