My travel bucket list is a never ending list of my wanderlust wishes, from walking along the salt crusts of Salad de Uyuni in Bolivia, the white washed buildings of Santorini, the gorgeous Petra in Jordan’s southwestern desert, the rice fields in Bali, the canals of Venice and so many more.
There was one special place that was very high up on my bucket list for many years and it wasn’t until around September last year it became a bit more of a reality. We had booked our tickets doing a tour of south India, stopping in Goa, hopping over to Dubai and skipping down to Abu Dhabi before return home. Abu Dhabi wasn’t originally on agenda until I realised that it was only an hour car drive from Dubai – it seemed like an absolute no brainer. I’m so, so glad we weaved it in though because not only did I get to stay at the palatial Rosewood Abu Dhabi, I also ticked off the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque! I thought it would be another few years before I finally managed to tick one of the highest things on my bucket list, but alas, my dreams came true.
The night before we were visiting the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, I couldn’t sleep. I was clock watching by the hour, waiting for it to be the morning already. I wanted to see the mosque in the flesh. I even planned on wearing one of my Indian outfits I had picked up in India for upcoming weddings but I just had to pull it out the bag and wear it for my pictures. The bright vibrant colours would work perfectly against the chalk white and deep gold colours – so ‘Instagrammable’.
Arriving at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, my jaw just dropped. It was there, right in front of me in its entirety. I made it… I made it…
It was just magnificent. The chalk white material just glistened under the sun, it was perfection. We decided to go in the late afternoon, close to sunset so we could see the mosque during the daylight, golden hour and night time, whilst jumping onto the last tour of the mosque.
You have to be completely covered to enter the mosque, so no short are allowed and women are not allowed to have short sleeved tops on either (unless covered with a cardigan) and must have their heads covered. Don’t worry if you don’t come prepared, they have brown and blue abayas for you to wear, that comes with a ‘hood’ that allows you to cover your head too. However, as fellow muslims we were already aware of that and my sister and mother brought along their headscarves. Men do not require to have their heads covered, however should you have a prayer hat it is more respectful.
It is also mandatory to remove all shoes before entering the mosque, so be sure to be wearing socks if being barefoot bothers you.
Seeing the mosque during the daylight is just magnificent and makes for the most perfect picture opportunities. However, there is a lot more to the mosque that just the exterior. I would highly recommend anyone going to take one of their free h0ur long tours as it allows you to see the interior of this majestic landmark too. From Sunday to Thursday, the tours run at 10am, 11am and 5pm (which we got), on Friday’s the tours run at 5pm and 7pm because the mosque is closed to the public (but open to worshippers) as Friday is the holy day of Jummah where many worshippers will come to pray Zuhr and Asr at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. On Saturday’s the tours run at 10am, 11am, 2pm, 5pm and 7pm.
There are so many amazing facts about the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, so i’m just going to share a few that I learnt from the tour guide:
- The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is one of the largest mosques in the world, measuring at 960ft x 1,380ft and covers over 30 acres of land.
- The main prayer hall above can fit up to 10,000 worshippers in the hall alone, but 41,000 worshippers across the whole mosque.
- The carpet in the main holds the the title of the world’s largest single piece carpet and measuring over 67,000 square feet and it weighs approximately 35 tonnes. Can you believe it took 2 years to make?!
- There are seven chandeliers within the mosque (pictured above), each are made up of millions of coloured and natural Swarovski crystals. The largest of the chandeliers is known to be the second largest chandelier in the world.
- The gold marked qibla (the direction that a Muslim should face when praying as it is in the direction of Kaaba, which is the sacred building of Mecca) has all of Allah’s 99 names inscribed around it.
- There are 82 domes across the entire mosque, but the largest one resides above the main prayer hall.
- The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque took 11 years to build, involving 3,000 workers. It started in 1996 and was opened for worship in 2007. The mosque has only been open for 10-11 years now.
- The mosque is named after the first president of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan where his burial took place on site.
As we left the tour, the mosque was lit up and worshippers were coming to join for Maghrib (sunset) prayers. I couldn’t have imagined spending the afternoon any other way. It was everything I expected it to be and more. I was so in awe that such a holy and religious landmark could be so elegant and bejewelled.
If things couldn’t get any better, they did. I found the most perfect location to snap the whole of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, with a stunning light reflection that glistened across the water in front. I am savouring these special moments and memories that I was so fortunate to be granted with. I was so overjoyed to have ticked something off the very top of my bucket list in the best possible way.
Have you ever visited the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque?
Until next time…