Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.
A white marble mosque with the domes resembling whipped souffle. Its great size can be appreciated only when approaching it.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
Made with love

It is beautiful. This word you want to start telling the story with and to finish it with. You cannot find a more exquisite, delicate and airy mosque anywhere. Noble, composed luxury. It was erected in honor of “the Father of the Nation” Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founder and the first president of the United Arab Emirates.
His body is buried here.

The mightiness and inconceivability of the Creator, light and love, space and limitlessness of the skies: the stream of consciousness pours out many fine words, when you are trying to understand what exactly you find so special about this sacred place. It appears on a winding road like a mirage. You are just approaching and it’s already meeting you with its white high minarets and rounded domes.

The Mosque has been built recently and does not possess that special praying atmosphere yet; it does not weigh down on you with a heavy aura.
 

It has innocence, purity and clearness instead.
Inside it you want to breathe turning your face to the skies.

The Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque is the only one in the Emirates that can be entered by non-Muslims. But to visit it men and women must have appropriate clothes as per the traditional Muslim canons. The women, whose clothes are too revealing, can rent a wrap. I thoughtfully brought with me a traditional Arabic dress. It’s time to put on the black eastern clothes: a long silk abaya and a hijab scarf. I feel like I’m inside a safe and weightless shelter. A weird feeling. The wind goes under the light fabric pleasantly cooling the legs. This abaya turns out to be a comfortable thing especially in hot weather.

Past the fountains is a gallery with beautiful columns decorated with multicolored stone loaches. The Arab women in the long black dresses contrasting against the white are slowly moving inside the Mosque. At this moment you completely forget that it is the twenty first century. There are girls smoothly walking along the columns: slim, tall and absolutely covered just like thousands of years ago. This continuity of generations brings a pleasant response deep inside. Just for a bit I can be one of them covered in light black silk: gorgeous and mysterious, tempting and inaccessible. I follow them.

I study the details of the inner court. White marble floors with the stone flower inclusions. Expensive stone lianas are wrapped around walls and columns. Amazing mosaics, stained-glass, and stucco work are everywhere...

Thumb grand mosque

In front of the main entrance I take off my shoes as it is prescribed by the Islamic canons. You can enter a mosque same as a house only with clean bare feet. The shoes are to be left in one of the sections of a small rack. In a short distance there is a place to wash the feet before the pray.

And finally I’m inside the Mosque. Here is lots of light. My attention is drawn to a transparent ornament made of sky blue crystal. I am walking barefoot across the Persian carpets with a flower pattern as if across a vast meadow. Under my feet there is green pile, very soft and spongy just like moss. This carpet is in the Guinness book being the largest Persian carpet in the world.

Here there is another dazzling object: the largest crystal chandelier in the world that decorates the main hall of the Mosque. Just as all of the Emirates it combines the traditions and the most up-to-date technologies. Made of precious materials the chandelier is all penetrated with optical fiber. Hence the diamond sparkling effect: thousand of lights turn on at different times and smoothly go off.

Here on a high Qibla wall with the Arabic calligraphic ornamental script on it ninety nine names of Allah from the Quran are written. The work was done by the Emirates master Mohammed Mandi Al Tamimi. Nearby I see Muslim men. They unfold small rugs for praying.

For some time I keep walking along the giant columns supporting the high vaults of the Mosque. Don’t want to leave this beauty. Keep thinking: “Everything is made with such love! The Almighty must be happy with such gift”. Finally I exit.

It’s getting dark already. Soon the street lights will turn on, the cannons will sound – a daily Arabic ritual and the Grand Mosque will be painted in all colors of the rainbow with the art illumination. But I will see it next time, when I return to Abu Dhabi. And now it’s time to go home to Dubai.

Some numbers and facts

The Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque was officially opened at Ramadan in 2007.

The Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi is able to accommodate 40,000 worshippers simultaneously.

The main prayer hall is designed for 7,000 worshippers. Two rooms next to the main prayer hall can accommodate 1,500 people each. One of these rooms is intended only for women.

The Mosque has 1,000 columns and 82 domes. The main dome weighs 1,000 tons and is the largest temple dome in the world. The Mosque has 80 Iznik panels: skillfully decorated ceramic tiles.

The carpet laid over such a vast space is the largest carpet in the world. It was made by the Iran Carpets Company based on the design by the Iranian artist Ali Khaliqi. The carpet’s total area is 5,627 square meters; it was made by approximately 1,200 weavers, 20 technical groups and 30 workers. The weight of this carpet is 47 tons: 35 tons of wool and 12 tons of cotton. The carpet structure contains 2,268,000 nodes.

Altogether the Sheik Zayed Mosque has seven copper gold-plated chandeliers imported from Germany. The largest chandelier is 10-meters in diameter and has a height of 15 meters.

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    Author and photographerVictoria Lazareva
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