A trip to the Emirati capital is incomplete without a visit to its most iconic landmark – The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. With its 82 domes, a 1000 columns, over 100,000 tons of gleaming, ice-white marble and 24 carat gold gilded chandeliers. The superlatives are endless for this phenomenal work of Islamic architecture.
Prior to our visit, I had a million questions on the do’s and don’t of entering a colossal place of worship. So I’ve decided to dedicate a post to everything you need to know to help you plan your perfect visit to the astonishingly opulent Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
How to get there
The best way to arrive at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is by taxi, they’re reasonably priced and plentiful. Nothing can beat being dropped off right outside the entrance. When you leave there is an easily accessible taxi stand for your return pick up. For those in their own vehicles there is also an onsite car park for visitors.
There are lots of nearby hotels too, so you can walk too if it’s not too hot. The closest is The Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal where we stayed, with spectacular views of the Mosque. A review of our stay will be up on the blog soon.
Unlike many UAE attractions the mosque is absolutely free to enter and you can stay as long as you want. There is airport style security, where you and your bags are checked through x-ray machines. If dressed inappropriately changing rooms and traditional attire is provided, which leads me nicely on to my next point.
This is a Muslim place of worship and understandably you will have to adhere to a very strict dress code. Not being muslim, we didn’t want to get this wrong! Modest dress is required, so a long skirt or loose ankle length trousers for both men and women. Ladies will also need head coverage, so make sure you bring a thin scarf to wrap around.
If your attire is considered inappropriate, women are provided with traditional abayas in different sizes free of charge. I wore a loose jumpsuit, thin cardigan and covered my head with a scarf and had no issues. In the sweltering August heat, I was sweating cobs but it was worth it.
Shoes will need to be removed upon entry, wear socks if you’re not happy with walking around barefoot. Although, bear in mind that it does get very hot in Abu Dhabi and you’ll already be very toasty in full coverage. The combination of a white building and bright, strong sunlight causes a dazzling almost blinding effect, so sunglasses are a must.
Children are not expected to be fully covered, but out of respect I dressed my girls in jumpsuits and thin cardigans too.
The mosque is open 9am to 10pm Saturday to Thursday except for Friday when it opens from 4:30pm. During the holy month of Ramadan it’s always best to check the schedule as times will vary and the mosque is closed to visitors on a Friday.
Best time to visit
No matter what time you visit there will always be crowds. Like most popular landmarks some of the crowds can be avoided by visiting during the weekdays. If you visit in the summer like we did, early morning or late evening is best to beat the heat.
At sunset the mood and look of the mosque change with golden hour. The white of the building takes on the soft pink light of the sunset and can make for some stunning photo opportunities.
Free guided tours are offered at the mosque on a walk-in basis. The hour-long tour gives you great insight into this fascinating place of worship. It’s always best to check the official Grand Mosque website for tour times as they often vary.
Cameras are allowed to capture this beautiful building, as long as it’s no bigger than a DSLR. Tripods can be an issue too, so best not to bring one. For anything larger or professional looking you’ll be required to fill out a media form.
And when the time comes to pose – Nothing excessive. You don’t want to do a ‘Rihanna’. Her provocative posing resulted in her being thrown out – True fact!
Drink lots of water
Food and drink are not allowed in the mosque and will be confiscated at security. It’s a very hot environment when you’re walking around make sure you are fully hydrated before entering. If the heat does get too much there are public water fountains you can hunt down inside.
Without a doubt, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is a magnificent place to visit. It’s beauty will captivate you as you wander around. You have to see it to believe its dazzling grandeur. I hope my recommendations help to make your visit a truly memorable one.
Below are more posts from my Abu Dhabi adventures
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