Considered one of the largest mosques in the world, Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi is an architectural masterpiece. It is one of the best examples of combining Islamic architecture and design.
It is also part of the Guinness Book of World Records, holding the record for the largest hand-woven carpet. If you are ever going to the United Arab Emirates, it is a must-see. Today, we will talk about some of the reasons why it is a unique mosque.
Largest Mosque in the UAE
When it comes to size, this one is the largest mosque in the UAE. It is also believe to be the third-largest mosque in the world.
Sheikh Zayed Mosque spreads across 12 hectares of land. The sheer size allows it to accommodate more than 40,000 worshipers at a time.
Located on the Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Street, the gorgeous landmark can be seen from different places in the city of Abu Dhabi.
Masterpiece of Islamic architecture
The project started in 1996 and took 12 years to complete. But in the end, it represented a masterpiece of modern Islamic architecture.
The mosque draws on classic Ottoman, Fatimid, and Mamluk architectural style. The lighting system reflects the lunar phases, projects colors onto the exterior, and they change nightly according to the moon.
In the interior, you will notice the classic Middle Eastern arched doorway and geometric shapes that symbolize innovative and contemporary design.
Built by international architects
You might think that the mosque was built by Arabic and Islamic team of artisans. But it was actually an international effort. For example, Italian engineer Salini Impregilo led more than 3,000 workers from 38 different companies.
Artisans from India, Turkey, Egypt, United Kingdom, China, Pakistan, Germany, and more countries worked on the project.
And the prayer hall’s carpet, which holds the Guinness world record, was hand-knotted by 1,300 Iranian craftsmen using New Zealand wool. More on the carpet later on.
All in the details
What makes the mosque so unique are the many details. We can go on and on about the main details, starting from semi-precious stones embedded into columns.
Then, another key element are the delicate floral patterns in mother of pearl that radiate from the walls. Let’s not forget the six chandeliers made from twinkling Swarovski crystals.
Key architectural elements
The most notable and noticeable element is the collection of 82 domes. The largest dome is located in the center of the main prayer hall. These domes feature pure white marble cladding, onion shaped crowns, and crescent-shaped finials with decorations of gold-glass.
As we said before, the minarets of the mosque combine different styles, including Fatimid, Mameluke, and Ottoman architectural style. They fuse diverse Islamic architectural styles into one expression.
Because of the use of natural multi-colored marble, the mosque has novel artistic outcome. You can notice it in the decorated crowned columns.
And let’s finish with the colors of the walls, carpet, and columns. They all function in perfect harmony in a manner that transforms the mosque into a masterpiece. It is a symphony of colors and shades.
We can now talk about each specific element separately. For example, the chandeliers by Faustig of Munich, Germany.
The largest chandelier is 10m long, 15m tall, and weighs 12t. The mosque also has two smaller versiosn of the same design, all located in the main prayer hall.
Then, there are four blue-colored chandeliers featuring similar design and size, all located in the foyer entrances around the mosque.
The carpet is what put the mosque on the world map. It also helped Sheikh Zayed Mosque make it to the Guinness Book of World Records.
The main prayer hall is the home of the largest hand-knotted carpet. It was made by third-generation carpet maker and artist, Dr. Ali Khaliqi.
The carpet was hand-knotted by 1,300 Italian craftsmen using New Zealand wool. And it was so heavy that they have to dismantle it, flew it on two aeroplanes, and then re-stitch it on arrival.
The single piece carpet is 5,700s square meters. The project took nearly two years, eight months for the design and 12 months for the knotting.
White, the color of purity
One of the main reasons why the mosque is considered one of the most beautiful in the world is the white marble. In nearly every culture, white is the color of purity.
The late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan chose white marble as a representation of peace and purity. The mosque has 100,000t of white marble imported from Macedonia.
Nowadays, the mosque stands as the epitome of purity.
Light of the moon
Ask many travelers, and they will tell you the best time to visit the mosque is in the night. Why? Because that is when the masterpiece truly reveals its secrets.
The mosque shows all of its grandeur thanks to the spectacular lunar illumination. You cannot ignore it when talking about the unique factor of the Sheikh Zayed Mosque.
The lighting system was designed to illuminate the structure emulating the different phases of the moon. As most of us know, the moon takes a different shape every night. Well, the mosque follows that lighting cycle. This is why you notice darker hues of the early moon and brighter shades when the moon is full.
Conceived by the first president of the UAE
The mosque takes its name from the first president of the United Arab Emirates, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
He was the driving force behind the construction. He personally chose the location and gave architectural direction of the project. Al Nahyan wanted the mosque to be his final resting place. Nowadays, his body resides in the courtyard.
Open to non-Muslim visitors
It is one of the rare mosques in the world where non-Muslim visitors can come and enjoy the grandeur building. It offers free guided tours in English in Arabic from Saturday until Thursday 09:00 and 22:00. Men are given long trousers while women are given abayas.