You can’t go to Abu Dhabi without paying a visit to the Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Mosque. We were in Abu Dhabi in 2006 when the Mosque was under construction, but now finally we can go in and see the result up close and personal.
Known as the Grand Mosque, this edifice is on a different scale to anything else you will see in the UAE. With 82 domes topped with 24 Carat gold, 1,192 columns, and four minarets rising to a height of 107 metres, it is one of the largest mosques in the world.
The marble-covered courtyard can accommodate 30,000 worshippers, while the prayer hall itself has the capacity to hold another 14,000 people. All details have been thought out and carefully incorporated into the design. As an example: the Italian marble that covers the courtyard stays cool even in the stifling Abu Dhabi summers so that visitors can still walk and sit on it.
The Grand Mosque has a mystical air about it, both in the daytime and when it is lit up at night. The Grand Mosque is seen as a globally unifying landmark from conception to completion, bringing together designers, features, materials and suppliers from all around the world: Italy, Germany, Morocco, India, Turkey, Iran, China, Greece and the UAE.
Women have to wear an abaya and cover their hair before entering the premises, so there I go. Being dressed in this way makes the experience more authentic as it is the same veil worn by the women who come here to pray. Fayssal, an Emirati student and volunteer guide at the mosque, offers to show me around. I accept so we start our journey through this architectural treasure.