10 fascinating Sheikh Zayed Mosque facts
21st May, 2023
Sheikh Zayed Mosque facts is a must visit attraction in Abu Dhabi. For those interested in religion and architecture, visiting a mosque is a wonderful experience. And Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi is no exception. If you’re planning a trip to Abu Dhabi then here are 10 interested Sheikh Zayed Mosque facts to know before you go!
Sheikh Zayed Mosque is absolutely huge
The Grand Mosque is the biggest mosque in the whole of the United Arab Emirates. And it is actually one of the largest mosques in the world. The only two mosques bigger than the Sheikh Zayed Mosque are the Great Mosque at Mecca, and Al-Masjid an-Nabawi in Medina. Sheikh Zayed Mosque covers around 12 hectares (120,000 square metres) of land in Abu Dhabi.
The mosque was built with materials from around the world
Constructed between 1996 and 2007, Sheikh Zayed Mosque used materials from around the world. It was designed by Syrian architect Yousef Abdelky. 38 sub-contracting companies and over 3000 people worked to build the mosque using natural materials. These materials were chosen to ensure they lasted for years to come. Many were imported from various different countries such as Egypt, New Zealand, the UK, India, Germany, Morocco, China, Italy, Turkey, Pakistan, Iran, North Macedonia and Malaysia. The materials used in the building of Sheikh Zayed Mosque include gold, ceramics, crystals and more.
Various architectural styles are used within the mosque
In designing the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abdelky incorporated three different styles of architecture. These are Mamluk, Ottoman and Fatimid. Here is a bit more information about each style…
- Mamluk architecture was very popular in medieval Cairo. Under Mamluk Sultanate reign (1250-1517), Cairo was said to be “the center of the universe and the garden of the world”. This style of architecture characterised by funerary domes and minarets.
- Ottoman architecture came from the Ottoman Empire in Bursa and Edirne during the 14th and 15th centuries. It has been described as “Byzantine influenced architecture synthesised with architectural traditions of Central Asia and the Middle East”. It is mostly seen in modern day Turkey.
- Fatimid architecture was developed during the Fatimid Caliphate. This was around 909-1167 AD. It combined many other styles, and is characterised by portals protruding from walls, porches, keel-shaped arches and stucco decorations.
Sheikh Zayed Mosque is home to the biggest hand-knotted carpet in the world
This is no mean feat. In the main prayer hall of the mosque you can see a fantastic hand-knotted carpet. It took over 1,200 people to make it over almost two years. The design alone took 8 months, the knotting took a year and then a further two months were spent joining the design together in one location. It’s well worth a peek!
The light changes with the moon
This may sound obvious – but we’re talking about artificial light here. It’s an incredibly unique lighting system. With 22 light towers projecting clouding of blue-grey outside, each night in changes to reflect the current phase of the moon. So if you’re heading to Abu Dhabi, you might want to plan an evening visit to the Sheikh Zayed Mosque to see this in action! This is one of the coolest Sheikh Zayed Mosque facts there is.
Over 40,000 people can worship at the Sheikh Zayed Mosque (at the same time)
Due to the sheer size of the Grand Mosque, it can hold approximately 41,000 worshippers at once. The main prayer hall alone holds 10,000! The mosque is a key place of worship for daily prayer as well as Jumu’ah, which is also known as Friday Prayer. This takes place just after midday each Friday. If you’re nearby, you will hear the call to prayer approximately 10-15 minutes before the Jumu’ah is due to start. This is one of the most beautiful sounds in the world!
The mosque houses some incredible chandeliers
Don’t miss the crystal chandeliers when visiting Sheikh Zayed Mosque. There are seven of them, made by Faustig. This is a German-based company who specialise in making stunning crystal chandeliers. All of the ones at the Grand Mosque are made from gilded stainless steel and brass with around 40kg of gold! The chandelier in the main prayer hall is one of the biggest chandeliers ever used in a mosque, and it alone weighs a whopping 12 tons. It is the second largest chandelier in the world. Dreamy!
There are over 80 domes at the Sheikh Zayed Mosque
The mosque is iconic and easily recognisable, partly due to its many domes. There are actually 82 of them, with the largest one being in the center of the main prayer hall. This one has a diameter of 32.8 metres (106 ft) and it’s a huge 85 metres high (279 ft). If you’re lucky enough to see inside the domes, you’ll spy the traditional Moroccan artwork that decorates them.
TOP TIP: wear sunglasses when visiting, as the light bouncing off the white marble can get in your eyes! Here’s some more advice about what to wear when visiting the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.
The mosque is named after someone very important
The Grand Mosque is named after the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. He was the ‘founding father’ and first ever president of the United Arab Emirates. Zayed held this position for over 33 years until he died in 2004, shortly before the completion of the mosque. He is buried in the mosque’s courtyard. There are so many other places around the world named after Sheikh Zayed, such as a lecture theatre at the London School of Economics, an airport in Kukës, Albania, and the 5th ring road in Kuwait.
There are 96 pillars in the main prayer hall
They didn’t do things by halves when building the Sheikh Zayed Mosque. All 96 pillars have a gorgeous floral design, complete with beautiful mother of pearl detailing. Walking through them is just awe-inspiring!
So there you have it – 10 Sheikh Zayed Mosque facts. No visit to Abu Dhabi is complete without seeing this phenomenal structure, which will truly blow you away.