There is one place you absolutely can’t miss when visiting Abu Dhabi and that’s the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. This phenomenal work of architecture and largest place of worship in the UAE is absolutely spell-binding.
I’ve been lucky enough to travel to Abu Dhabi twice – the first time in 2016 and again in February 2022 – and each time visiting the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque has been the highlight of the trip. If you’re planning a visit, here are my (recently updated) top tips.
(This post was originally published in Oct 2016 and has been updated February 2022 to reflect current circumstances.)
Some fascinating fast facts about Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
- Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is the largest mosque in the UAE and can hold up to 40,000 worshippers and 15,000 visitors.
- The mosque was commissioned by, and named after, the first president of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who passed away before the mosque’s completion. The mausoleum of the late Sheikh Zayed is located beside the mosque on the north side.
- The mosque’s architects were British, Italian and Emirati who drew inspiration from Muslim architecture from all around the world to create something truly unique. It took more than 3,000 workers from 38 construction companies to build it.
- My research (googling) hinted that it cost in excess of $500 million to complete.
- There are seven crystal chandeliers made by Faustig (from Munich, Germany) situated inside the halls and foyers, including the largest ever chandelier to be found in a mosque – it weighs approximately 12 tonnes!
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Tips for visiting Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
When to go
- Normal visiting hours are from Saturday to Thursday 09:00 am to 10:00 pm (Last admission at 09:30 pm).
- On Friday Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is open from 09:00am to 12:00pm (Last admission at 11:30 am) and reopens from 3:00 pm. to 10:00 pm (Last admission at 09:30 pm).
- Visiting hours are different during the holy month of Ramadan. You can find the schedule here.
- You can join a number of free tours each day on a walk-in basis. Look for the tours point near the mosque’s main entrance.
Where To Get Tickets
- It is free to visit the mosque but you are required to pre-book an access pass here.
- Please check the goverment website for any Covid measures that apply. During our visit we were required to display ‘green’ status on the Alhosn app or if the app doesn’t work (it didn’t for me) you can show an internationally approved vaccine certificate and a negative PCR test taken during the 14 days. The COVID-19 PCR must be performed within the UAE.
What To Wear
I think the most asked question, especially for women, is what to wear to the Grand Mosque. This image from the official website explains it clearly.
Essentially, you are required to dress respectably to visit the mosque – this means long, loose fitting, ankle length trousers or skirts for both men and women and a headscarf for the ladies.
Dress code for women
On my first visit I was able to hire an Abaya from the mosque but this is not currently available. There are a number of both affordable plain abayas (from 50 AED) and beautiful decorative ones available to buy in the visitor centre that you pass through on your way to the mosque. There are also changing rooms and lockers here so you can get changed before or after your visit.
As I didn’t have anything in my wardrobe that matched the dress code I ordered a jersey full length kaftan from Amazon before arriving in Abu Dhabi. I used a scarf to cover my head. The mosque attendant said it was perfect!
Best Time To Visit
I’d read online to visit at dusk (approx 4.30pm depending on time of year) for glorious lighting and this was superb advice. It was magical to see the white minarets against both the sharp blue sky and the soft pink light of sunset. We stayed long enough to see the lights come on and call of prayer ring out and I recommend you time your visit to do the same.
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Where to get the best photos of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
At the moment there are designated photo points around the mosque where you are allowed to stop and take photos. It was very quiet during our visit so I didn’t mind having to use the fixed photo points, however, it does make it quite hard to get photos that are different to everyone else.
Wahat Al Karama
The best place to get photos of the exterior of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is from Wahat Al Karama – a viewpoint and memorial that offers stunning views of the mosque’s domes and minarets, plus an amphitheatre where you can take a seat and watch sunset over one of the world’s most famous religious buildings.
You can reach Wahat Al Karama via a free shuttle bus from the mosque that runs approximately every 30 minutes. You can also walk there via a pedestrian bridge (approx 15 mins) or take a local taxi. (The minimum fare is 12 AED and local taxis accept cash only.)
Things To Note
- If you visit during the summer (or end of summer like we did) then it will be exceptionally warm to walk around the outside areas. However, the prayer halls are (impressively) well air-conditioned and there are several water fountains around the mosque that you can take advantage of.
- The visitor entrance to the mosque takes you via an underground mall where you’ll find cafes, shops, rest rooms and visitor information.
- And finally, I recommend giving yourself approx 3 hours to travel to and explore the mosque thoroughly. It’s an incredibly large complex to explore and there will be much you will want to photograph and admire. It also takes a fair bit of time to enter the mosque itself – the visitor centre is on the far side of the car park and the underground walkway to the mosque is so long they have moving walkways! There are buggies that can whisk you along this walkway if you have mobility issues.
Have you visited the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi? What did you think?
Disclosure: My second visit to Abu Dhabi was in collaboration with Visit Abu Dhabi for an Instagram campaign. This post is not part of the project & reflects my own thoughts and opinions.
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