Greek marble, gold accents, delicate floral designs—this is the Grand Mosque.
One of the main reasons why I wanted to visit Dubai was the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. It’s opulent, it’s grand, it’s aesthetic. It looks like the palace from Aladdin but with so much more splendor and flair.
Located in Abu Dhabi, about an hour car ride from Dubai, the Mosque is the third largest in the world and one of few open for non-Muslims to visit. It is named after the first president of the UAE, who is buried in the courtyard of the Mosque.
The Mosque is, no question, a piece of cultural art. Completed in December 2007, the Mosque is influenced by Moroccan and Ottoman architecture and is a confluence of classic and modern Islamic artistic styles. Inside, huge chandeliers that incorporate millions of Swarovski crystals hang from above. The world’s largest hand-knotted carpet rolls out beneath your feet.
There are no entry fees to go inside, but you have to be dressed appropriately. Wear loose-fitting, ankle-length trousers or skirts, and long sleeves and a headscarf if you’re a woman—covering the head, wrists, and ankles is a way of showing respect. You can also borrow the long dress (abaya) and headscarf (shaya) from one of the service desks. For men, no shorts or tank tops are allowed.
As was expected, an abhorrent amount of people were taking photos (including me). My family were definitely a little more than annoyed at all the photos my sister and I were taking—but hey, this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, right? At least I wasn’t as bad as this woman, who was literally lying on the floor to get a photo of one of the chandeliers:
I literally couldn’t take enough pictures of this place. If you aren’t already convinced that the Mosque should be on your bucket list, here’s one last photo to prove to you that it is a real architectural and cultural dream: