The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Through My Lens: A Photo Essay

If you happen to have a stopover in Abu Dhabi, you absolutely must visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. It is the most beautiful mosque we’ve ever seen so far. Both the inside and the outside of this mosque are absolutely incredible. It’s an architectural marvel and totally photogenic.

We actually stopped over in Abu Dhabi just to see it. I had often heard how grandiose it was and it certainly did not disappoint. Simon wasn’t that keen because he’s not a fan of religious monuments but even he was pretty impressed with it. He had to admit that it was worth the detour. This stunning white Grand Mosque is the largest in the UAE and the 3rd largest mosque in the world. It is also one of the most breathtaking religious buildings you’ll find anywhere.

A little bit about the construction of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque was designed by Syrian architect Yousef Abdelky. Construction began in 1996 and it took eleven years and 3,000 workers to build the mosque. It was finally completed in 2007. Building materials were sourced from all over the world and include marble stone, gold, semi-precious stones, crystal and ceramics.

The mosque is large enough to hold up to 40,000 worshippers. That’s a lot of people! The main prayer hall alone can hold over 7,000 people.

The main prayer hall.

A photo essay of its impressive design

The mosque’s design is one of a kind and it has many unique features.

For example, the main hall’s carpet is the world’s largest, measuring 5,627 m2 and weighing 35 tons.

The main hall’s carpet.

The seven chandeliers imported from Germany incorporate millions of Swarovski crystals. The mosque’s largest chandelier is the third largest chandelier in the world.

The mosque’s main courtyard measures around 17,000 m2 and has a stunning floral design made of marble mosaic. It is, in fact, the largest example of a marble mosaic in the world. So much grandiosity!


The mosque has 82 domes. Its largest dome is found in the prayer hall.

There are 96 columns in the main prayer hall. All of those columns are inlaid with mother of pearl and marble.

Should you take one of the free tours?

While you can visit the mosque on your own, we highly recommend that you take one of the guided group tours. For starters they’re free (win!) and secondly they take you to some parts of the mosque that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to visit.

The tours take you beyond the tourist barriers and you’ll enter the main hall and walk across its incredible carpet. You’ll get a much closer look at the absolute grandiosity of the mosque’s interior.

You will also get an in-depth explanation of the construction of the mosque as well as an introduction to Islamic principles. The tours are run in English a few times a day, with the times changing depending on the day of the week. Click here to see the timing on the day of your visit.

What’s the best time to visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque?

The Sheikh Zayed Mosque can be visited at any time of the year, except on Friday mornings (visits start at 4.30 pm on Fridays). The best time of the day to visit is an hour and a half before sunset. At that time the sun isn’t as strong and the golden hour light is perfect for photography. Once the sun sets (a fantastic sight!), you can enjoy the mosque at night. It’s all lit up and it looks amazing.

However, if instead, you prefer a quieter time with fewer tourists, then first thing in the morning will be your best bet. The Mosque opens daily at 9 am, except for Friday mornings.

Opening hours of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is open to visitors every day.

Saturday – Thursday: 9 AM – 10 PM
Friday: 4-30 PM – 10 PM

Keep in mind that the hours change during the month of Ramadan. During Ramadan, the mosque is only open from 9 am till 1 pm Saturday through to Thursday and is not open on Fridays.

Is there a charge to enter the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque?

No, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque can be visited free of charge.


What to wear to visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque?

Visitors who wish to visit the mosque need to be respectful of the dress code. Men are required to wear full-length trousers and shirts. Women are required to wear long and loose pants and long sleeves top not showing any neckline. They are also required to wear a headscarf.

Hijab and Abaya are available at the entrance of the mosque free of charge if you don’t have the proper clothing on the day. If the mosque officials are not happy with your dress code, they will let you know and give them to you anyway. Before entering the mosque interior you will be required to remove your shoes.

Things you shouldn’t do

Dressing inappropriately is obviously a big no-no but there are other things that you need to bear in mind. We saw way too many disrespectful tourists while we were there.

  • Don’t talk loudly or laugh hard. Be quiet and enjoy this amazing piece of architecture.
  • Keep out of the restricted areas, do not cross the barriers. They are there for a reason, so take your selfie elsewhere.
  • If you have children, don’t let them run around. We saw way too many kids running onto the main courtyard and being told off by the security guards, only to do it again a minute later.
  • Do not do any jump shots, peace signs or any stupid posing. We also saw many people being told off for posing inappropriately.
  • Do not smoke or eat inside the mosque.
  • Don’t hold hands or kiss inside the mosque.
  • Do not remove your headscarf for your selfie. This is not allowed. Although we didn’t see this, we’ve heard that it happens and that people are asked to leave for doing this.

Things you should do

  • Make sure you bring sunglasses. All that white and bling mixed with the bright sunshine, it’s blinding!
  • Allow enough time for this mosque because it will take you at least a couple of hours to explore. We arrived at 3 pm and didn’t leave till around 6.30 pm!

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