- Arts and Design
The Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi Is an Architectural Delight
An Icon in Abu Dhabi
The United Arab Emeritus came into an entity in 1971 after the British gave the region self-government. Nine small emirates joined together to form the United Arab Emeritus( UAE) with Abu Dhabi being the biggest to them. One man who worked hard to join the nine small states into a single state was Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nathan. He was a man of great wisdom and had realized that the Emirati states were too small to manage their affairs single-handed and with a little prodding from the English, rulers led the way for a United Arab Emeritus.
Sheikh Zayed is also considered as the father of the UAE. He wished to leave behind an enduring monument of Islamic culture and thought and realized that a mosque with a secular outlook was the best thing.
Construction began in the nineties with marble imported from Greece and Macedonia. Thousands of artisans and craftsmen worked for years on the mosque that took shape and is now known as the Grand Mosque.
No visit to the UAE is complete without a visit to the Grand Mosque. It is one of the two iconic structures in the UAE, the other being the Burj Khalifa the tallest tower in the world. One can go up to the 125th floor and even higher where a cafe serves exotic dishes and wine that lends enchantment all around.
Similarly, the Grand Mosque is also an enchanting place and visiting it reminds one of the tales of the Arabian Nights.
Reaching the Mosque
The Mosque is strategically located and can be seen from miles away, both at day and night. On the day the white marble and gold plated domes shine in the sunlight and at night the mosque is lit up and the artificial light gives the mosque a moonlight glow. A look from afar gives it an unreal look and coming closer one is not disappointed.the mosque is easily accessible and one can take a cab from the city center and it could cost about $15. One can also take the Abu Dhabi AC bus to the mosque.
Many tourists will prefer the "Big Bus" an open roof tourist bus that takes a round of all the tourist places in Abu Dhabi. The fare for this bus is $50 and it also takes the tourist to the Grand Mosque. It will stop for an hour as that is the minimum time required to visit the mosque and imbibe the intricate designs and patterns that adorn the floor and walls of the mosque.
Entry to the mosque is free on all days of the week. But visitors have to have a proper dress code. Men are to be soberly dressed and all women must cover their body and head with a scarf. No woman with bare legs like wearing shorts or a skirt is allowed inside the mosque.
All women who enter the mosque are loaned a hijab. One can take any color and black, grey and purple are available for loan. There is a dressing room and all women will don the hijab or Birkha over their dress and then only enter the mosque. This is in line with Koranic principles that a woman must be dressed modestly. The custodians of the mosque have interpreted this to mean that the entire body will be covered and head wrapped in a scarf. One may not agree with it but it is strictly enforced.
In addition, guards are all over the mosque and in case a head cover of a woman falls even accidentally, the guards will point it out politely and request that the head is covered.
Entry to the mosque, as I have already pointed out is free and is open to all non-Muslims as well. Ther are no restrictions and thousands of tourists from USA and Japan accept the restrictions and visit the mosque.
Entry to the mosque is regulated and a stringent security cover is provided. All visitors will be checked by security and then only allowed inside. The mosque qualifies as a wonder of the world. It is modeled on the Badshai mosque of Lahore, built by Akbar the Great.
It has a massive courtyard where over 50000 devotees can pray. The flooring and the walls of the mosque are studded with semi-precious stones and wonderful floral designs are carved. The Mosque has 9 minarets with four towers that rise to a height of 110 meters. The domes are plated with gold and the intricate designs on the walls points to the hard work of thousands of artisans and craftsmen. It was like building the Taj Mahal, but unlike Shah Jehan who cut the hands of all workmen, the Shiek rewarded all who worked with money and gratitude.
The main hall of the mosque has massive chandeliers and the biggest of them weighs 12 tons and all the chandeliers are made of 24-carat solid gold and decorated with Swarovski crystals. The main hall is carpeted with a hand weaved silk- wool material.It is reported that 12000 workmen worked for 2 years on the carpet. It covers over 5000 square meters and is a delight to walk on. Its soft and the visitor's feet just sink into the carpet. It was made by artisans in Khazakhistan and then brought to Abu Dhabi.
The mosque is open all seven days of the week from 10 am in the morning. One can spend as much time as he like at the mosque but the sanctity of the place has to be preserved. Tourist guided tours are also available and they will take you on a conducted tour of the mosque. But I prefer a visit all by myself so that I can study the rich architecture and designs. The mosque is an amalgamation of Anglo Saracen and Moghul architecture and is one place that a visitor will love.
There is also a new coffee shop and a modern art gallery at the North entrance and that will crown a visit to the mosque.