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When visiting the United Arab Emirates, one should go to Abu Dhabi and visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, a masterpiece of architecture and one of the world´s largest mosques. The building blends styles from different Muslim civilizations, celebrating diversity and welcoming people from all over the world and it is full of rich tiny details that promise to mesmerize any visitor. To every direction that look at you will find something interesting and the aim to carefully tell a story, the story of diversity across Islam.
Built between 1996 and 2007, the project was launched by Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, late president of the UAE. He wanted a structure to be built that would convert the values of architecture and art as transmitting the cultural diversity within the Islamic culture. Unfortunately, the president did not live long enough to see the works completed; he died in 2004 and was buried in the mosque´s courtyard.
The mosque is the work of British, Italian and Emirati architects and designed by the Syrian architect Yousef Abdelky. The entire complex measures approximately 290 by 420 meters, an area of more than 12 hectares. Some of its main design influences come from the Abu al-Abbas al-Mursi Mosque in Egypt and the Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, Pakistan, with the dome layout and the floor design inspired by it. More than 3 thousand workers and nearly 40 sub-contracting companies were involved with the construction works. High quality materials were chosen for the decoration, such as crystals, gold, marble stone and semi-precious stones. Both materials and artisans came from different parts of the world in Asia, Middle East and Europe. The total cost was estimated in $545 million
Visitors won´t be disappointed if visiting the mosque in the evening. This is because the mosque has a lighting system that is adjusted to the phases of the moon. This way, the building ca benefit from a fantastic lunar illumination that basks the façade during early moon and that offers bright shades during the full moon. It is a breathtaking spectacle.
The mosque is open to visitors every day from 9am to 10pm except on Friday mornings when the morning prayer takes place, opening only between 4:30pm to 9pm. People are invited to dress modestly; women should cover their arms, legs and head, and men should wear long trousers. If necessary, the mosque provides free abbayas (robes) before entering. Taking off the shoes is also mandatory. Surely the mosque is a must-see attraction in Abu Dhabi and it is always busy but because it is so big you won´t be stumbling on people and will have plenty of space to enjoy it fully.