Friday, March 24, 2017

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque - In and Around UAE

By : Hamza Shafique

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in first look seems like a modern fusion of Taj Mahal Agra with Badshahi Mosque Lahore, both built by Mughal rulers.

I have been to Grand Mosque couple of times, both in the day time and in the evening. Drive from Dubai is decent not very tiring, but if you are planning to visit from northern emirates then I will suggest to plan a stopover in between, still the drive is manageable. As soon as Abu Dhabi starts one can’t help but notice increased frequency of mosques on both sides of the road and all of them seemed to be inspired in one way or the other from the Grand mosque. This seems like visitors are being prepared for the Grand Mosque visit.

Getting to the Grand Mosque complex is easy and the pin is available on Google maps. The drive in fact can be enjoyable you can make a stop over at last Exit or one of the gas station for tea. Grand Mosque complex consists of mosque in the center surrounded by very geometrical gardens, Domes layout and floor plan is inspired by Badshahi mosque with three main prominent domes on top of prayer hall, four classic Arab design oriented minarets on each corner of the mosque, Moorish style arcades on three sides of the mosque connected to prayer hall on the fourth side. There are pools along the arcades which reflect mosque spectacular columns.

There is also a library, underground car parking and ablution facility.  The white exterior of Mosque gives the impression of Taj Mahal Agra. At the Grand Mosque complex there is ample parking. If you are visiting in winter then visiting in day time is fine otherwise I will suggest you to visit in the evenings, as walk from the parking to the mosque gate and then to the prayer hall is pretty much with out any shade. Well that’s the only drawback in design from tourist perspective because if they put temporary shades then it will affect the esthetics of the place and there is no space in design kept for trees etc. but its not a major issue if you really have to visit in summer day time then simply get a cap or an umbrella and a small bottle of water should be ok.

There are timing for visit and guided tours are also available, for which it is suggested to check website for schedule as it changes frequently. Personally I prefer night time as the mosque displays another side with lighting and pool reflections. There is a strict dress code so no shorts or sleeveless tops even for men but don’t worry , the temp veils or Arabic long attires are available on the spot. Posing for pictures in the mosque is strictly monitored and required to be decent inline with the respect a mosque deserves. Authorities are so strict in this regard that once famous American singer Rihanna was politely asked to leave the mosque because of this.

Now coming back to the Mosque, columns in the arcade are quite unique with top comprising of golden date leaves with lower part made of white columns with floral patterns of colorful stones. Domes in the arcade and main gate at night are beautifully lit from inside with blue color further glorifying the patterns/calligraphy inside; don’t miss to check those out.From main gate you step right in to big courtyard in the center of the mosque where whole floor has also been design with the same floral patterns made of stone.

There are three prayer halls, two reserved at all times for prayer(1 for male and other for female) and are simple compared to the main hall. Main hall is in the center and is main attraction/reserved for tours.

Basically the whole tour is designed in a way that from main gate you get to the main prayer while walking through the court yard and you leave your shoes on the shoe stands outside the main prayer hall. From there you enter through  classic arched electric glass doors(first ever I have seen in a Mosque) in to a small hall which is without carpet and is all white with walls fully covered with same stone floral designs. There is a very fancy crystal chandelier here, you walk through here following a path defined by temporary airport type fence and enter the main prayer hall.

Main Prayer hall is a work of art, it feels like some one has doodle floral pattern throughout. You are welcomed by a grand crystal chandelier which seems and later on I found out is one of the biggest in the world , It is right under the center big Dome . Wall behind chandelier has Imams wooden sermon seat with 99 names of Allah written all over the wall, where addition of light among the pattern adds to beauty.  The Carpet is set be the largest in the world. Each of the three main domes are supported by eight columns which are formed by four pillars each. Look for surprise design between each set of four pillars. Then you walk through the Main prayer hall to another smaller exhibition sort of hall which is similar in design with entrance room. During my last visit there was some vintage Islamic coin exhibition was going on (again please check website for such schedules). You follow a similar pathway for exit as well. The whole tour will take 30 to 40 mins. This place is a photographer’s heaven, I spent almost 3 to 4 hours and was still not done.

If you are visiting from outside Abu Dhabi then I would suggest you club your tour with some other attraction like emirates zoo park to make most of the day and your drive.
For me it is a must visit if you are looking for some cultural experience which is absolutely free and comes with a road trip.

1 comment:

  1. I have never visited Dubai, but it is on my bucket list. I am happy to visit Dubai through your blogs. Keep up the good work.