Jillian R.
When we moved to Abu Dhabi last August, I was immediately captivated by the beauty of the Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque (SZGM) as we entered the city in a taxi. We arrived at night, and the mosque was illuminated by colored lights. I later learned that the lighting system reflects the phases of the moon.

"This architectural work of art is one the world’s largest mosques, with a capacity for an astonishing 41,000 worshippers. It features 82 domes, over a 1,000 columns, 24 carat gold gilded chandeliers and the world's largest hand knotted carpet. The main prayer hall is dominated by one of the world’s largest chandeliers –10 metres in diameter, 15 metres in height and weighing twelve tonnes. The mosque's first ceremony was the funeral of its namesake, Sheikh Zayed, who is buried at the site." - Source: Visitabudhabi.ae.

I remember telling Eric that we had to find out if non-Muslims/tourists were allowed to visit the mosque, and that if not we had to at least drive near it to have a closer look. We had missed visiting the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque of Oman you see, having only lived in Muscat for 6 months; of which I was mostly bitter...

The grand mosque in Oman is beautiful but the SZGM is breathtaking!

Anyway, when "winter" (refers to the non-scorching, very, very pleasant weather in the Middle East) rolled in, we were still busy setting up the apartment, taking care of business, you know, the usual must-do's when you move to a new country, so we never had time to do anything touristy. By the time we were all set up, summer had arrived again, and we were mostly confined indoors for the next 6-7 months.

It is now winter again! Time to finally see Abu Dhabi, a city which I've come to love!

As it turns out, the mosque is open to the public every day except Friday morning. We arrived shortly before lunch and the place was quite empty.

The weather was wonderful; it had just rained a couple of days ago so there was a constant cool breeze. On top of that, there were puffy clouds in the sky (which was rare, clouds here are mostly scattered all over the place). We didn't join the complimentary tours, instead we just wondered around the grounds. 

The lighting is cleverly hidden in these beautifully engraved pillars

Before entering the mosque, men and women were asked to enter from separate entrances. The men merely walked in while us women entered through a dressing room where we covered up in abayas which the mosque provides free of charge. I had bought a very affordable abaya just for this occasion as I didn't want to wear the "public" abayas. I could see the abayas hanging on racks with dry cleaning covers over them, so they probably were clean.

I've always had hygiene issues with clothing. I never wear anything new (even if it just came out from its wrapper) without washing it first. If the garment is white, I have to bleach it first.

Anyway, after putting on the abaya and struggled with covering our hair (I had to tie it into a ponytail so that it didn't slip out from under the headscarf), we were given the okay by the female security guard to leave the dressing room.

There was a board showing the do's and don't's while in the vicinity of the mosque. Some of the obvious ones were of course; no hugging and no holding hands. We saw a couple with a baby taking a picture where the husband tried to place his hand on his wife's shoulder and a vigilant guard immediately said "No hugging!"

Seeing that, this was as close as we dared stand!

The inside of the SZGM is absolutely beautiful, one does not need to know how to read the Arabic scriptures to appreciate the work of art that is this place.

It could be the high ceilings, or the intricate art work, or that the mosque being such a holy place; there was a sense of calmness and peace that washed over me as I wondered through the building. Having said that, I am glad it is opened to the public, I think we would definitely visit again in the near future, and this time, the camera stays at home - I want to really see the place, not through the lens.
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