Last year when I decided to finally get out of the airport in Dubai , I was fully expecting to gawk at those world famous record-breaking skyscrapers. Or even walk around some spice and gold souks. Little did I know I would add a beautiful mosque to my itinerary. Honestly, visiting Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi during my 2-day layover in Dubai was one of the best last-minute addition.
Just days before flying out a few fellow bloggers recommended me to visit the Abu Dhabi Grand Mosque. And I had to look up how far it was from Dubai which was my main destination for two days. It showed a good 1.30 hrs drive so I really didn’t give it much thought That is until my friend who was also my local tour guide in Dubai said she cannot let me leave without visiting Sheikh Zayed Mosque. I am really thankful to my dear friend to show me this marvel.
In this post, I am going to share all the important things you need to know before visiting Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. And for the first time, we will be sharing tips on photographing the mosque as well. If you’d like to read more tips about photographing places then do let us know in the comments so we can continue the trend 🙂 PS: There is a whole bunch of Fun Facts about the Grand Mosque at the end of this post as well!
VISITING THE GRAND MOSQUE IN ABU DHABI
Here are a few tips on visiting the Grand Mosque –
Open every day and the visiting hours are below. The last entry to the mosque is at 9.30pm. Give yourself anywhere from 1-3 hours to visit this mosque, not including the transit time.
- Sat – Thurs 9 am to 10 pm
- Fridays 4.30pm to 10 pm (Friday morning is only open for worshippers coming for prayer ceremony).
If you are going to visit during the Holy Month of Ramadan then Abu Dhabi Mosque visiting hours are: Sat – Thurs 9 am to 2 pm and closed to visitors on Fridays.
TIP: You can take a FREE cultural tour of the grand Abu Dhabi mosque. The tour timings can be found at the official website of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
Admission to the magnificent Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is FREE. There is no reason you should skip this beauty if you have the time.
Getting to Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
The Mosque is officially located in Abu Dhabi, UAE which is also the capital of UAE. Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque draws hundreds of visitors every day. Given the splendid architecture of this mosque, I am only left to imagine that these numbers will only be on a rise.
From Dubai: Driving from Dubai to the grand mosque in Abu Dhabi is about 1:30 hrs. If you do not have a rental car it is easy to get taxis that will drive you up till the Mosque. I also saw a lot of taxis outside the mosque as well so you can get a ride back.
From Abu Dhabi: The mosque is about 20 minutes from Abu Dhabi airport.
Like any other mosque, this is a religious and sacred site for all Muslims. Prayers services held in the hall every day. So be mindful of the etiquettes of visiting the grand mosque. Even though I was wearing full-length shirt and pants I was told it was inappropriate since my shirt was made of a translucent material. Luckily, the mosque gives out a full-length traditional gown called an “Abaya” free of cost to let you enter within their dress code standards. Normally you would get a solid blue colored Abaya, however, if you are a petite girl like me then they will put you in a really funky animal print Abaya. I wasn’t sure if I was embarrassed or felt really outstanding in this unique outfit.
We all want that perfect photo/selfie especially when the backdrop is this gorgeous. But let’s not forget this is a religious institution and we all must be respectful of that. If you are being ridiculously absurd in getting that perfect shot then be ready to be called out by the security guards (there are many!). For example, I was called out for folding the extremely long sleeves of my Abaya at one time.
Food and Drinks
You are not allowed to carry any food or drinks inside the mosque. But there is a refreshment center within the complex where you can purchase drinks and snacks.
PHOTOGRAPHY IN THE MOSQUE
Photography and videos are allowed inside the mosque for personal use. Usage of a tripod is also allowed within permitted areas. If you are photography enthusiasts like me then you will highly appreciate the following tips –
TIMING of your visit
The Grand Mosque has two absolutely stunning and different views during daytime and at night, not to forget the splendid sunset view. Plan your visit to the mosque an hour or more before sunset and stay back till the mosque lights come up.
CARRY A Tripod
A tripod is allowed on the premises but certain areas like the main courtyard are not allowed for visitors to enter. Use your tripod for nice long exposure shots during sunset and at night.
USE Wide LENS
In order to capture the entire scene of the central domes and the minarets, you are going to need the widest lens in your collection. I usually only take my versatile 18-135mm lens when traveling light and this was one place I really wish I also had my 10-22mm. A workaround if you don’t have a wide angle lens handy is to click multiple shots and stitch the frames in panorama in post-processing.
Explore different angles
The multitude of domes in grand mosque definitely stand out but look all around the complex. There are marble corridors with fine details and symmetry surrounding the main hall. Try to capture the corridors from different angles. The reflecting pool near the entrance is an amazing place to get creative with your reflection shots. Look all around you, from the beautiful ceiling work to perhaps an intense blue hour happening right behind.
Fine details matter
I talked about using wide angle lens before but to change it up a little get close to the intricate architectural details. There are plenty of fine designs on the walls, floors, columns waiting to be captured.
Get a subject in your frame
It is even better to bring a subject or a person in this beautiful frame. In my case I had a real friend, if you are traveling solo then the tripod is your best friend!
FUN FACTS ABOUT THE GRAND MOSQUE ARCHITECTURE
1. There are 82 total domes of various sizes in the Grand Mosque. The big ones are obviously prominently but good luck counting all 82 of them 😉
2. Millions of tons of pure white marble in Abu Dhabi mosque make it look serene and calm during daylight. But as soon as the sun sets, the unique lighting system at the mosque makes the white domes look magically blue at night. This genius light system is designed to reflect the phases of the moon on the domes. Which means the mosque is lit up to look slightly different every night depending on the moon cycles.
3. Alright, we have marveled enough about the exterior architecture of the mosque. Did anyone notice we never mentioned anything about the interior as yet? As you walk into the prayer hall you walk over a beautiful green carpet adorning the floor. This is the largest hand-knotted carpet in the world!
4. There are seven 24 carat gold gilded crystal chandeliers inside the prayer hall. Each chandelier is studded with Swarovski crystals and all of these were made in Munich , Germany.
5. The open courtyard in the center of the mosque blooms into floral design made up of several colorful marbles.
So there you go, our 6 tips on visiting and photographing Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi along with 5 bonus fun facts! I hope this information comes handy for you guys before you head to Dubai or Abu Dhabi 🙂
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