[April 10 2015]
After driving the long, straight road through the flat desert landscape between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, we arrive at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, its bright white domes popping out against the blue sky.
First stop for ladies on a visit to the mosque is the subterranean cloakroom where you collect an Abaya; the Emirati version of a Burqa, and required attire for entering the grounds and interior of the mosque.
A mass of black-swathed female tourists pour out of the cloakroom, while the men sit patiently in the “gents waiting area” in the carpark.
Inside the mosque, which took nine years to construct, you are struck not only by its scale (the mosque can accommodate over 40,000 people for prayer) but also by the amount of different materials used for it’s construction and design. The white marble of the domes, the coloured crystal in the chandeliers, the hand-knotted carpet that covers the entire main prayer hall, and the floral-motif tiling covering the pillars around the wings of the mosque all make for a incredible attention to detail – even the ladies’ bathroom is beautifully tiled. This, the largest mosque in the United Arab Emirates, is known for “uniting the world”, using artisans and materials from countries such as Italy, Germany, Morocco, Pakistan, Turkey, Malaysia, Iran, China, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Greece and United Arab Emirates istself.
Text and photo Nicola Powell