The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is one of the largest and most spectacular mosques in the middle east and an absolute must see attraction for any visitor to Abu Dhabi. Here is an essential guide with everything you need to know for visiting Abu Dhabi’s Grand Mosque.
Built with a variety of architectural styles to reflect the varied heritage of the Muslim culture, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi is the largest mosque in the country and one of the most spectacular in the world.
No visit to Abu Dhabi is complete without a visit to the Grand Mosque and it genuinely is a modern world wonder in all but name. The building itself is absolutely spectacular, but it is the welcoming, open door policy that truly makes it special as the mosque invites you into its intricately decorated walls to experience and learn about Muslim and Emirati culture.
Remember the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is more than just an amazing tourist attraction, it is a place of worship too so please be respectful when you visit.
How much is the entrance fee to the Grand Mosque?
It’s completely free.
How much are the guided tours?
They are completely free.
What are the opening times at the grand Mosque?
Is there a dress code to visit?
Yes but they will loan you a scarf, abaya or an alternative for free if you don’t have appropriate clothing.
How to get to the Grand Mosque.
The Grand mosque is situated at the end of Al Khaleej Al Arabi road, basically half way between the airport and most of the other attractions such as the Corniche beach and many of the hotels.
From Abu Dhabi.
There is essentially a big one way road that loops through Abu Dhabi and this is regularly full of local buses and taxis, these are the best option for getting to the mosque, can be caught from anywhere in the city and are relatively cheap. It should cost you around $15 or $20 USD there and back from a Hotel near the Corniche beach. Uber is available too but is slightly more expensive than a taxi.
You can also get the bus or a tour from Dubai or take a taxi. It is roughly an hours drive away by taxi or around two hours by bus, maybe a little longer if you hit traffic. A taxi will set you back around $80 USD one way but if you can share with a small group of 3 or 4 this will reduce the cost to around the same as a tour.
The Grand Mosque entrance.
The thing to remember about the Grand Mosque is that it is big! Seriously big! So much so that it can take a good hour just to get through the entrance!
Don’t make the same mistake I did when visiting for the first time and head straight for the mosque building itself, you won’t be able to get through the security gates. The actual entrance is actually a little distance away through what look like blue glass domes.
The entranceway is beautiful and almost worth a visit on its own merits! These domes take you down a series of elevators and escalators to the visitor centre. The first part of which is a small mall with a small exhibition area and a range of fast food places, restaurants and little shops, perfect for stopping for a little refreshment before you carry on as there are no food and drink allowed in the mosque itself.
Getting your ticket.
Even though entry into the mosque is free, you will still need to get a ticket. These are obtained through little self serve kiosks that will ask you a series of shorts questions about where you are from and how old you are. There are quite often a lot of staff there who will help you out and do it for you if you are unsure. Keep your ticket on you as you will be asked for it to proceed to certain points through the mosque.
The dress code for visiting the Grand Mosque.
If you don’t conform to the dress code for visiting the mosque then it is here where you will be directed to a room that will give you the clothing that you need.
It really isn’t as worrying a process as it sounds. Very basically as a Muslim country it should be expected that both men and women are relatively covered up and conservatively dressed.
For men that means legs and shoulders should be covered, so long trousers and a shirt or T Shirt that covers the shoulders is absolutely fine.
For women that means heads and shoulders should be covered, as should all hair. So basically long, loose fitting skirts or trousers (not leggings) or dresses and long sleeves as well as a head scarf.
Don’t worry if you don’t quite conform to dress standards, they will lend you what you need to cover up free of charge. You do not need any ID or anything, these will simply be given to you on entry.
Women will be loaned an Abaya to wear over your clothes, which is essentially a long robe with a hood. There are three different colours that I observed on multiple visits; blue, dark red and a mustard yellow, but I’ll be honest I don’t know if there is any specific meaning behind each colour.
Assistance for those who need it.
Although I can imagine the majority of travellers may not need these, there are a number of free taxis that roam the visitor centre and give a lift to those who need it. The visitor centre itself can talk anywhere from 15 minutes to half an hour to get through so I can imagine many will welcome these.
Taking the free guided tour.
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque gives regular guided tours for absolutely free. These are given by official guides who are extremely knowledgeable and will explain the history and culture of the mosque as well as explaining all the intricate details about the design and architecture. Even if you want to explore yourself before or afterwards, it is still more than worth taking an hour out of your time here to listen to the wealth of information the guides have to offer and you get to visit parts of the mosque closed off to the general public.. It is absolutely free and you don’t have to book ahead, just turn up at one of the designated spots (or just join one that is already happening). These happen regularly throughout the day but may change during Ramadan or prayer times. Check the Grand Mosque’s official website for up to date times and schedules.
Taking a self guided tour.
If you don’t want to take a tour, or want to explore by yourself after the tour has finished you can do. As you walk through the mosque you are gently guided to a series of ‘photo stops’ by cordoned off rope areas, and guards are there to make sure you don’t wander into areas you aren’t supposed to be, but it is all very relaxed. You are free to linger in any spot as long as you want, move backward or forward through the ‘path’ as you like and the guards are very friendly and willing to answer any questions you may have.
Just remember when you are taking photos to follow the rules and be respectful. I know a lot of people are nervous about the rules and don’t fully understand some of them, I don’t myself, but it really is mostly common sense and there are plenty of guards there to remind you!
This mostly involves things like laying on the floor, posing or making gestures, things like that. I completely forgot about the gesture part when taking one photo and raised my hand a little to direct the view behind me. A guard simply came up to me and reminded me to lower my hand. It was all done very politely and with a smile and I complied out of respect and apologised. It really wasn’t that scary so with the exception of insane Instagrammers most people have little to worry about.
Take the time to look at the detail!
I saw so many tourists breeze through the mosque during my time there, stopping only to take a quick selfie and then move on, but they are missing out on so much! Slow down, take your time and check out some of the stunning detail that is carved into almost every tile, every stained glass window and even the rugs!
The iconic prayer hall claims to have the worlds biggest chandelier, and whilst I don’t completely believe that it is certainly extremely impressive with millions of Swarovski crystals and hangs over a carpet that covers over 60 square feet and weighs over 30 tons!
The courtyard outside, used by up to 30,000 worshippers during large prayers or events, has beautiful floral designs inlaid into the marble.
The stained glass windows and doorways, and the mother of pearl inlaid marble are works of art in and of themselves, and each one would have pride of place in any gallery despite just being average furnishings here.
That should tell you the level of detail that really makes this mosque amazing to get lost in for a few hours and it is these tiny details and design elements that make the building truly special.
It is also worth noting that if you can it is worth hanging around until sunset to see the mosque change character as the sun lowers behind it, and then explode in subtle colour at night as the lights get switched on. Magical doesn’t begin to describe it.
Leaving the Grand Mosque.
If you walk around the mosque yourself you will essentially go round it a rough loop that will lead you back round to the front of the mosque and you essentially just go back the way you came in through the glass domes and back through the visitor centre. There are a lot of the free taxis whizzing about if you need one or just don’t want to walk the fifteen or twenty minutes back through. After you leave the visitor centre there is a designated taxi area in the south car park with taxi’s waiting to take you wherever you want to go. Alternatively there is also a bus stop just a few minutes walk away from the taxi stand.
I hope this has answered all of your questions about visiting the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi and has inspired you to add this amazing site to your own bucket list of things to see and do in the UAE.
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