Sunday, January 6, 2019

A Magic Carpet Ride ~ Through the Grand Mosque

It could have come from one of Scheherazade’s tales. . .dusk had turned the Mosque into a fairy tale structure. At one point we stepped out of the tide of humanity flowing through this enormous ediface, found ourselves a corner and took a moment to savor the overwhelming magic of this fanciful place.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque - Abu Dhabi
On a late Friday afternoon we were among thousands inside Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque; the largest mosque in the United Arab Emirates and the eighth largest such place in the world. In my mind we’d just hopped aboard a magic carpet ride into a world far removed from the one in which we live.

Reflecting pools at sunset - Grand Mosque - Abu Dhabi
It is simply that kind of mind-boggling place. And to think we almost skipped it!

Dusk gave a most exotic feel to the experience
We’d arrived in Abu Dhabi on a Thursday evening for our cruise departing on a Saturday. We planned to see as much as we could of this young and rapidly expanding city on the single day we’d given ourselves for exploration.

Friday, though, is a Holy Day in the Muslim world. The Mosque was closed to visitors until 4 p.m.  So we spent the day exploring other parts the city and almost decided against making the effort (a sizeable taxi ride from our downtown hotel and back) to visit the place.

We’d seen mosques before, right?
Wrong. We’d not seen anything like this before.

Luckily the travel gods gave us that unexplained nudge and we decided we couldn't miss the Mosque.  The taxi dropped us off at a far gate at 5 p.m. and by then the place was crawling with people – the faithful and the tourist had blended together to experience this holy site.

PicMonkey Collage
Strict dress codes and behavior codes apply when visiting
At the entry The Scout was directed to the doorway for males while I entered through a door for women only. Dress code is strict. My exposed ankles and wrists got me herded into a walk-in closet (with many other women) for a complimentary abayas issued to those of us not covering enough of our bodies.  My abaya, I think would have been quite comfortable had I not had a full set of clothes on under it. And it was far too big (one size does not fit all). To be able to walk I hiked it up so that the same amount of ankle was showing as before.  While I certainly wasn't opposed to wearing it, I have to admit as I lifted the hood, I wondered how many others had worn this garment since it had last been washed.

Shoes are not to be worn by any visitor and pairs are left on massive shoe racks at the entry to the building. I always marvel that they are still there when we return.

So properly attired, we were off.  Hop aboard our magic carpet and I’ll tell you a bit of what we learned about the Grand Mosque:

The inlaid marble floors of the courtyard were stunning
The massive structure was built at the direction of Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding father of the United Arab Emirates.  Construction began in 1996 and it was finished in 2007.  The construction cost was 2.5 billion UAE dirham or 700 million US dollars.
Sheik Zayed, died in 2004 at age 86, and is buried here.

PicMonkey Collage
More intricate inlaid work in the walls 
More than 3,000 workers and 38 contracting firms from around the world were involved in the project. Materials were imported from Pakistan Iran, Morocco, Germany and a host of other countries.

Chandeliers were stunning
While the Mosque can accommodate 41,000, its main hall can accommodate 7,000. The visiting hordes of which we were a part, were not allowed on the carpet in the main hall; we walked to its side. It is the largest hand-knotted carpet in the world. It took 1,300 crafts persons two years to complete the work and then it took two months to transport it from Iran.

I should have taken photos of that magnificent carpet but it was the seven chandeliers which caught my eye and of which I couldn’t take enough photos.

Chandelier Grand Mosque Abu Dhabi
And I couldn’t decide which of them I liked best.

This may have been my favorite chandelier
But then I turned and saw the stained glass . . .click, click, click went the camera shutter.

Grand Mosque - Abu Dhabi
And again found myself trying to decide which was more magnificent.

Window overlooking a garden area - Grand Mosque Abu Dhabi
There is nothing that compares with the call to prayer in a Muslim city. It wafts through the air in much the same manner as church bells ring out across our towns in Greece.  The echoing human voice just adds to the exotic feel. We were lucky enough to be visiting here at dusk when the call to prayer seemed to reverberate off the walls. It was a travel moment to remember!

The Grand Mosque - Abu Dhabi
It was a perfect way to end a whirlwind tour of the city and was a great introduction to other sites we'd be seeing after we set sail on the Persian Gulf. You'll have to come back next week for my next tale of Arabian adventure. It was pretty amazing to have Iran on our north and the Saudi Arabian peninsula to our south as we headed out!

See you next week and  thanks again for your time today. We look forward to hearing from you and having you with us. Safe travels to you and yours ~

Linking this week with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday


  1. Wow! The grand mosque is magnificent and I love your description of feeling like you could have arrived via a magic carpet. I would have had a difficult time deciding a favorite between the chandeliers and glorious windows as each are unique treasures. I remember being quite surprised when we were allowed into the Casablanca mosque wearing shoes. I was covered from neck to toe as we were traveling in January and the weather was freezing but I also wasn't asked to cover my head with the pashmina I was wearing. Go figure. BTW - Being a member of the 'petite' size like you, I know well that 'one-size-does-not-fit-all.' I especially like the pooled fabric around your feel just waiting to trip you up! ­čśü

    1. My funniest mosque story (looking back, but not at the time) was visiting a mosque in a small city in Turkey and the gentleman working the gate kept pointing a certain direction and speaking in Turkish, I thought he was telling me about the mosque and replied, "Beautiful! Very beautiful! And walked into it beside Joel. When we came out I noticed the sign and arrow: he had been trying to get me to the women's entrance and I had marched right in the men's!

  2. I think "WOW", as Anita says, is the only appropriate word to describe the mosque. Loved the robe :) You are so fortunate to visit such wonderful sites around the globe. Keep going, enjoying life while you can and taking us all with you!

    1. That's one of the reasons we've hopefully stepped up the travel again. One of these days we know our travel days will be memories only so we want to cover as much ground as possible. . .thanks for coming along!!

  3. Thank you for this pictorial tour of the Grand Mosque. It looks like such an opulent experience. We would love to see this firsthand, and some day may get the opportunity. Until then, we will live vicariously through your articles.

    1. It was an amazing place and I hope one day you two do get a chance to visit it! Thanks for coming along with us!!

  4. What an amazing place! So pleased that you took the time to visit it. I would have been snapping shots every second as well.
    Thanks for stopping by my blog - from one expat to another!

    1. And thank you for the return visit! Hope to see you here often!

  5. I love it when you take me to places I might never see otherwise. That marble on the floor of the mosque is stunning. I wouldn't be apposed to wearing the covering required either, as I think it is important to confirm to local culture, but like you say you do wonder when it was last washed. Thank you for the share, for visiting me this week, and happy & safe travels to you. And wishing you and yours a fabulous 2019.

  6. I am a firm believer in 'when in Rome, doing as the Romans do' but I do hope people launder common-shared clothing often! Happy New Year Jill!

  7. I love your "magic carpet ride" analogy; what a beautiful mosque. Your photos are excellent!!

    1. Thanks much for coming along on that carpet ride, Marilyn!

  8. Oh, my goodness!

    What an amazing experience. You certainly have a marvelous life.

  9. I've been to Dubai a number of times. It's easy enough to take a day trip to Abu Dhabi from there to see the Grand Mosque, yet I've never done it! I always mean to, but something else is always nearer by... Now it's on the top of the list for my next visit! And I'd love to see the new Louvre there at the same time.

  10. Oh, my goodness...what a magical trip this must have been. So wonderful that you decided to take the tour, after all. It is all so pretty...your photos are magazine worthy and your description of things is perfect....a wonderful post, dear one.


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