One must do that absolutely has to be on your list when you’re in Abu Dhabi is visiting the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Honestly, it’s even worth the drive over from Dubai just to see this spectacular master piece. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque has to be one of the grandest mosques I have ever seen and it immediately reminded me of scenes from Aladdin!
It’s grandeur and architecture are absolutely mesmerising. It’s no wonder hundreds of people visit this masterpiece on a daily basis.
To make your visit as smooth as possible I will list everything you need to know in this blog post!
How to get to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
If you’re staying in Abu Dhabi the easiest way to go is to just take a taxi which will drop you off at the entrance of the visitor center.
If you’re staying in Dubai and just hopping over to Abu Dhabi for a day trip your best bet is to take a taxi as well. It’s a 90 minutes drive and costs around 250AED one way. Taxi drivers are pretty much used to this and there will be plenty of them waiting outside the mosque after your visit, ready to take you back to Dubai.
Once you’re at the visitor center you will have to take the escalator down. By now you’re probably thinking: “Wait, we’re still pretty far from the actual mosque…”. Not to worry! They’ve built an entire underground mall and visitor center leading up to the actual entrance of the mosque!
You’ll find some really nice shops here and out of the three images below I bought 2 souvenirs. Can you guess which ones? :p
What time to visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Opening times are 9am-10pm on Saturday-Thursday and 4.30pm-10pm on Fridays. If you can avoid the weekends do so since the amount of visitors usually doubles or triples compared to a regular weekday.
Making sure you’re there at opening time isn’t really a bonus in this case cause as soon as it opens there will already be hundreds of other tourists in line.
My advice is to go in the evening, 3 hours before sunset. This will give you plenty of time to visit the actual mosque and later head on over to the Wahat Al Karama across from the mosque to take in the views during sunset.
Important to know is that if you’re visiting during Ramadan opening hours are different! The opening times change to 9am-2pm Saturday-Thursday and the mosque is completely closed on Fridays.
How much does it cost to visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Do I have the most amazing news for you! Visiting the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is completely free!
You don’t even need to pay extra to bring in your camera! Tripods however aren’t allowed inside!
What to wear
The dress code for visiting the mosque is pretty strict as this is a Muslim site. Once you go down with the escalator you’ll be guided to a dress room where there will be different colours abaya’s to choose from: dark blue, nude and burgundy. I went with the burgundy one cause everyone else on Instagram was always wearing the nude version :p.
The abaya comes with a hood that needs to be covering your hair at all times. I saw a lot of girls taking it off when taking there photos but I strongly advise you not to do that. Not only is it very disrespectful but there are also guards on every corner who are watching you. FYI Rihanna was asked to leave in 2013 after being disrespectful while in the mosque.
Whatever you do, make sure to bring a pair of sunglasses! The walls and floor of the mosque are so reflective on a sunny day that if you don’t bring one with you you’ll end up squinting your eyes the entire time.
How to take photos
Don’t be scared off by all of the tourists. Despite all of them you’ll still be able to take some amazing photographs! The entire property is so enormous and there is so much open space that you don’t even need to worry about it. As you can see above you can’t enter the central court yard. While the railings may take away some of it’s beauty (helloooo Photoshop!) it does allow for an always clean and people free backdrop ;).
As mentioned before, tripods aren’t allowed. Neither is flying a drone! This might sounds logical to most of you but believe me, people will fly their drone over anything if they had the chance.
I know sunrise is a favourite time amongst us photographers but sunrise viewings simply aren’t possible. Go for the golden hour instead and make sure to stick around to watch the mosque light up once the sun sets.
Important to know
- There are free daily tours. It is advised to arrive 15 minutes before the tour starts and they usually last around 45 minutes. You can check their website to see the programming.
- Personal food and drinks aren’t allowed inside. Your bag and you will be scanned in the visitor center.
- During the summer months it can get extremely hot in Abu Dhabi. However the prayer halls are well air conditioned and there are water fountains spread over the property.
Interesting facts about the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
- The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque was completed in 2007. It’s the largest mosque in the United Arab Emirates.
- The mosque holds some of the most beautiful chandeliers and one of them is the third largest in the world!
- The carpet in the main hall is the largest carpet in the world. Unfortunately a magic carpet ride is not included.
- The design of the Sheikh Zayed Mosque was inspired by Persian, Mughal and Moorish mosque architecture and took more than 3,000 workers from 38 construction companies to build.
Where to stay in Abu Dhabi
- Shangri-La Abu Dhabi – Wake up to the view over the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. You can read my full review about this hotel here.
- Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi – This luxurious five-star, 394-room establishment oozes opulence and is dripping in gold. If bling is your thing, this is the place to be.
- The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi – Only 2 miles from the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and provides guests views of the mosque across the creek and an impressive selection of restaurants, both within the hotel and at the nearby Venetian Village dining precinct.
- Zaya Nurai Island – Looking to escape the city? This villa resort is only 10 minutes away from the city center but will make you feel like you’re staying in a tropical paradise.