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Quick history of the largest mosque in the United Arab Emirates

Words: Aleksandra Georgieva

Photography: Jonathan Takle, Ryan Miglinczy, Kai Wang, Junhan Foong, Zosia Korcz, Oliver Sjostrom

15 May 2019

Sheikh Zayed Mosque is located in Abu Dhabi - the capital city of the United Arab Emirates. It is the largest mosque in the country and an important place for worship and prayers. The Grand Mosque was built by the designs of the Syrian architect Yousef Abdelky between 1996 and 2007. The complex is relatively new but due to its purpose, beautiful design and a coverage of approximately 30 acres (12 hectares), it hosts over forty thousand visitors per year.

Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, late president of UAE, launched the project to showcase the diversity of modern art, history and architectural values within the Islamic world. The complex also hosts the grounds of his last resting place. Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Center (SZGMC) hosts visitor programs, cultural activities and educational services. The community has access to classic publications on a range of arts, calligraphy, civilisation and science subjects entangled with Islamic values. Those vary in language options and alongside books, dating over two hundred years back, are kept in the library of the spacious complex. The Grand Mosque was voted the second favourite landmark globally for two years in a row.

Inspired by Pakistani and Egyptian Mosques SZGMC with classical Arab twists added to the design. Natural materials from all over the world such as marble stone, ceramics, crystals, gold and semi-precious stones were used for the construction. Those provided the Grand Mosque with long-lasting qualities and making the complex so visually appealing. But the Mosque is not appealing only on the outside.

One of the several prayer halls is the home to what is considered to be the largest carpet in the world. Designed by Iranian artist Ali Khaliqi, the carpet is over five and a half thousand square meters big and weights thirty-five tones. It was completed in Iran in two years. Additional chandeliers lighten up the halls, incorporated with countless of Swarovski crystals and imported from Germany.


The lightning system of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Centre was designed by Speirs and Major Associates architects. At night the columns of the mosque are emphasised by the pool lights along the arcades, which reflect the beauty of the complex building. The external walls of the building serve as a canvas for the projected grey clouds, which change their shades in brighter and darker colours, synchronised with the phases of the moon.



NOMADSofORIGIN is an independent annual publication with a focus on sustainable travelling and global cultural values. Each issue features interviews, engaging articles and photo guides, which take our nomadic readers through different destinations and introduce them to local people's perspectives.



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