Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
The majestic Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is located in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. This masterpiece is arguably one of the most important architectural treasures of contemporary UAE society - and one of the most beautiful in the world. It was initiated by the late President of the United Arab Emirates, HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, fondly thought of as the father of the nation. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan has realized ambitious plans for leading the transition of the UAE and its people, from a under developed, traditional community into a highly sophisticated nation. Central to Zayed's success is his ability to link the past with the present, without compromising the heritage and involving various ethnicities, cultures and nationalities in the process. Zayed's experience of modernization and development has no equal the world over. From this perspective, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque has become an expression of the comprehensive and genuine vision of its founder, a pioneering vision of a great leader, well versed in the achievements of impossible missions, who was fully aware that great contributions emerge from one’s heart and values. After his passing in 2004, Sheikh Zayed's vision for the mosque was continued by his sons. The building of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque was completed with the instructions of HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, president of the UAE and under the patronage of his brother, HH General Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces in addition to the painstaking supervision of HH Sheikh Mansoor bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs. Its design and construction 'unites the world', using artisans and materials from many countries including Italy, Germany, Morocco, India, Turkey, Iran, China, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Greece and of course the United Arab Emirates. More than 3,000 workers and 38 renowned contracting companies took part in the construction of the Mosque! Natural materials were chosen for much of its design and construction due to their long-lasting qualities, including marble, stone, gold, semi-precious stones, crystals and ceramics. First considerations to build the Mosque began in the late 1980s and much thought was given to its location and its design over the next decade until construction began on November 5th, 1996. The maximum capacity is approximately 41,000 people and the overall structure is 22,412 square meters and although still under completion, the internal prayer halls were initially opened for worship Eid Al Adha 2007 and have remained so since then. As one of the most visited buildings in the UAE, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Center was established 2008 to manage the day to day operations, not only as a place of worship and Friday gathering, but has been a place of learning and discovery through its education and visitor programs. Its ‘doors’ are open for everyone to come and appreciate the splendor of the building, take a guided tour or simply visit to soak up the tranquility and artistic splendor. The library, located in the north minaret serves the community with classic books and publications addressing a range of Islamic subjects: sciences, civilization, calligraphy, the arts, coins and includes some rare publications dating back more than 200 years! In reflection of the diversity of the Islamic world and the United Arab Emirates, the collection comprises of material in a broad range of languages including Arabic, English, French, Italian, Spanish, German and Korean. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque features 82 domes of Moroccan design and all decorated with white marble. The main dome’s outer shell measures 32.8 metres in diameter and stands at a height of 55 meters from the inside and approx. 85 metres from the outside - the largest of its kind, according to the Turkey Research Centre for Islamic History and Culture. The 22,412 square metre Mosque site is equivalent to around the size of five football fields, and can accommodate 40,960 worshippers – 7,126 in the main prayer hall; 1,960 in the open prayer hall; 980 female worshippers in the open prayer hall female section; 22, 729 in the open Sahan (courtyard); 682 in the main prayer hall entrance and 784 in the mosque’s main hall entrance. The Mosque has just over one thousand (1,000) columns in its outer areas which are clad with more than 20,000 marble panels inlaid with semi-precious stones, including lapis lazuli, red agate, amethyst, abalone shell and mother of pearl. The 96 columns in the main prayer hall are round in shape and inlaid with mother of pearl. Additionally, the Mosque has four beautiful minarets standing at almost 107 metres each at the four corners of the mosque. Reflective pools, totaling 7,874 square metres and laden with dark tiles, surround the Mosque, whilst coloured floral marble and mosaics pave the 17,000 square metre courtyard which is decorated with white marble. The pools along the arcades reflect the Mosque’s spectacular columns , which becomes even more glorious at night. The unique lightning system was designed by lightning architects Jonathon Speirs and Major to reflect the phases of the moon. Beautiful bluish gray clouds are projected onto the external walls and everyday look at little different from the next. An equally impressive interior design complements the Mosque’s breathtaking exterior. Italian white marble and inlaid floral designs adorn the prayer halls and the Mosque’s interior walls have decorative gold-glass mosaic features, particularly delicate on the western wall. The main glass door of the Mosque is 12.2 metres high, 7 metres wide and weighs approximately 2.2 tonnes. The main prayer hall features the world’s largest chandelier under the main dome – being 10 metres in diameter, 15 metres in height and weighing over nine tonnes. The Mosque’s seven gold-coloured chandeliers, from Germany, feature thousands of Swarovski crystals from Austria and some glasswork from Italy. The main prayer hall can fit in around 7,126 worshippers and also features the world’s largest hand-knotted carpet. Designed by Iranian artist, Ali Khaliqi, the carpet, consisting of 2,268,000 knots, was hand-crafted by 1,300 artisans in small villages near Mashhadin in Iran, a region renowned for its carpet making expertise. The Qibla wall (facing the direction of the Holy City of Mecca) is 23 metres high and 50 metres wide, and is subtly decorated so as not to distract worshippers from prayer. Gold-glass mosaic has been used in the Mehrab (the niche found in the middle of the Qibla wall). The 99 names (qualities) of Allah featured on the Qibla wall exemplify traditional Kufi calligraphy, designed by the prominent UAE calligrapher - Mohammed Mandi. The Qibla wall also features subtle fibre-optic lighting, which is integrated as part of the organic design. In total, three separate calligraphy styles - Naskhi, Thuloth and Kufi – are used throughout the mosque and were drafted by Mohammed Mandi (UAE), Farouk Haddad (Syria) and Mohammed Allam (Jordan). The Mosque has 80 Iznik panels - highly decorated ceramic tiles popular in the 16th century - which feature distinctly in Istanbul’s imperial and religious buildings. Traditionally hand-crafted, each tile includes ‘thuloth’ style calligraphy by Sheikh Hasan Celebi a renowned Turkish calligrapher. Approximately thirty different types of marble have been used throughout the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, and include:- SIVEC from Greece & Macedonia, used on the external cladding (a total of 115,119 square metres of cladding has been used on the Mosque, including the four minarets) • Lasa from Italy, used in the internal elevations • Makrana from India, used in the annexes and offices • Aquabiana and Biano from Italy • East White and Ming Green from China The Mosque grounds also includes the final resting place of the late visionary president of UAE, HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan who was buried in the courtyard of the Mosque after his death on 3rd November 2004.