Exactly how did the poor Arab Kingdoms of the Persian Gulf transform into what is now the prosperous United Arab Emirates? A key character in this achievement is UAE ruler Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who united six disparate kingdoms into one country, gained independence from Britain, and proceeded to build a rich and prosperous country using the proceeds from the oil rich nation.
To understand the scale of this transformation, it is important to note that the exact birth date of Sheikh Zayed is still unknown - his birth year has been reported as either being 1916 or 1918. In those days the Bedouins (nomadic Arabs of the desert) simply did not record the birth dates of their children. This is hard to believe given that today's medicine in the UAE is one of the best in the world.
In the Sheikh's honor, grateful descendants built the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque to thank him. When admiring such beautiful architecture, it is difficult to choose words that adequately describe the beauty and luxury this Mosque embodies. This is undoubtedly one of the most impressive buildings in the UAE.
The exact cost of the structure is kept secret and it has been expressed that it is inappropriate to speak about its value given that it was a gift. However, according to various estimates, the figure ranges from half a billion dollars to 600 million Euros. Costs of the more intricate details within the mosque include: the world's largest carpet in the mosque, woven by hand in Iran, cost $8.5 million, and a 15-meter high Swarovski chandelier cost roughly $9 million.
The Sheikh himself was buried on the right side of the mosque, and since his death the Quran is read near his tomb 24 hours a day.
is open to non-Muslim tourists who must adhere to certain rules once inside. Group guided tours are offered:
Below, a guard calms a young boy who has lost his parents:
Within the mosque,walls, floors and ceilings are made of 28 different types of marble including white, pink and green:
Walls are encrusted with gold, mother-of-pearl and semi-precious stones:
Women must cover their heads and all visitors must remove their shoes before entering the mosque:
A clock by the main entrance reads the prayer times:
A majority of the mosque's walls are decorated with floral patterns of ceramic and semi-precious stones:
Entrance to the main hall:
Upon first entering the mosque, a luxurious and colorful chandelier catches the eye. There are a total of seven chandeliers in the central hall. Each covered with the finest sheets of gold and decorated with Swarovski crystals. The diameter of the largest chandelier is 10 meters, with a height of 15 meters and weighing a total of 12 tons.
Intricate patterns cover all of the walls, columns and ceilings.
Walls have a backlight made with optical fiber so as not to distract worshippers from prayer:
Chandeliers of a smaller size are no less impressive:
The mosque contains many shelves with the Quran. Also notice the Iranian carpet mentioned earlier; it exceeds 5500 sq. meters and weighs roughly 50 tons. It took over one thousand weavers two years to complete this unique and intricate carpet, using 35 tons of tool and 12 tons of cotton.
The mosque acts as a cultural center as well as a religious building. There is a library in the tower located on the north side that houses a vast collection of books (both modern and ancient), devoted to science, culture, art and calligraphy.
In short, the Sheikh Zayed Mosque is the place one should start from when exploring the United Arab Emirates. We strongly recommend you visit this grand and historical structure.