Abu Dhabi: The Grand Mosque

Early morning fog at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi.

I recently travelled to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates for a short trip and had an incredible experience. It was unlike any place I have ever been (especially considering that I haven’t been out of the States much.) The city was not as touristy as I had initially anticipated, which came as a surprise and relief — I wanted to experience the culture, not just become part of a massive entertainment industry. You can see two distinct cultures in Abu Dhabi: the old, or more traditional, UAE, and the new, modern city, still under heavy construction. There is a strong push towards the future in Abu Dhabi, especially when it comes to architecture, which is evident pretty much any where you go. But there are also pockets of traditional culture that are very interesting to explore. Although I have tons of pictures from the trip, the following are all from the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, an absolutely stunning piece of architecture.

The domed archway to enter the courtyard of the mosque.

Beautiful detailing inside the dome — note the gold Quranic text.

I have hundreds of photos (so many beautiful things to see!), but for now I’ll just share a few of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, a project begun by the late president of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nayhan (whose tomb is also located on the grounds). It is actually a relatively new mosque, still under construction, and there is a second phase of building — for an Islamic center — that has not yet begun. I have a certain fascination with Islamic architecture, and the mosque is an absolutely breathtaking example. When you first walk into the courtyard area (the sahn), you are immediately left slack-jawed by the sheer immensity of it. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves, though.

Looking into the sahn from the outside.

Inside the sahn.

One of the mosque’s four minarets — about 351 feet tall.

Beautiful reflection pools surround the mosque.

As our guide explained, the mosque is designed to be an international mosque, incorporating elements from countries across the world. Many of the colored precious stones inlaid in the columns surrounding the sahn and in the marble courtyard floor come from all over the globe (detailed above). After the sahn, we prepared to enter the main prayer hall.

The sahn was absolutely stunning, but the main prayer hall was just as cavernous and beautiful, with high domed ceilings and tons of small inset windows to let in natural light. Again, indescribable:

Inside the main prayer hall.

The main prayer hall is home to the largest single carpet in the world, made by Iran’s Carpet Company. The rug took two years to complete. If you look closely, you can see the small raised lines in the carpet that indicate where men align themselves to pray.

The qibla (means “direction”) wall of the mosque indicates the direction of Mecca. The qibla wall in the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque features Arabic calligraphy of the 99 names (qualities) of Allah.

One of the largest chandeliers in the world hangs in the center of the main prayer hall, suspended under the largest dome of the mosque. It is made with German Swarovski crystals.

The ventilating system installed above the columns.

The full main prayer hall. So beautiful.

The prayer clocks (adhan) around the mosque were made in London, England — again, embracing the international reach of the mosque.

Beautiful and sunny back in the courtyard!

Those are the majority of my best photos from the mosque, although I have plenty more from my trip to Abu Dhabi that I’m hoping to share soon. Have you visited before? What are your thoughts on the mosque and/or city?

Part II: view more snapshots from my trip here.

Photos taken by me. Please request permission before use.

Love From Chicago

I recently visited a friend in Chicago — the city is so beautiful and the people are incredibly friendly. Much different than the noisy and crowded streets of Manhattan! It was a great few days. I took tons of photos and wanted to share a few shots of the Windy City. Many of these were taken from the observatory at the top of the John Hancock tower.

Panoramic view of Lake Michigan; click to enlarge.