Abu Dhabi may not be as well known as Dubai when it comes to tourism hotspots, but there’s at least one thing you should definitely see here and that is the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
Like the name implies, it’s very big and grand, and it’s visited by millions of tourists every year. It actually reminds me a bit of the Taj Mahal in India, and that’s a very good thing. (although I still like the Taj best!)
History Of The Grand Mosque
The Grand Mosque was built between 1996 and 2007, and it takes its name from Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan, the founder of the United Arab Emirates.
Located in Abu Dhabi, it’s the biggest mosque in the UAE, and one of the biggest mosques in the world. Construction cost a whopping 2 billion dirhams ($545 million USD).
Artisans were brought in from many countries, including Germany, India, Iran, Italy, Malaysia, Morocco, New Zealand, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.
The final product is beautiful and impressive, isn’t it?
Visiting The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Visiting the mosque is pretty easy and straightforward. There’s a brief security and X-ray process at the entrance, but it’s not a big hassle.
After security, there are free golf buggy rides to the front of the mosque if you’d like to skip the walk (highly recommended if it’s a hot day).
There’s also a free 1-hour guided tour if you’d like to have things explained to you as you walk around the mosque.
Hours & Fees
- Hours (Sat-Thurs): 9 AM – 10 PM
- Hours (Friday): 4:30 PM – 10 PM
- Entrance Fees: Free
Being a functional Muslim mosque, there’s a pretty strict dress code at Sheik Zayed, especially for women.
- Men are required to cover their knees and shoulders
- Women are required to wear long sleeves, long trousers, and a headscarf
In either case, extra clothing to cover up can be provided for free if you need it. I wore shorts that went below the knees and this was accepted, but another guy in our tour group had his knees showing, so he had to put on a big white robe.
When you get to the mosque, you’ll also be required to shed your shoes and go barefoot.
The white marble flooring is spotless and it stays cool in the heat of the sun, so your toes will be nice and comfy, no worries!
Inside The Mosque
After walking around the mosque grounds and courtyard, you can also go inside the main building. This is free, again.
Everything on the inside is intricate and fancy, but there are a couple of things that really stand out.
One of these is the carpet, which is the world’s largest Persian carpet. It weighs 35 tons and covers 60,000 square feet (5,600 m2).
The other is a huge chandelier, the world’s 3rd largest, imported from Munich, Germany and containing thousands of Swarovski crystals.
How To Get To The Mosque
From Abu Dhabi
The Sheikh Zayed Mosque is located in Abu Dhabi, just a short distance from the city center.
From Dubai, the drive to the mosque is longer — about 80 miles (130 km) or roughly 1.5 hours.
You can get there with a taxi (Uber or Careem), but it’ll cost at least 185 AED ($50 USD) for a one way ride. Not exactly cheap. The other option is to take a shared bus tour from Dubai. I’ll explain more on bus tours in the next section.
Most people will probably stay in Dubai and visit Abu Dhabi from there, rather than the other way around, because Dubai is more tourist oriented and generally a more appealing place to base yourself.
The driving is pretty tame in the UAE, and roads are good, so another option is to rent a car and drive to the mosque yourself, but in some cases it can be even cheaper to just book a shared tour (see the next section below)!
Day Tours To Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
I visited Abu Dhabi from Dubai, with a cheapo tour that I booked on Klook.com. They have a full day city tour of Abu Dhabi by shared bus (starting from Dubai) for $30 USD, with free hotel pickup and dropoff.
This tour turned out to be very satisfactory. Sheikh Zayed mosque is one of the main stops on the tour, and we were given plenty of time to explore the whole mosque grounds, along with some other interesting places in Abu Dhabi.
Yes it’s a shared tour, but once you get to the mosque you will be surrounded by crowds of tourists anyway, so that didn’t bother me.
The tour lasts a full 8 hours. As a solo traveler, it’s an awesome value!
Best Time To Visit
The best time to visit the mosque is in the morning or evening, when temps are cooler and there are less people.
This is especially true in the summer, because it can get very, very hot in the UAE! In the middle of summer, you’re looking at midday temps of up to 42 C (108 F).
One bonus of visiting in the evening is that you can stay and see the mosque lit up after dark, which makes for some cool and unique photos.
Where I Stayed
I stayed at the 2-star Al Khoory Inn in Dubai for $24 USD per night, and got an immaculately clean double room with cold A/C, great facilities, and good location. Prices may fluctuate from time to time, so just keep an eye out for a good deal.
I spent most of my time in the UAE puking my guts out due to some sickness I picked up on the plane ride from Bangladesh, so this hotel turned out to be a comfy haven and place to recover for a few days.
The UAE is not the cheapest country in the world to travel, so this one was a pretty good bargain!