Today I am taking our followers back to my trip to Abu Dhabi, and specifically to the extraordinary Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi. Commissioned by Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan, the late president of the UAE- it was built to unite the cultural diversity of the Islamic world with the historical and modern values of architecture and art. Designed by Syrian architect Yousef Abdelky, the building magnificently rises to such an occasion, drawing on Persian, Mughal, Egyptian, Indo-Islamic, and Moorish elements to tell the story of Islam and Art. Accommodating more than 41,000 worshippers on grounds spanning 30 acres, it is nothing less than extraordinary.
Its construction was truly global at scale. More than 3,000 workers took part in its construction, with artisans and materials coming from India, Italy, Germany, Turkey, Morocco, Pakistan, Malaysia, Iran, China, the UK, New Zealand, Macedonia and the UAE. The structure is predominantly composed of natural materials like marble, stone, gold, semi-precious stones, crystals and ceramics due to their longevity. Its courtyard, pictured above, measures about 180,000 square feet and is considered to be largest example of a marble mosaic in the world.
The Mosque, unsurprisingly, features a number of special and unique elements. The carpet in the main prayer hall, pictured below, is considered to be the world’s largest carpet, made by Iran’s Carpet Company and designed by Iranian artist Ali Khaliqi. It measures 60,570 square feet and it took 1,200-1,300 carpet knotters to complete. It weighs 35 tons and features 2.2 million knots!
The mosque also features seven chandeliers from Germany company Faustig, incorporating millions of Swarovski crystals. Surrounding these are walls inscribed with the 99 names of God in traditional Kufic calligraphy, designed by the prominent UAE calligrapher Mohammed Mandi Al Tamimi. Three calligraphy styles are used throughout the mosque and were works by Mohammed Mandi al Tamimi of the UAE, Farouk Haddad of Syria, and Mohammed Allam of Jordan.
The initial entrance to the mosque features this stunning floral inlay that gives the appearance of vines growing out of the floors and up the walls. It is extraordinary!
Finally, one of the most beautiful parts of this glorious place is the hall of columns in prayer hall. These 96 columns are clad in marble and inlayed with mother of pearl. The pools alongside them serve to reflect these elegant structures, imparting a breathtaking and quiet calm to this extraordinary space.
As Diana Vreeland so famously noted, the eye has to travel. And there are few places I have been that provide such a feast for both the eyes and spirit. The craftsmanship on display here is without comparison. It is truly one of the beautiful sites of the Arab and Muslim worlds, and I wish more people could see it in person, particularly to counterbalance misconceptions about that part of the world. To experience a beautiful space such as this one brings the glory of humanity’s creation and God’s together in a single space- and that in itself is a wonderful thing.