Latest update: For the latest advice on the abayas at the Sheikh Zayid Mosque, as well as luggage storage, see the comments below.
The Sheikh Zayid Mosque in Abu Dhabi represents the culture and wealth of the state like no other building in the United Arab Emirates.
General information about the mosque
The Sheikh Zayid Mosque is the largest mosque in the United Arab Emirates – UAE for short – and the third largest in the world. It was opened in 2007 after three years of construction and can accommodate 40,000 worshippers.
It was named after the first president of the UAE. The president wanted the doors of the mosque to be open to people from all countries and cultures. It should not serve only the faithful, as it is the case with most mosques.
Only the finest materials were used in the construction of the Sheikh Zayid Mosque. Thus, everywhere you will find the very best marble as well as vast amounts of gold leaf. In addition, the mosque houses the largest chandelier in the world – made in Germany, by the way – which, with a diameter of ten meters, weighs a full 12 tons. And speaking of records: The interior of the mosque also houses the largest hand-knotted carpet in the world – weighing in at an impressive 47 tons.
Also worth mentioning is the water basin that surrounds the structure. The mosque is reflected fantastically in the water – both by day and by night, when it is illuminated by dozens of spotlights. A truly magical sight.
Location and arrival
Abu Dhabi is the capital of the UAE and, as many probably don’t know, consists mainly of islands. The Sheikh Zayid Mosque is located in the southeast of the large main island, about 20km from the tourist center in the northwest. So what is the best way to get to the mosque?
From the North of Abu Dhabi to Sheikh Zayid Mosque
The easiest way to get around – as is often the case in the UAE – is by cab. For a distance of 20 kilometers you have to expect a bargain price of about 11$. You don’t have to worry about fraud, because all cabs have a taximeter. I have had only good experiences with cab driving in the UAE.
To get a cab, you can just flag one down on the side of the road. There are always plenty of cabs at the tourist hotspots. Alternatively, you can order one via the Abu Dhabi cab app. Click here for Android or for iOS.
Unfortunately, there is no metro in Abu Dhabi, but there is a relatively well-developed bus network. This is an extremely cheap way to get from A to B, but it is much more tedious and complicated than taking a cab. There are only two bus lines to the Sheikh Zayid Mosque: Line 054 and Line R. You can take a closer look at the bus network here.
A ride costs between AED 2 and AED 5, which is between 50 cents and $1.33. A 7-day pass for the bus is available for 8,00€. However, this is only worth it if you plan to drive around a lot.
Hop-On/Hop-Off Big Bus Tour
If you want to see more sights during your stay in Abu Dhabi, a ticket for the popular Big Bus Tour may be worthwhile.
The buses travel on two routes to all relevant points in the spacious city, including the Sheikh Zayid Mosque, Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi Mall, Louvre Museum, Yas Waterworld and Ferrari World on Yas Island. You can hop on and off as often as you like to discover the sights that interest you. Thanks to the audio commentary on board, you also learn interesting facts about the city and its attractions.
From Dubai to Sheikh Zayid Mosque
If you are vacationing in Dubai and just planning a day trip to Abu Dhabi, a guided tour is a great way to get to Abu Dhabi in a straightforward manner. During the tour you will be taken to the main sights, including of course the Sheikh Zayid Mosque. Prices start from about 59$ per person. You can read more alternatives to get from Dubai to Abu Dhabi in my article. Click here.
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Dress code in Sheikh Zayid Mosque
When visiting the Sheikh Zayid Mosque, there is a strict dress code – just as you would expect under the circumstances. Both men and women are not allowed to enter the mosque wearing shorts and sleeveless tops. Any tattoos must be covered by clothing. In addition, women are not allowed to wear tight or transparent clothing and must cover their heads with a scarf.
Unfortunately, if the outfit does not comply with the regulations, you can no longer borrow an abaya free of charge on site. Instead, you can buy this “overskirt” for about 11$ in the store and thus cover the entire body. It might also make a nice souvenir.
In addition to dressing correctly, visitors should also behave with appropriate restraint. Eating, smoking and kissing are strictly forbidden in the mosque. Likewise, touching the walls and columns should be avoided. Respect for culture should be a given.
Entrance to the mosque
Admission to the Sheikh Zayid Mosque is absolutely free. You don’t need a ticket and no registration.
|Samstag – Donnerstag||9 – 22 Uhr|
|Freitag||9 – 12 Uhr und 15 – 22 Uhr|
The last admission is at 21:30.
Opening hours during Ramadan
During the month of Ramadan, the mosque opening hours are more complicated. Here you can see them in detail. Consider the Ramadan dates for the next few years:
- March 22 – April 20, 2023
- March 11 – April 10, 2024
- March 1 to March 30, 2025
Best time to visit Sheikh Zayid Mosque
The best time to visit the mosque is just before sunset. In this way, one can enjoy the gleaming white mosque both in daylight and in the evening, when it is illuminated blue by dozens of spotlights. A breathtaking sight like from 1001 nights! You can check the exact sunset times for each day here.
Free tour of the mosque
A real highlight of the Sheikh Zayid Mosque is the free tour offered every hour of every day. The so-called “Cultural Tours” are held in either Arabic or English. Registration in advance is not necessary. You just have to show up at the meeting point at the specified time. This is located on the right in the entrance foyer of the mosque. As far as I know, there is no maximum number of participants. The tour is therefore absolutely unbureaucratic.
I can highly recommend the tour to everyone. The tour guides are not only extremely friendly and open, but also very entertaining and knowledgeable. In addition to details about the architecture of the mosque, they also explain generalities about the traditions of Islam and Arab culture; and not at all lecturing or biased. The insight into the culture gained from this is first class.
Another great effect of the guided tour: you get into areas of the mosque where you would not have access on your own. For example, you are allowed to walk in the middle of the largest carpet in the world, where believers usually pray in rows.
The free cultural tour of the Sheikh Zayid Mosque should be taken if possible. It lasts between 30 and 45 minutes. Here are the exact start times for the tour:
|Samstag – Donnerstag||Freitag|
The tours at 4 or 5 p.m. are the most recommended, because from about 6 p.m. the sun slowly sets and you can watch the mosque light up.
However, since it is a popular period, the rush is also correspondingly high. Early morning is definitely less busy. Despite the fact that I am a fan of silence – the mosque, which is illuminated in the evening, should not be missed.
Conclusion: Is a visit to the Sheikh Zayid Mosque worthwhile?
Unreserved YES. In my opinion, the mosque is the most impressive building Abu Dhabi has to offer. It exudes tremendous pomp, wealth and elegance. Whether you’re vacationing in Abu Dhabi or traveling from Dubai, a trip to the mosque pays off. The Sheikh Zayid Mosque is simply a must-see in the UAE. And by the way, access is also free of charge. What more could you ask for?
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