When you think of the United Arab Emirates you think of Dubai, right? Dubai gets a ton of name recognition with its large malls, extravagant cars & artificially built islands like Palm Jumeirah. But, are we all forgetting about Dubai’s wealthy neighbor Abu Dhabi? After all, they did lend Dubai money to pay debts on the construction of the Burj Khalifa.
Dubai overall has more to offer but there is one thing they don’t have – the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. A larger than life, stunning mosque made of bright, white marble. It’s so enormous & beautiful it seems unreal.
There are quite a few misconceptions when visiting a mosque & it can be intimidating if you’ve never visited one – but to be fair – this mosque would intimidate even the avid visitor. That’s why I wanted to share everything you need to know when visiting the Grand Mosque because you don’t want to miss the chance to visit this incredible structure when in the UAE. ? ??
Preparation for your visit
Dress accordingly – this can mean something different for men versus women. Check the dress code before you go here.
- Women – dress respectfully which includes loose, conservative, modest clothing. Upon entering your dress will be examined but don’t worry if it’s not seen as appropriate you will be asked to rent an abaya (robe) and sheila (headscarf). Read below ?? for further details on entering the mosque.
- Men – no shorts & no tank tops but that’s the only restrictions.
Getting there – easiest way is to take a taxi from your hotel. Uber has temporary been suspended in Abu Dhabi which was a great option before but now I suggest sticking with a taxi.
Best time to visit – the mosque is huge so the crowds aren’t unbearable but I suggest going as it opens or later in the evening to catch the cooler weather. If you go around 4:30pm you might even be lucky enough to catch the golden hour when the sunset illuminates onto the magnificent Grand Mosque.
Hours – Visiting hours: Monday through Thursday – 9am-10pm, Friday – 4:30pm-10pm (open to worshippers from 9am-4:30pm)
Tour schedule: Sunday through Thursday – 10am, 11am, 5pm; Friday – 5pm, 7pm; Saturday – 10am, 11am, 2pm, 5pm, 7pm
Entering the Mosque
Fees – visiting the mosque is free & open to the public all year round excluding the month of Ramadan.
Photos – take as many pictures as your heart desires! The basic rule is if you are allowed to walk inside it, you can take pictures of it.
Helpful hint: do not take pictures of yourself outside the barriers of the mosque before or after you have turned in your rented garb. The guards will ask you to delete the picture. You need to be dressed appropriately to take these pictures otherwise it’s considered disrespectful. Rihanna did this & got a lot of hate online so don’t make that mistake!
Before you enter – before you enter the mosque itself you will be led downstairs for “security” & to ensure you meet the dress code. Men will separate from the women & if you are asked (or you want to) you will then rent (free of charge) the appropriate garb to tour the mosque. They will ask to hold your ID or your hotel room key to ensure you return the rented items. You can, of course, bring your own scarf & wear your own loose clothing. Once you are dressed you can make your way to the mosque.
Take off your shoes – everyone is required to remove their shoes but don’t worry they’ll be exactly where you left them when you return!
Helpful hint: wear slip ons or shoes you can easily take off & on.
- Women – keep your hair covered. It’s incredibly hot if you have multiple layers on but that’s no reason to be disrespectful. You can be asked to leave if you are intentionally uncovered.
- Do not touch the Quran found within the mosque no matter how close you are to it.
- Refrain from displays of affection between men & women. There are tons of people visiting so you probably won’t be called out for this but it’s disrespectful to do so – even for pictures.
If you have time (they are 60 minutes long) take a tour because they are free! This is where you can ask all shorts of questions about the magnificent architecture, beautifully hung chandeliers, colorful carpet, the culture & the religion. The tour guides love these questions.
Take your time & take tons of pictures. Everywhere you turn there will be a perfect photo op so don’t miss out! Pictures are especially beautiful on a sunny day when the light reflects off the surrounding water.
Don’t be startled by the Call to prayer which happens several times a day. You can continue your tour with no interruptions & it’s actually very beautiful & spiritual. Watch my video below to see what I’m talking about.
Leaving to Mosque
This is the easy part – grab your shoes & don’t forget to return your borrowed clothing or grab your ID.
Visiting the Grand Mosque is a must-see when visiting the United Arab Emirates. It’s a cultural & educational experience that provides the most stunning photo opportunities you can imagine. I hope these details & tips have eased your concerns & lessen any intimidation about visiting this beautiful monument. Go, enjoy the view, learn a little & laugh at how cute you look in the traditional Emirati clothing! ?