It is named after the founder and first President of the UAE, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. He chose the location and took substantial influence on the architecture and the design of the mosque. Based on his vision, the mosque was built with a rise of 11 meters above sea level, and 9.5 meters above the street level so that it is clearly visible from all directions.
It is built as a monument to consolidate Islamic culture and a prominent center for Islamic sciences. According to his wish, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is also the last resting place of its name giver, who passed away in 2004.
As per the direction of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the mosque is located in the heart of the new Abu Dhabi between Musaffah Bridge and Maqta Bridge. The construction of AED 2.5 billion projects began in late 1996. Approximately 38 contracting companies and about 3,500 workers helped to realize the complex over a period of almost 12 years.
On the 20th of December 2007, the mosque was initially opened to the public and prayers. The first prayer was held in the presence of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE.
After the first phase involving foundations and the concrete structure, the mosque was finished with a decoration of Greek and Italian white marble, which is considered to be among the purest of the world.
For the interior design, calligraphers from the United Arab Emirates, Syria and Jordan supervised the work of artists from all over the world. Verses from the Holy Quran are written in three types of Arabic calligraphy.
The mosque’s spectacularly decorated interior features unique plants designed specifically for the mosque, as well as verses from the Holy Quran. In addition, the designers have also used mosaic to cover the entire courtyard (17,000 square meters) and thus it is considered among the largest open spaces in mosques worldwide.
Major international companies specialized in the manufacturing of crystal chandeliers garnished the mosque with seven gold-plated chandeliers in different sizes, made of Swarovski crystals. The largest of the lusters is the largest in the world.
Another astonishing feature of the mosque is the over 5,625 m2 large carpet in the main prayer hall. It has been hand-knotted by about 1,300 Iranian craftsmen out of 35 tons of wool and 12 tons of cotton. With a total of 2,268,00 knots, the carpet is the largest in the world. Its estimated value is about 30 million.
Colored with 25 natural colors, the green color is predominant as it was the favorite color of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. Included into the carpet are horizontal lines which are slightly raised over the primary carpet-height. These are for the worshipper’s alignment. The effect of the special knotting technique is that the lines are not visible from a distance, but only for the worshippers.
In August 2007 the Iranian masterpiece was dissected and brought to Abu Dhabi, where it was fixed together again in the mosque.
The mosque is open for prayers all day long. For the non-Muslim visitors, the visiting time is from 9 AM – 10 PM every day except for Friday mornings. Visit timing changes during the holy month of Ramadan.