The exquisite Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

The facade of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
Image courtesy: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported/ FritzDaCat

It may not predate the ancient mosques of Mecca, Medina or Damascus, or outclass the iconic turquoise-and-gold domed prayer halls of Isfahan, but the venerable Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque has a more audacious calling card. Built as recently as the late 1990s, it has become the world’s most expensive mosque. As its outer perimeters are growing every year to house even more worshippers, no one quite knows what the final bill will tally up to.


Central courtyard of the mosque.
Image courtesy: Nitin Gairola

Inspired by both Mughal and Moorish mosque architecture, and paved with floral marble from – count them – 28 different countries, the mosque has a trifecta of superlatives.

Gold and Swarovski-crystal chandeliers.
Image courtesy: Nitin Gairola

Beneath your feet spreads out the world’s largest carpet, made by a 1200 strong army of the finest Persian carpet weavers. Above your head, hang the mosque’s seven gold and Swarovski-crystal chandeliers: usurped as the world’s largest by neighbouring Qatar, they remain incomparably the most expensive disco glitter balls ever made. Then the piece de resistance: towering above the 1000 columns outside is the glistening main white marble dome. At 85 metres in height, it is the largest of its kind.

Interiors of the mosque.
Image courtesy: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported/ FritzDaCat

Want a peek inside? Regular tours run every morning except for Friday. Remember you are in a Muslim country, so a strict dress code is enforced and women are obliged to cover their head.


This article is an excerpt from Abu Dhabi: the city of superlatives written by Lonely Planet author Mike MacEacheran. It first appeared on