Wednesday, June 10, 2015


If you've been following me on Instagram, you've probably already seen some of the amazing places we visited on our trip to the UAE.  After an 11 hr flight from New York’s JFK airport, we arrived safely in Abu Dhabi around 11pm local time.   

Of course there wasn’t much to see at this hour of the evening, but as I peered out of the window on our ride from the airport, even through the darkness outside there was a distinct sense of the vastness of the land. Although I thought I'd be tired from our literal "journey across the world," I found myself laying wide awake our first night in Abu Dhabi. I think I was having a "pinch me, I must be dreaming" moment.  

I was so excited and in disbelief that we were actually in the UAE that I could not sleep.  

Before I knew it, I heard the athan (call to prayer) over the citywide loudspeaker system. As a Muslim in living in American, the athan is something you hear in your home, at the mosque or lately, as someone's cell phone ringtone. But I had never heard the athan being called over a loud speaker, resonating through to the entire city. It was both an amazing, strange and humbling feeling.

After we made our obligatory morning prayer, I watched the sunrise over the desert (breathtaking!) then began to prepare for our first day in the sand. We ventured downstairs to where our hosts had prepared a gracious meal consisting of a twist on traditional American and Middle Eastern breakfast foods. Yum!

With our stomachs full, we grabbed several bottles of water to ensure that we stayed hydrated (super in important when facing that brutal desert heat), then headed out for the day. Our first stop on our first day in Abu Dhabi was to tour the fabulous Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque.   My reaction to seeing the mosque for the first time was probably similar to that of a young child arriving at Disney World. “Stunning” does not even begin to describe the beauty of this place. 

I have NEVER seen any structure so magnificent in my life! 

The Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque is one of the largest mosques in the world and is truly a work of art. The building covers roughly 30 acres and can accommodate more than 40,00 people! With its 82 domes, the scale and sense of grandeur is immediately felt.

The mosque is open to all and offers the opportunity for both self-guided as well as guided tours.  I wanted to learn all I could about this magnificent work of art, so we opted for the guided tour. 

Truly a global collaborative effort, the inclusion of artisans, craftsmen and material from around the world mosque was intended to show the cultural diversity of the Islamic world.  Although the design of the mosques seems like the perfect fusion of Moorish, Arab and Persian design, workers from Greece, Morocco, Turkey, Malaysia, New Zealand, England, Pakistan, and even China contributed to the design and building of the structure.

The mosque is surrounded by these amazing reflective pools and stunning gold leaf capped columns. The tops of the columns are gilded to look like the leaves of palm trees. 

Here I am standing in front of the columns that surround the courtyard of the mosque. Each column is made of marble and consists of multicolored (amethyst, red agate and abalone shell) inlaid marble flowers.  

It was hard not to feel like royalty as we strolled through the marble courtyard.

The mosque is real vision with its striking white and gold facade. It’s pure white domes (made of marble from Greece) and majestic minarets can be seen from miles away. As you can see in the photo below, the inlaid colored marble flowers are woven into the marble courtyard floor as well.

The garden theme is continued inside of the mosque as well.  Marble walls filled with intricate floral designs greet visitors upon entering the mosque.   These golden doors are the gateway to the mosque's main prayer hall.

Inside the mosque’s main prayer hall there are 6 chandeliers, all made in Germany. The chandelier pictured below hangs under the largest dome in mosque. The chandelier is located in the center of the prayer hall and is the piece de r√©sistance.  Weighing in at over 9 tons, about 33 feet tall and loaded with Swarovski crystals and 24K gold the chandelier is exquisite.

The mosque’s Qibla wall (the wall that faces Mecca and the direction Muslims face for prayer) features the 99 attributes of Allah each framed in etched flowers, written in calligraphy and ingeniously illuminated with fiber-optic lighting.

The flooring in the mosque is a Persian designed wool and cotton carpet woven by Iranian women. The carpet is hand knotted and tool nearly 2 years to complete! Just look at the stunning color used. The rug was bought to Abu Dhabi in pieces and joined together on site.  The craftsmanship is impeccable. The rug appears completely seamless.

You could easily spend hours marveling at all of the details of the mosque. 

It's scale, perfect proportions and symmetry make the mosque a designer and an architect’s fantasy come true.  I was completely enamored with the overall design, pattern, color and texture used to create this beautiful space.  From the many Turkish tiled alcoves to the classical Arabic calligraphy inscriptions found throughout, the mosque itself is an impressive work of art.  

The building of this mosque was a huge undertaking and an amazing global collaborative effort. The mosque is a testament to human creativity and is truly a modern marvel.  

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