Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates hosts the third largest mosque in the world – the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

It is named after the late founder and first President of the UAE, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (who, by his own wishes, is also laid to rest there). 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 the rise of 11 metres above sea level, and 9.5 metres 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 centre for Islamic sciences – a structure which unites the cultural diversity of Islamic world, the historical and modern values of architecture and art.

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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-project began in the late 1996. Approximately 38 contracting companies and about 3,500 workers helped realising 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.

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The complex covers an area of 22,412 square metres – 33,000 tons of steel and 250,000 cubic metres of concrete makes up the structure which lays on around 6,500 foundation piles. The courtyard has a total of 1,048 columns, with a total of 82 domes counted as belonging to the mosque.

The main dome is the largest mosque dome in the world: 85 metres high with a diameter of 32.8 metres. Some 41,000 worshippers can be accommodated in the mosque, 7,126 in the main prayer hall.

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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 Holly Quran. In addition, the designers have also used mosaic to cover the entire courtyard (17,000 square metres) and thus it is considered among the largest open spaces in mosques worldwide.

Major international companies specialised 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 lustres is the largest in the world.

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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.

Coloured with 25 natural colours, the green colour is predominant as it was the favourite colour 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.

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The library, located in the north/east minaret, serves the community with classic books and publications addressing a range of Islamic subjects: sciences, civilization, calligraphy, the arts, coins and includes some rare publications dating back more than 200 years. In reflection of the diversity of the Islamic world and the United Arab Emirates, the collection comprises material in a broad range of languages, including Arabic, English, French, Italian, Spanish, German and Korean.

As the country’s grand mosque, it is the key place of worship for Friday gathering and Eid prayers. During Eid it can be visited by more than 40,000 people.

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.

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheikh_Zayed_Mosque