10 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE VISITING THE SHEIKH ZAYED MOSQUE IN ABU DHABI
Seeing the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque for the first time made me feel like I had stepped straight into an Arabian dream. The white marble structures and golden details had me mesmerized from the moment I laid eyes on them. There is a beauty and grandeur that cannot be put into words nor captured by a thousand photographs.
Should you find yourself in the United Arab Emirates, a trip to Abu Dhabi is an absolute must to see the iconic Sheikh Zayed Mosque! When Shahzeb and I landed in Dubai, we checked into our hotel for the night and went straight to Abu Dhabi for a quick day trip the next morning to see the largest mosque in the country! It was one of those places I had dreamed of seeing in person for years, and spoiler alert: it lived up to all the hype.
After sharing about my visit to the Sheikh Zayed Mosque on Instagram, I received some really great questions from all of you.
So, here it is — all the answers to your FAQs and everything you need to know before you visit:
1. HOW DO I GET THERE?
The Sheikh Zayed Mosque is ~ 150km from the Dubai International Airport. But don’t let that deter you from visiting!
There are a few different options to get to the mosque from Dubai:
Rent a car (the roads are simple to navigate and there is a parking garage at the mosque)
Hire a private driver (we opted for this since we had just landed in the UAE the night before and didn’t want to burden anyone in our group to do the drive — it took us about an hour and a half by car)
Use a ride sharing app (Uber or Careem)
Take a taxi (there are designated taxi areas at the mosque)
Book a group tour (a convenient option for a large group, but organized tours are my least favorite since they don’t allow for much flexibility)
2. IS THERE AN ENTRANCE FEE?
Nope - entrance to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is free!
3. HOW LONG SHOULD I PLAN TO SPEND AT THE MOSQUE?
1-2 hours is a sufficient amount of time to see the mosque. If you plan to take the guided tour, I would allocate 1 hour for the tour and an additional 30-60 minutes to experience all parts of the mosque. We spent about 2-3 hours at the mosque, including the guided tour.
4. HOW CAN I OBSERVE MOSQUE ETIQUETTE?
Mosques are a sacred place of prayer and respectful etiquette should be observed when visiting. Think of this as if you were visiting a church, temple, synagogue or any other place of religious worship. Leave the loud voices, profanity and negativity at the door.
Food/drinks are not allowed inside the mosque, including water. This is to ensure that the architectural features of the mosque (mainly the marble and carpet) are protected and not at risk for damage.
Additionally, refraining from PDA is encouraged. Shahzeb and I stood side by side for our photo together, without actually putting an arm around each other, as we normally would, for a photo.
5. WHAT SHOULD I WEAR?
A respectful dress code at the Sheikh Zayed Mosque is strictly, and understandably, observed.
Both men and women visiting the mosque are required to dress modestly.
Women are also required to cover their heads with a scarf or a traditional abaya with a hood.
All visitors are requested to observe specific guidelines when it comes to attire:
- No transparent / see-through clothing
- No shorts / skirts (for both men & women)
- No sleeveless shirts
- No tight clothing, swimwear or beachwear
When I visited, abayas were provided at the entrance and were available for visitors to borrow, free of charge. I wore a sleeveless dress and was able to borrow a pink abaya to wear on top of my clothes while inside the mosque. On arrival, I was directed to a room where I could change before entering the mosque. The abayas were extremely comfortable and looked great in photos too!
6. WHEN SHOULD I GO?
There really is no bad time to visit the mosque. I visited in the morning, but I hear sunset and nights at the mosque are just as magical!
The mosque is open to visitors from Saturday - Thursday, from 9AM - 10PM.
On Fridays, the mosque is closed to visitors (and open for worship). It reopens for visitors from 4:30PM - 10PM.
If you plan to visit during the holy month of Ramadan, plan accordingly! Visiting hours during Ramadan vary and can be found here.
7. IS THERE A GUIDED TOUR?
YES - and you should absolutely take it if you’re interested in learning more about this impressive mosque!
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque offers their own free guided walking tours in English and Arabic. The best part about taking the official guided tour from the mosque itself is that they are led by official SZGMC guides who will take you inside the mosque, where you would otherwise be unable to visit either on your own or with any other public tours. For example, you’ll get a glimpse of the biggest chandelier and carpet in the world, as both are housed inside the mosque.
* No need to reserve your tour ahead of time, as the tours are conducted on a walk-in basis. *
Sunday - Thursday: 10AM / 11AM / 5PM
Friday: 5PM / 7PM
Saturday: 10AM / 11AM / 2PM / 5PM / 7PM
To join one of the tours, meet at the East entrance of the mosque ~15 minutes before the scheduled tour time. At the entrance, you will find the Visitor Experience Coordinators and they will assist you in joining the tour (you can also ask any of the security guards or staff and they’ll point you in the right direction).
We were given headsets and our guide walked us around the mosque, explaining various elements of the architecture & Islamic culture and giving us plenty of opportunities to ask questions.
The tour lasted about 45-60 minutes and was worth every second!
8. CAN I VISIT THE MOSQUE WITHOUT A TOUR?
Yes! You can visit the mosque on your own and come or go as you please.
9. CAN I TAKE PHOTOS / VIDEOS INSIDE THE MOSQUE?
Yes! Photo / video for personal use is allowed inside and outside of the mosque.
Media requests for professional filmmakers to obtain permission can be made here.
10. HOW CAN I GET A CROWD-FREE PHOTO?
If you’re curious to know how to avoid the crowds and get a good photo at the Sheikh Zayed Mosque — well, the secret is out: you don’t have to be the first one at the door in order to do so!
Since the center of the mosque is blocked off during visiting hours, photographing towards the middle gives everyone a fairly clear view. You may still have to dodge a few tourists when visiting during peak hours.
We arrived early in the day and caught the 10am guided tour, giving us access to areas that are normally closed off to the public and allowing us to photograph with even less visitors around. That being said, we still encountered crowds near the entrance of the mosque before and after the tour and I imagine the mosque gets more crowded as the day goes on.
I hope you are inspired and equipped with everything you need to visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque on your trip to the United Arab Emirates!