This week we venture off to Abu Dhabi to the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, or as it is more commonly referred to the Grand Mosque. Turbulent skies are reflected in the white marble courtyard, a contrast to the quiet tranquil mood of the mosque. Proudly touted as “a construction project to unite the world” the mosque utilized artisans and materials from around the globe. Marble and stone form Italy, Germany, Morocco, India, Turkey, Iran, China, Greece and the UAE were used by a construction team of more than 3,000 artisans and laborers. The 22,412 square meter mosque site is equivalent to the size of five football fields, and can accommodate 40,960 worshippers. It is the most impressive religious building in all of the United Arab Emirates which is home to several notable buildings, the Mall of the Emirates indoor ski slope, the iconic sail shaped Burj Al Arab, and the current world height record holder the Burj Khalifa.
The mosque is filled with metaphors for the Islamic idea of heaven, a flowering bountiful garden or jungle with rivers of pure milk and honey. The outside courtyard floor is white marble with inlaid stone mosaics of flowering plants. The mosaics are large enough to be seen on Google Earth. This lush tropical theme runs throughout the mosque to include the pattern of the world’s largest carpet weighing in at a hefty 47 tons. The color scheme of white and gold are featured predominantly on the inside and outside of the mosque, and are representative of the rivers of milk and honey. The floral print carpet with over 2.25 million knots and an estimated cost of US$8.2 million dollars is not the only world record in this mosque. The nine ton, fifteen meter high by ten meter diameter chandler, the largest of seven massive light fixtures is a champion as well. This impressive chandler hung at the top of record books, until just recently when it was dethroned by a Qatar mosque’s lighting feature. The seven chandlers are bejeweled by millions of Swarovski crystals held by gold plated copper. Although the construction material, fittings and fixtures appear opulent and over the top they are to scale and do not distract from the serenity of the building. In an area that recently experiencing a boom in extravagant construction bordering, if not surpassing the line of ridiculous, the Grand Mosque’s designers skillfully reined in the tendency of over the top showmanship to create a classic jewel in the desert.