If anyone has been Abu Dhabi, I think we can all pretty much agree that there isn’t much to do in the city. Although the city is perfectly fine, it’s a business city and for me, there just isn’t much to do in the city. I had a quick layover in Abu Dhabi and decided to check out the Grand Mosque.
The Grand Mosque is one of the largest mosques in the world and a major place of worship for the city. It’s a beautiful place to visit but depending on the time of day and week, can be incredibly crowded. Also, you’ll need to make sure you have the proper attire when visiting.
The mosque is easy to get to because it’s probably the main structure in the entire city. You’ll more than likely pass it on the freeway as you come from the airport on your way to the hotel and it’s so large, it can’t be missed. You should be able to get there very easily via a cab or Uber.
Entering the Mosque
Once you’re at the Mosque, you’ll be dropped off at the rear of the property where the tourists’ entrance is. You’ll go down an escalator and just follow the signs to get your ticket. If you’re going on a Friday or a Saturday, you might want to consider getting a ticket before you arrive so you can just skip the line. Although the line does move, Friday and Saturday are the “weekends” for the UAE so the visitor count is high. I went on a Friday and it took about 45 minutes to get my ticket and through the door.
You’ll also want to make sure you’re dressed appropriately when arriving at the mosque. Women will have to be covered (women can rent appropriate clothing at the mosque) and men will have to wear long pants. Shorts are not allowed and there is no place to rent clothing for men so you’ll want to be aware before you arrive. When I was there, they were allowing men in shorts to enter but there are multiple signs that clearly state the dress code so it’s probably better to be safe than sorry.
As you enter, you’ll be asked to go through a metal detector and security so expect your bags to be checked. I will say that although there is a bit of a bottleneck at that point, the staff at the mosque know how to get people moving through so it moves pretty quickly.
From there, you’ll have to go down a hallway with a moving walkway that seems to go on for an eternity. It takes you all the way to the base of the mosque so it’s quite the walk. When I was there, it was just a sea of humanity that it was a little overwhelming but I was there on a Friday night.
The Grand Mosque
If you have the chance, you may want to visit during the dusk hours so you can see the mosque change with the lighting. That said, depending on the time of year you visit, your first necessity may be to avoid visiting during the day to avoid the heat.
There is a guided tour every hour that you can take as well as an audio guide if you choose. I skipped the audio guide because I was more interested in just walking around the grounds and seeing the amazing structure.
The mosque is laid out in a way where visitors are pretty much forced to walk in one direction. Note that there are multiple areas where visitors are not allowed (if you’re not a worshiper) and you obviously don’t want to be taking photos during prayer services inside the prayer rooms. However, it is pretty surprising how far into the mosque you are allowed as a visitor.
Be mindful that there are men’s and women’s areas and you won’t be allowed to go down the area for the opposite sex. These areas aren’t marked in any different way but there will be someone there to stop you if you try to go down the wrong way.
As you walk through, you’ll see some amazing chandeliers (made with millions of Swarovski crystals) and the carpet in the main prayer hall is one of the largest in the world. I wasn’t able to get very close to see the carpet since prayer was taking place but if you’re there at other times during the day, that section of the mosque may be open to visitors.
Also, as you move through the mosque, you’ll need to have your entry ticket or your QR code on your phone hando so it can be scanned throughout. It’ll be scanned as you go do different parts of the mosque so make sure you don’t lose it if you have the paper receipt.
Try to avoid peak hours and definitely avoid visiting on a Friday or Saturday if possible. Those are days off for the UAE so there will be a lot of visitors, both tourists and worshipers. If you have the choice, you’ll want to try and visit when it’s less busy.
Although it seemed like the dress code wasn’t strictly enforced, you’ll probably want to be safe and there isn’t a place for men to rent clothing. Women will be able to rent clothing to make sure they’re properly covered.