Abu Dhabi’s premier attraction and most beautiful building explained for tourists.
The Grand Mosque Abu Dhabi
Not only is it one of the most architecturally magnificent buildings in the world, but it is also an active house of worship accommodating up to 41,000 people.
The Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi – officially The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque – is also the resting place of the Founding Father of the United Arab Emirates, the Late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan “May Allah rest his soul in peace”.
Located at the entrance to the city on Abu Dhabi island, it’s hard to miss the Grand Mosque with its pristine white walls, domes and minarets during the day. Or maybe you prefer its soft nighttime glow (that changes according to the moon cycles) and awe-inspiring silhouette? It is undoubtedly a modern wonder.
So how do you visit the Grand Mosque?
- Interesting facts to know about the Grand Mosque
- General Tips for Visiting the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
- Dress Code at the Grand Mosque Abu Dhabi
- Free Tours of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
- Dining Options at the Grand Mosque
- Wahat Al Karama Memorial
- Where to Stay Near the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
- Can You Visit the Grand Mosque During an AUH Stopover?
- Grand Mosque Opening Hours and Tour Times
- More frequently asked questions planning your visit to the Grand Mosque Abu Dhabi
Interesting facts to know about the Grand Mosque
- The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque started construction in 1996 and has been open for worship since 2007.
- The Mosque was built to honour the country’s Founding Father, who was considered a visionary leader who believed nothing was impossible.
- Sheikh Zayed is, in fact, laid to rest on the Grand Mosque site. His mausoleum is in a separate building outside the main mosque complex (out of respect, no photos are allowed here). The Quran is read inside his mausoleum by 2 Imans 24 hours a day.
- The Grand Mosque is actively used throughout the week by Muslim worshipers, accommodating 10,000 in the internal areas and 31,000 in the external areas – they do reach capacity during Ramadan & Eid celebrations.
- The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is affiliated with the Sunni Muslim branch of Islam.
- There were more than 38 contractors and thousands of workers from around the world involved with completing various elements of the structure and decoration. Sourcing long-lasting materials and expert craftsmanship were of paramount importance.
- The Grand Mosque site covers more than 12 hectares (30 acres) of land, and the mosque itself measures approximately 290 metres x 420 metres.
- The mosque has 82 domes, with the highest minaret standing 107 metres (351 feet) tall
- The architectural style (chief Architect Yusef Adbelki) is made from a combination of Mamluk, Ottoman and Fatimid styles – describe as “A fusion of Arab, Persian, Mughal and Moorish” with the purpose of fusing the diverse Islamic world with art and beauty – the result is simply stunning.
- The Grand Mosque is estimated to have cost 2 billion dirhams ($545 million USD) to build
- It holds several “largest in the world” claims to fame – including the largest hand-woven carpet at a whopping 5,627 sqm and the largest marble mosaic floor in its 17,000 sqm courtyard.
- A recent TripAdvisor survey ranked the Grand Mosque as the second most popular landmark in the world, only behind Machu Picchu in Peru.
General Tips for Visiting the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
- The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is open to the public seven days a week from 9:00 AM until 10:00 PM (closed Fridays only between 12:00 PM and 3:00 PM for Worship).
- We’d suggest getting in as early as possible in the day to avoid the heat and inevitable crowds. It can get really busy once the tour buses from Dubai arrive.
- Entrance to the Grand Mosque is FREE; you must only pass through security screening.
- Do note systems have changed in recent years, and you do need to register to enter the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, but there is no charge for this.
- You can download a children’s activity book, ‘colors and art’, about the mosque online to keep little ones engaged and entertained for your visit.
Dress Code at the Grand Mosque Abu Dhabi
- Respectful dress must be worn inside the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque grounds at all times.
- This means long skirts/trousers, and for women, arms and head must also be covered.
- Men must have their knees covered and shirt sleeves.
- If you are not well enough covered, a dressing room is available at security before entering the Mosque grounds. Women can hire abayas (full-length robes) or shaylas (a head covering only) free of charge here.
- Men with shorts above the knee may also be asked to hire a Kandura – a white long-sleeved robe to abide by Mosque etiquette rules.
- You can see our complete guide to appropriate dress and behaviours at the Grand Mosque here
Post-COVID Update: Presently, they are no longer allowing the free hire of clothing items due to health regulations. If you are deemed inappropriately covered you will be directed to the small strip of shops to buy an appropriate covering. They are fairly in expensive, but important to note there is no longer a free rental option. We don’t know if this will become more permanent. Think of it as an opportunity to pick up a unique Abu Dhabi souvenir…
Free Tours of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
- Not only is entry free to the Grand Mosque, but so too are the informative guided tours.
- Conducted in English or Arabic by fabulously well-versed Emirati volunteers, they will talk you through many of the important architectural features of the building and answer any of your questions.
- Due to popular demand, there are now multiple free tours per day or either 30 minutes or 45-minute duration.
- You must be present before the tour start time to receive your headsets, so arrive in plenty of time – you can freely tour the rest of the Mosque and grounds after your tour.
- There is now a FREE audio eGuide you can pick up to accompany you on your tour around the mosque, available in 11 languages (you must leave a photo ID). NB this looks to be temporarily paused as at mid 2023.
Dining Options at the Grand Mosque
No doubt touring the Grand Mosque, especially on a hot and sunny day is thirsty work.
There are now food outlets available in a newly opened visitor centre that attaches the mosque to the large parking lot. Note, no food and drinks should be consumed while touring inside the mosque itself.
There are many nearby hotels (more below) that offer dining options before or after your visit to the mosque.
Wahat Al Karama Memorial
Extend your trip to the Grand Mosque by also visiting Wahat Al Karama – translated as “oasis of dignity”.
The 45,000 sqm monument is located across the freeway from the Grand Mosque, next door to the Ritz Hotel and the General Headquarters of the UAE Armed Forces. The site is a permanent tribute and war memorial to honour the UAE’s martyred soldiers and other Emiratis who sacrificed their lives for the service of the nation.
The site includes a Memorial with distinctive aluminium-clad slabs resting on one another, a Memorial Plaza with a beautiful reflective pool and a Pavillion of Honour. Open 9:00 am to 10.45 pm daily, Free.
Where to Stay Near the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
The closest hotel, and the only one that is really within walking distance if the weather is cool enough, is The Ritz Carlton. This imposing hotel is immediately over the freeway connected by the pedestrian bridge to Wahat Al Karama. It’s also one of our top recommended stays for families with its restaurants and facilities if budget permits.
The best distance views of the Mosque are captured from Bab al Bahr, where there are several hotels, including the Fairmont, Traders Hotel and the Shangri-La. When staying at these hotels, you will likely be charged more for a waterside/mosque view room but waking up to see this stunning beauty? Completely worth it!
How to Visit the Grand Mosque
From any hotel in central Abu Dhabi or Yas Island it is an easy taxi drive, and plentiful drivers wait in the taxi ranks to take you to your next destination.
The mosque is also a stop on the Abu Dhabi Big Bus tour.
From Abu Dhabi, you can also join a (paid) guided tour that includes a stop at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque if you prefer something a little more personal with all your transport included. Why not try:
Visiting the Grand Mosque from Dubai
Even if you are staying in Dubai, the Grand Mosque is still frequently suggested as part of an essential Dubai itinerary. Note that you are just over 1 hours drive without heavy traffic from Downtown Dubai to the Mosque.
You can hire a taxi (looking at 350 AED roughly), a private car (slightly more depending on size/quality of the vehicle), or look into joining an organized tour.
Below are some of our Get Your Guide partner suggestions for tour companies – bear in mind there can be a large price difference depending on whether you are part of a larger tour group or on your own private tour.
Another option is to book a private drive with GetTransfer – simply enter your destination, and the type of vehicle you would like, and drivers can bid to provide your service.
Can You Visit the Grand Mosque During an AUH Stopover?
If you are squeezing in a visit between flights from Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH), it’s only a 15-20 minute drive away by taxi. Allow yourself at least a 4-hour stopover with time to clear immigration at both ends. [Subject to holding a valid visa].
An airport taxi adds a 25 AED flag fall so expect a taxi to the Mosque to cost about 60-65 AED. Your return taxi will be about 40 AED. There is a taxi rank at the Grand Mosque for your airport return.
If you are on a budget and coming from AUH via bus, the closest stopping point for the A1 route is at Zayed Sports City. The fare at the time of writing is 4 AED per person one way. It’s then approximately a 15-20 minute walk back to the Grand Mosque – not recommended in the summer heat but you may be able to catch a shorter taxi ride from ZSC to the Grand Mosque.
Grand Mosque Opening Hours and Tour Times
Saturday to Thursday:
- Open from 9:00 AM to 10:00 PM (last entry 9:30 PM)
- Open from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM & 3:00 PM to 10:00 PM (last entry 9:30 PM)
The Grand Mosque DOES remain open during the Holy Month of Ramadan, with altered timings:
- Saturday to Thursday: 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM & 9:00 PM to 11:30 PM
- Fridays: 2:00 PM to 6:00 PM & 9:00 PM to 11:30 PM
Worshippers may enter at any time whilst visitors must pre-register, though entry is still free.
Cultural tours run every hour and do not need to be pre-booked. If you choose a cultural tour rather than a self-guided one, you will wait for the next group to run.
NEW FOR 2024: You can now visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque overnight as a transit passenger, taking advantage of the new Sura cultural tours. These should be prebooked and run every hour from 10:00 PM to 6:00 AM. Unlike the day tours, the night tour has a small pre-paid fee of AED20, with a maximum group size of 20 people.
More frequently asked questions planning your visit to the Grand Mosque Abu Dhabi
Yes, people of any religion are permitted to visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. If you are non-Muslim, you may only visit during visitor hours.
There is no charge to enter the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. You should, however, register in advance of your arrival.
Yes, there’s no obligation to be part of a guided tour group or to join one of the cultural tours.
If this is your first visit to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque though, we highly recommend a guided tour to get the most out of your experience.
Visitors are expected to dress respectfully for the Grand Mosque. For women, this means having their entire body covered from ankle to wrist and neck and a head covering. For men, this is long trousers and shirts to at least elbow length.
We have a complete guide on what to wear to the Grand Mosque here.
Understandably, not all tourists, females in particular, may own the appropriate clothing and head covering required for visiting a mosque.
In usual times an abaya or Shayla could be hired for free to enter the building, but at present, due to COVID-19 health regulations in the UAE, you must provide your own appropriate covering.
If security deems you are inappropriately covered, you’ll be asked to visit a boutique in the visitor centre and pay for the appropriate attire. If you do not wish to pay for these clothing items, you will not be granted access to the Mosque itself; you will only be able to enter the visitor centre.
No. Often this information is mistakenly shared, but the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi DOES open on Friday. The hours are restricted in the middle of the day to allow for the congregational Friday Prayer.
The exact opening time on a Friday has changed many times since the mosque first opened. As of Janaury 2023, the Friday hours for visitors to the Grand Mosque are 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM and 3:00 PM to 10:00 PM. This will alter during the Holy Month of Ramadan.
Yes, but with restricted hours. These change each year; our information here was last updated in February 2022 to reflect what is published on the SZGMC website.
YOU MAY ALSO BE INTERESTED IN: Next up, why not book a tour to see Abrahamic Family House on Saadiyat Island? Here, you will find a church, mosque and synagogue in the same inter-faith complex. A fascinating look at tolerance and coexistence in the UAE.
Before you go… Important things to consider when planning a trip to Abu Dhabi
- Pop into our essential planning information page; it includes everything you need to know about getting around Abu Dhabi, a handy guide on what to pack and top tips for first-timers on the dos and don’ts, laws, and customs in the UAE.
- Don’t forget to pack your travel insurance!
- Discover the best places to stay in Abu Dhabi, or bag a bargain on your accommodation here:
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