In all my travels I’ve gotten to visit quite a few mosques, and each one of them has been so beautiful and unique in their own way! But I am going to make a claim that the Sheikh Zayed in Abu Dhabi might just be the world’s most beautiful mosque. When we had a layover in Dubai during our honeymoon in Kenya, we knew we wanted to make the most of our time since we didn’t know when we’d be back in this part of the world.
I was falling asleep at the wheel on the drive to Abu Dhabi. Neither of us had been able to get much rest on the overnight flight from Nairobi. But we wanted to make the most of our time in Dubai and seeing that Abu Dhabi was only 1:20 hours away, we decided to rent a car and make the drive to see the Sheikh Zayed Mosque. And I’m about to share why it was so worth it!
How To Get There
The best way to get to the Sheikh Zayed is by car, and it’s easy and affordable to rent a car from the Dubai airport. You can also take a bus from the Bur Dubai station which will only cost you 20 dirham. Lastly, the more expensive option would be booking a day tour from Dubai which would mean you’d also get a guide and get to learn a bit more!
Entrance and Hours
The entrance to the Sheikh Zayed is free, which is yet another reason to go! The mosque is open Saturday-Thursday 9am to 10pm, and closed on Fridays but reopens at 4:30pm. During the month of Ramadan, the mosque is also only open from 9am to 2pm and closed on Fridays. So before your visit, make sure to check the hours so you can plan accordingly!
The dress code for entering the mosque is strict for women; you must be covered from head to toe including a scarf. You are free to wear clothes that cover you and your own scarf, but you can also choose to wear an Abaya (pictured above) which will be offered to you for free at the entrance. I chose to wear one because I wanted the full experience and like embracing other cultures.
Best Time To Visit
The one downside of the mosque is that it has become a popular tourist attraction and therefore becomes very crowded. We got there at 9am when it opened, and only had a few moments with the place empty before the crowds started to fill the place. That being said, I recommend either visiting at opening or at sunset, which would also offer beautiful lighting and fewer tourists!
My biggest photography tip is to get there as early as possible or at sunset because the last thing you want is a bunch of tourists in the back of your photos. To be honest, even getting there at opening time it was difficult to get photos without people in the background, so you just have to be patient! I also recommend a wider lens, something between 24-35mm. Although we went in the morning, I think sunset would also be an amazing time to take photos here.
With only an 18-hour layover in Dubai, we knew we needed to spend our time carefully. The trip took 4-5 hours including driving time but ended up being the highlight of our time in UAE. In contrast to other famous mosques in the Middle East, it’s ultra-modern and opulent but still, breathtaking. It’s also one of the few mosques that’s open to the public, making it a special opportunity for non-Muslims. It couldn’t have been more different from the mosque we saw in Cairo only a few days later but comparing the two is comparing apples and oranges. If you’re ever in the UAE, make sure to visit the Sheikh Zayed – you won’t regret it!
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