A week before Rihanna's controversial visit to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, I decided to do some sight-seeing and finally drove to Abu Dhabi's most talked-about landmark.
Recently ranked by the world’s largest travel community TripAdvisor as among the world’s Top 25 landmark attractions, I had always been sceptic to visit after hearing about the opulence of the site.
Instead, I was stunned by the Mosque's beauty and serenity upon my arrival.
I directly asked for a 'walk-in' group tour with a guide, which lasted around twenty minutes as he explained the meaning behind the Masjid's minarets, design, architecture and the principles of Islam. I learned a lot of interesting facts, such as:
* Combining Mamluk, Ottoman and Fatimid styles, the design of the minarets fuse the wide and diverse Islamic world into one summation of art and beauty.
* There are 82 domes of various sizes.
* The main prayer hall houses the world’s largest hand-knotted carpet. Its creation was a two-year project, hand-crafted by approximately 1,200 artisans.
* Lunar illumination at night: a unique lightning system designed to reflect the phases of the moon.
The most striking feature was the backlit Qiblah wall adorned with Allah's 99 names and attributes.
I continued the tour by myself, as I found my way to what has got to be one of the world's cleanest and largest ablution rooms ; I followed by praying Maghrib in the spacious ladies' section.
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque was a dream in the heart of the country's beloved Late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan (1918-2004), the first President of the UAE and ruler of Abu Dhabi, whose grave is within the premises.
He once said: "Since God bestows His graces on us providing us with wealth, it is our role to use this wealth for the benefit and prosperity of our people as an expression of gratitude to our Lord."
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