This morning Scott and I got up early in order to go to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque before the crowds and take a tour of this magnificent facility. Every since we began researching moving to Abu Dhabi I knew that if I ever made it I wanted to go to this mosque. And it did not disappoint – a dream-like place with such grandeur! We spent an hour walking around the mosque with about 20 other people before the tour started, it was so peaceful to be there before everyone started to arrive. Since Islam stresses the importance of the separation of the sexes, I had to enter through one door, and Scott through another. Also, women are required to wear an abaya (the black dress and head covering) before entering the mosque because it is considered a holy place. Here are some clips of our quite morning moments:

Walking up to the mosque via the gardens

The entrance

The carving in the marble is incredible

After donning my abaya I was ready to enter

The floor of the courtyard leading to the main prayer hall is made up of a mosaic of tiles – the largest tile mosaic in the world

In this pic of Scott and I you can see how detailed and beautiful the design on the floor is – its full of flowers, and just look at how big that leaf is!!

Me approaching the prayer hall about to remove my shoes before entry

The foyer before the prayer hall

The chandelier in the foyer – the smallest of seven in the mosque and it is made with glass from Italy and Swarovski crystals.

Next we went into the main prayer hall. While men and women are free to enter it to visit, during Friday prayers it can only be used by men – bummer right? Men and women are separated during Friday Jumma (arabic for gathering) prayers in order to alleviate any distractions from the opposite sex. So women pray in a back room right behind the main prayer hall. When praying five times a day, however, I learned that only the men have to go to the mosque to pray five times – women are allowed to stay at home and do prayers. So, now without further adieu, I give you the main room:

This is the largest chandelier in the mosque and the second largest in the world. Also made of glass from Italy and Swarovski crystals. It weighs 12 tons. The Arabic calligraphy around the inside of the dome reminds Muslims of God’s forgiveness

If you notice, the main wall on the back is covered in flowers. Here is a close up:

On each flower is one of the 99 names or attributes of Allah. There are really 100 but the final name no one knows, and so to honor that mystery, the designer of this wall left the upper-most central flower blank:

The carpet of this mosque is the largest carpet in the world. It was made, by hand, by hundreds of Iranian women and took two years to complete. If you look closely at the picture below there are raised strips on the carpet. We initially thought that it was because the carpet was made in strips, but really these were put there so that the worshipers know where to stand during prayers. They all line up shoulder to shoulder and pray together.

Ok, enough history and trivia for now – back to the beautiful pictures starting with the second largest chandelier in the mosque:

Oh, and just in case you were wondering – the gold on the top of the pillars is real 18k gold. Yeah I know, crazy.

The second group entering for tours

As we left we passed the reflection pools. It was such a great morning. Well, now we have done all that we wanted – time to start teaching!