Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi, UAE
Abu Dhabi‘s Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is an emblem of the UAE: alabaster, gleaming and with soaring minarets and 82 domes, it’s akin to a palace. The jaw-dropping creation was the vision of Sheikh Zayed himself, completed in 2007 and taking 13 years to construct. Today, both Muslims and non-Muslims can visit this architectural marvel, one of the largest in the world, with ease. Women need to be covered, a long-sleeved shirt, long loose trousers or a long skirt is recommended, with a headscarf and abaya (both are on sale and available for hire at the mosque), and men are not permitted to wear shorts. Visitors can wander the exterior and even enter the main structure to see the world’s largest prayer hall carper – handmade by 1,300 Iranian artisans – and gold-plated Swarovski chandeliers, the courtyard’s vast marble mosaic artwork and reflective pools that mirror some of the many amethyst-and-jasper-embedded columns. The building is an active mosque and welcomes 50,000 worshippers daily – the main prayer hall is closed to visitors on Fridays between 12 and 3 pm. Today it’s the most famous of all mosques in the UAE non-Muslims can visit.
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Center, Abu Dhabi; szgmc.gov.ae
Jumeirah Mosque, Dubai
It can be easy to get swept up in Dubai’s sun-gilded glamour, but when visiting the city of gold, getting to know its culture and heritage is imperative. One way of doing this is to visit the Jumeirah Mosque, a city landmark completed in 1979 in the historic Jumeirah neighbourhood and one of the only mosques in Dubai open to non-muslim visitors. The mosque is one of the most beautiful mosques in the UAE and is a fantastic example of medieval Fatimad architecture, a style originating in Syria and Egypt, and is carved from pure white stone. 90-minute tours of the mosque are possible as part of the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding and are available on Saturdays, Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10 am.
Jumeirah Beach Road, Jumeirah 1, Dubai; jumeirahmosque.ae
Al Noor Mosque, Sharjah
Sharjah‘s Al Noor Mosque cuts a commanding figure on the Khaled lagoon at the Buhaira Corniche: a striking Turkish Ottoman design with two towering minarets and elegant, almost cascading domes. As one of the only mosques in Sharjah open to non-muslims (the emirate has over 600 in total), it’s a popular tourism destination, and visitors can see the interior with its intricate calligraphy of verses from the Holy Quran. Guided tours are available, and the mosque has traditional outfits for visitors to hire or purchase at the entrance. Make a day trip with a combined visit to Al Noor Island, home to a lovely butterfly garden and art installations.
Corniche St, Al Majaz 1, Sharjah; sia.gov.ae
Al Farooq Omar Bin Al Khattab Mosque, Dubai
Located in the city’s Al Safa neighbourhood, Al Farooq Omar Bin Al Khattab Mosque was one of the first mosques in the UAE to open to non-Muslims and is open for tours for visitors to explore its decorative interiors. The mosque itself is named after Umar bin Al Khattab, a companion of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), and was built in 1986, undergoing renovations in 2003 and again in 2011, when it opened to the public. Guests can delight in four minarets, rising 65 metres high, 21 domes and 124 stained glass windows, along with an interior which contains carpets from Germany and the work of 60 artists and craftspeople from Morocco (the exterior also features fusaifisa tiles, originating from Fez, Morocco).
Al Safa 1, Dubai; alfarooqcentre.com