The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is a must see attraction in Abu Dhabi. If you are thinking of visiting this beautiful mosque here are 10 tips to make the most of your visit and have a great experience. Even if you have visited the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in the past, a few things have changed in the last few years.
Tips for Visiting the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi
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1. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is free to visit.
Admission to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is free. Guided tours are also free.
2. Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque visiting hours.
Normal visiting hours are 9 am to 10 pm (last admission 09:30 pm) on Saturday – Thursday. On Fridays, the mosque is open from 9:00am to 12:00pm (last admission 1:30 am) and reopens from 3:00 pm. to 10:00 pm (last admission 09:30 pm).
Visiting hours are different during the month of Ramadan so make sure to check the official website if visiting at that time.
3. Take a free guided tour.
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque offers free cultural tours tours at designated times. Tours are led by official SZGMC Guides who take visitors around the mosque explaining various elements of the architecture and Islamic culture and answer any questions.
Tours run for approximately 30 and 45 minutes. You don’t have to register for the tour in advance just show up at the starting point of the tour. Here is the link to the mosque’s official website for the current tour schedule. There is also a sign posted at the mosque that lists the time of the next tour.
I recommend taking the tour if your timing allows. In addition to learning interesting facts about the mosque, the tour allows you to visit parts of the mosque not open to the general public.
On my tour we were allowed to walk on the carpet inside the Main Prayer Hall while other visitors were not allowed inside.
4. There is a strict dress code.
Visitors are expected to adhere to the dress code which is posted at the mosque and on the mosque’s official website and is strictly enforced.
Women must wear long loose fitting trousers, dresses or skirts as well as long sleeves and a headscarf. Men must wear pants and cannot wear shorts or sleeveless shirts.
Before COVID-19, the mosque used to lend women abayas (traditional attire for women that looks like a long robe), but that is no longer the case. There is a store you will pass by on the way to the mosque where you can purchase an abaya if you are not properly covered up.
Visitors do not have to remove shoes to walk around on the outside grounds of the mosque. Shoes are not allowed inside the mosque (which is not open to the public unless you are on a guided tour).
5. Bring sunglasses.
Unless you are visiting the Grand Mosque after sunset, make sure to bring sunglasses. Abu Dhabi is very sunny in general but at the mosque the sun reflects off the white marble making it especially bright.
6. Allow sufficient time for the long walk through the visitor center to the mosque.
If you previously visited the mosque several years ago, you will see a big difference when you return. There is now a new visitor center that you will have walk through to reach the mosque from the entrance.
To get to the mosque, you will enter through a glass dome, take an escalator down and then walk through a long underground passageway to another glass dome where you go up the escalator and exit near the mosque grounds. Towards the end of the passageway, you will need to print a ticket from one of the kiosks and show it to security and go through the metal detectors. The underground visitor center also has several restaurants and a souvenir shop.
The underground passageway requires a long walk (so wear comfortable shoes). You can expect that it will take you at least 10-15 minutes to walk through and reach the mosque from the entrance depending how fast you walk and how crowded it is. Keep this in mind and allow sufficient walking time if you are trying to reach the mosque in time for a tour or the sunset. If you have difficulty walking, there are several airport style people movers to help you along and also carts available as well.
7. Food and drink is not allowed on mosque grounds.
Visitors are not allowed to bring food or beverages (even water) to the mosque to ensure the mosque (particularly the delicate marble and carpet) is not damaged.
There are water fountains on the mosque grounds so you don’t have to worry about getting dehydrated during your visit.
If you need to eat before or after your visit, several restaurants (including large chains such as Starbucks and McDonalds, etc.) are located in the underground passage way that connects the mosque to the entrance.
8. Follow the rules and be respectful.
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is not just a tourist attraction – it is an active place of worship so be respectful and follow the rules. In addition to abiding by the dress code, don’t yell, make gestures, sit or lie on the ground or take disrespectful photos. Rihanna was asked to leave the mosque in 2013 for taking inappropriate photos.
You will see plenty of security guards that walk around the grounds enforcing the rules, giving warnings and preventing visitors from visiting restricted areas.
Below is a photo of the sign with the mosque rules.
9. What is the best time to visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque?
I would recommend visiting either first thing in the morning right after the mosque opens OR before sunset. Avoid the middle of the day since it can get very hot and the lighting will probably not be as great for photos.
When researching my trip, I read that the golden hour before sunset was one of the best times to visit the mosque for photography because you can take photos of the mosque when the light is soft and you can stick around to take photos during the sunset and in the evening. I also read that the morning right after the mosque opens at 9 am was a good time to visit because it is less crowded and the temperature was not as hot.
I was not sure which time to go so I ended visiting twice – the first time before sunset and the second time in the morning. I thought both times were good for different reasons.
Visiting the Mosque Around Sunset. While the lighting was good before sunset and the mosque was beautiful around sunset, it was very very crowded with tourists. (Parts of the mosque are roped off to visitors including the courtyard in front of the mosque, so you can take photos from behind the rope with no other people in your photos.)
I did not get a chance to take many photos during the golden hour before sunset because I chose to join a tour and was inside the mosque for part of that time. Below are a couple of photos of the mosque taken around sunset.
Visiting the Mosque In the Morning. We also briefly stopped by the mosque again right after it opened at 9am the next morning and the mosque was significantly less crowded. The mosque was beautiful in the morning because the marble looked really white against the very blue sky. Although it was sunny, the temperature did not feel as hot as it did around sunset. Below are a couple of photos of the mosque in the morning:
As you can see the mosque looks different depending what time of the day you visit. Since it is free to visit, if you have time you can visit both in the morning and around sunset if you have the time.
10. Getting to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
From Abu Dhabi: The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is located in Abu Dhabi about halfway between the Abu Dhabi Airport and the Corniche. If you are staying in Abu Dhabi you can take a bus, taxi, Uber or Careem. Please note that Uber and Careem are more expensive than taxis. If you take a taxi to the mosque you don’t have to worry about finding another taxi when leaving the mosque, there are plenty of taxis waiting in the parking lot.
From Dubai: You can also visit the mosque if you are staying in Dubai and many tourists do. The cheapest way to visit from Dubai is to take the bus and transfer to a local bus – but it will take at least twice as long as driving.
The mosque is approximately a 60-90 minute drive from Dubai and you can either rent a car, take a taxi (approximate cost is $55-75 USD one way according to rome2rio) or rideshare or book a private transfer.
For 1 or 2 people a guided day tour might be a better value than a taxi plus you can visit a few other attractions in Abu Dhabi. Below are a few day tours from Dubai that visit the mosque:
Hopefully these tips have prepared you to visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi and you know what to expect.