Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Though the word is thrown around a great deal, and rather cheaply at that, few things in this world are truly epic.

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I spent a few days in the United Arab Emirates over the weekend, visiting with family in Abu Dhabi and friends in Dubai. With some spare time on a 45ºC Saturday afternoon, I checked off a long-standing bucket-list item and visited the Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque (SZGM).

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Simply put, the SZGM is one of the most impressive places of worship in the world. It is at once a towering fortress of Islam meant to buttress the faithful, and an ornate garden of great delicacy designed in the vision of Heaven as described in the Quran.

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One of the really striking elements of the mosque’s design is the use of symmetry, and the patterns it produces.

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Incredible details which these photos will never do justice to are the floral designs; each of the flowers you see, on the ground, the pillars, and interior walls is all hand cut marble in myriad colours.

Can you spot me?

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After touring the grounds for some time, I removed my shoes and entered one of four foyers.

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This secondary entryway to the SZGM’s main prayer hall is a massive and tranquil space, agleam from floor to 30′ ceiling. Sun oozes through the windows, casting fanciful reflections, permeating the two-tonne Swarovski crystal chandelier, filling the space with a light that is nothing short of magical.

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The walls, the floor, the ceiling – every inch is as intricately designed as the gold-laced chandelier.

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Upon entering the main prayer hall, it took some time to collect my thoughts and process what I was gazing upon. In a word, the splendour of this 5000 sq ft vision of heaven is moving.

One 12 ton and another two 8 ton crystal chandeliers evoke a feeling of awe, adorning the space as if hanging from the heavens, as brilliant white light pours in from windows above through honeycombed arches, dripping down the walls of milk-and-honey.

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The rest of the marble garden glows too.

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An unmistakeable warmth emanates from the centre-point of the main prayer hall; the wall facing Mecca is a glowing prayerbook to 99 of Allah’s aspects – Allah the Merciful, Allah the Wise, et al.

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The main prayer hall is the culmination of a structure that is at once utterly epic, and decidedly inviting. I felt comforted and very at home, barefoot, on the single-piece 5000 sq ft Persian rug in this wondrous garden of delight.

360º panorama of the main foyer, and main hall:

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