Though the word is thrown around a great deal, and rather cheaply at that, few things in this world are truly epic.
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).
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.
One of the really striking elements of the mosque’s design is the use of symmetry, and the patterns it produces.
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?
After touring the grounds for some time, I removed my shoes and entered one of four foyers.
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.
The walls, the floor, the ceiling – every inch is as intricately designed as the gold-laced chandelier.
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.
The rest of the marble garden glows too.
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.
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: