Worshippers after performing Eid Al Adha prayers and exchanging Eid greetings following the opening of the Shaikh Zayed Mosque in December 2007. The mosque, which has become a national landmark, can accommodate up to 40,960 worshippers in its prayer halls and courtyards. Image Credit: ABDUL RAHMAN/Gulf News Archive

Abu Dhabi: In line with the late UAE President's vision to create a better understanding of the heritage and achievements connected to the capital city, the Dh2.5 billion Shaikh Zayed Grand Mosque has become a national icon and an Abu Dhabi landmark. The world's third largest mosque can accommodate up to 40,960 worshippers in its prayer halls and courtyard, and welcomes 3,000 to 6,000 tourists a day.

However that number is expected to increase after the first one-hour documentary on the mosque is aired tomorrow night across the Middle East and North Africa, on the National Geographic Abu Dhabi channel and the Abu Dhabi Al Emarat channel at 9pm.

Rich culture

The documentary, which took three years and ten trips to complete, will be screened worldwide in April by the National Geographic channel, which currently has over 160 million viewers.

During a press conference to announce the details of the documentary, reporters were seated on white chairs, with white walls, and a white carpet to convey a sense of the mosque's purity.

"We will showcase a marvellous story to viewers all over the Middle East and North Africa before it's aired anywhere else in the world.

"We will then familiarise the rest of the world with Emirati culture, giving them an understanding of the region's rich culture and historic national icon, the Shaikh Zayed Mosque, which will be our first documentary to air from Abu Dhabi," said Rohit Dsilva, general manager of National Geographic Abu Dhabi.

For over 12 years, more than 2,500 people worked tirelessly on the construction of the mosque. The process of its development has been filmed by the National Geographic, which launched National Geographic Abu Dhabi last July.

"That iconic gem carries the name of the late UAE President, and was built brick by brick in front of every Abu Dhabi resident's eyes.

"The vision behind constructing this contemporary mosque is to reach out to various Islamic, Arab and other nationalities and religions across the world, regarding UAE culture. The Grand Mosque is similar to a beautiful butterfly coming out of its own cocoon," said Dr Ali Bin Tamim, board member of the mosque.

Reporters were given a viewing of the documentary.

Some of the details showcased included the following: The majestic Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Grand Mosque features 82 domes decorated with white marble.

The main dome's outer shell measures 32.7 metres in diameter and stands 70 metres high from the inside and 85 metres from the outside — the largest of its kind.

The mosque has 1,096 columns in its exterior and 96 columns in the main prayer hall which are decorated with more than 20,000 handmade marble panels encrusted with semi-precious stones including lapis lazuli, red agate, amethyst, abalone shell and mother-of-pearl. Furthermore, beautiful minarets standing 107 metres are built on the four corners of the mosque.

Italian white marble, inlaid floral designs that adorn the prayer halls, and the mosque's interior walls have decorative 24 carat gold-glass mosaic features.

The main prayer hall also features the world's largest hand-woven, 7,119 square metre Persian carpet.

In addition, the mosque features seven 24-carat gold-plated chandeliers embellished with thousands of Swarovski crystals.

The largest chandelier, which hangs from the main dome, is the biggest in the world.

The Qibla wall is 23 metres high and 50 metres wide, and is subtly decorated so as not to distract worshippers from prayer. (Source: Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority)

  • The Emirate of Abu Dhabi generates $187 billion (Dh686 billion.)
  • Its population is over two million.
  • 60 per cent of the population is expatriate.
  • The number of mosques in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi before the Grand Mosque was built was 2,200.