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Abu Dhabi: Al Ain will have one of the largest mosques in the UAE by 2016.

And when the mega project is completed, the new facility will hold more than 20,000 worshippers

The construction of His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Masjid in Al Ain is being carried out by the Department of President’s Affairs and its first phase has been completed, a senior official told Gulf News in an interview.

Once open, the 15,684-square-metre mosque will service a growing population in the Al Ain area.

It will be located at Al Mahat in the heart of Al Ain City close to the UAE University Campus.

“During the planning stage, President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan was very keen that people in Al Ain should be able to have easy access to the masjid. People can simply walk to the masjid from the city,” Dr Mubarak Sa’ad Al Ahbabi, Chairman of the Department of the President’s Affairs, said.

To achieve this goal, the project was designed with “walk-friendly” features.

“Even old people can easily walk to the prayer hall without climbing any steps or use lifts or escalators. The parking area is on the same level. After parking their car, they don’t need to walk more,” Dr Al Ahbabi said.

The Department of the President’s Affairs is coordinating with local authorities in Al Ain to ensure that roads around the project will provide easy access to the masjid.

Construction started in December 2013.

Dr Al Ahbabi designed the project in collaboration with various professionals and is supervising its progress. He has successfully overseen similar iconic projects in Abu Dhabi during the past two decades, such as Emirates Palace and Landmark Tower.

The mosque will be on a plot of 256,680 square metres and will have a big dome and four minarets.

“The dome, being one of the biggest in the UAE, is the most attractive feature of the masjid,” Al Ahbabi said.

The dome has an exterior diameter of 86 metres, an interior diameter of 75 metres and an interior height of 31.3 metres. Four minarets will have a height of 60 metres each.

All these features will be appropriately decorated in the final stage.

The prayer halls will be simple to ensure that worshippers will not be distracted by decorations or paintings.

“Worshippers can pray peacefully in a serene surrounding in this Masjid,” Al Ahbabi said.

Dr Al Ahbabi, who earned his doctorate from the University of Salford in the UK on Building Information Modelling (BIM), said he utilised his research findings in refining the design to achieve about 30 per cent saving of the project’s estimated cost.