Abu Dhabi: Shaikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, inaugurated a 360-degree Google Street View imagery project creating a virtual tour enabling internet users to explore the Shaikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

The new guide, part of a Google initiative that aims to capture every famous landmark on earth to be viewed online, steps inside the Shaikh Zayed Grand Mosque and provides close-up views and minute details of the inside and outside.

In his remarks at the launch ceremony of the virtual tour, Shaikh Mansour praised the initiative for enabling internet users to view the structure of the world’s most beautiful mosques which represents a valuable addition to the Islamic and human cultures.

“Google Inc, as a global knowledge company and a major provider of tourism, cultural, intellectual and scientific information, plays an active role in building bridges for human and cultural communication between the world’s different cultures,” Shaikh Mansour said.

“This is also the mission set for Shaikh Zayed Grand Mosque which seeks to promote cultural interaction between peoples of the world.”

Shaikh Mansour also noted that the mosque’s virtual tour gives any internet user worldwide the opportunity to taste the aesthetics of Islamic architecture.

In the operation carried out with the cooperation of the management of the mosque, a Google team captured imagery of the mosque using sophisticated equipment.

The virtual tour of Shaikh Zayed Grand Mosque can be experienced by visiting www.google.ae/streetview

Mohammad Mourad, Regional Manager for the Mena region at Google, noted that the virtual tour is part of the internet company’s efforts to design a digital mirror of the real world as well as to provide users with a realistic experience of one of the most important landmarks of Abu Dhabi and the UAE.

Shaikh Zayed Grand Mosque has the capacity for 40,000 worshippers. It features 82 domes, over 1,000 columns, 24 carat gold gilded chandeliers and the world’s largest hand-knotted carpet.

The main prayer hall is dominated by one of the world’s largest chandeliers – 10 metres in diameter, 15 metres high and weighing twelve tonnes. The mosque’s first ceremony was the funeral of its namesake, Shaikh Zayed, who is buried at the site.

In 2012 alone, the mosque attracted some 4.7 million visitors from across the world and took 13th place in Trip Advisor’s 2013 Travellers’ Choice Awards.