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#55 Abu Dhabi – Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Begun by Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, late president of the United Arab Emirates, The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque aimed to unite the culture of the Islamic world, with modern art and architecture and art. Built over 11 years from 1996, the landmark mosque is the largest in the UAE.

An awe-inspiring site especially from across the water around it, the mosque design was inspired by the Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, Pakistan, and features elements of Persian, Mughal and Moorish architecture, making it a fusion mosque unique to the UAE. It is able to host 40,000 worshippers and is also said to have had a direct influence from the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca. No surprise then that is attracts visitors far and wide, including a family from Kyrgyzstan I met wandering around its columns.

The beauty of the mosque lay in its simplicity, and the detail needed to create that illusion. The floral design in the courtyard is actually the largest marble mosaic in the world, covering 17,000 square meters.

Stonework from Macedonia, Italy, India and China were used to build the mosque, which impresses even more inside thanks to sleek archways and gemstone-covered chandeliers that hang low amongst the curves of the interior.