I think my religious philosophy is most in line with a quote from the 13th century Persian poet Rumi:
“I looked in temples, churches and mosques. But I found the Divine within my heart.”
While I don’t ascribe to a firm doctrine when it comes to faith (I’m more of the “spiritual but not religious” type), I do find something incomparably majestic in visiting temples, churches and mosques alike. Many of the mosques here in the States are modest in adornment, but there are mosques all across the globe that have architecture and design that literally take your breath away. So, during the month-long holy event of Ramadan (which this year is from April 23 – May 23), I will be featuring one of the beautiful mosques that I have been lucky enough to visit each Monday in a feature I am calling Mosque Monday.
This isn’t about religion for me, but it is about honoring the beauty that religion can inspire. To me, it is that Divine in all of our hearts that connects us. And there is no way to not feel connected when you set your bare foot inside a stunning mosque.
In April 2015, my husband and I enjoyed a wonderful long layover in Abu Dhabi. We had about 22 hours on our way back from Thailand and we decided to make the most of our limited time in such a cool place. The very top of our very short bucket list was the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
When most people think of the UAE, I think the first word that comes to mind is luxury. Things are expected to look new, pristine and grand. The aptly named Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is all of those things. Built between 1996 and 2007, it is by far the youngest mosque I have ever visited, but what it lacks in age, it makes up for in splendor.
As with all mosques, you must take your shoes off before entering. Often the carpet is silky, but nearing threadbare. Not in the Grand Mosque, however. The carpet under your toes is thick and plush, and at over 60,000 square feet (yes, you read that right – 60 THOUSAND square feet), it is famed to be the largest carpet in the world.
Every where you look, there are more unbelievably beautiful details. Mother of pearl inlaid marble, intricately carved wood, and chandeliers that are adorned with Swarovski crystal.
The vista outside the Mosque is probably even more stunning that the inside, and it looks different, but equally spectacular, at different times of the day. We were luck enough to have our visit coincide with sunset, which allowed us to experience it against the hazy pink sky, but also to enjoy the majesty of the reflecting pools illuminated in the evening.
But aside from all of the grandeur, the most impressive element of the Grand Mosque is how unbelievably inviting it is. It is a fully functioning religious building, but there is a significant attention devoted to education and sharing its beauty with Muslims and non-Muslims alike. In my experience, you usually have to find an amazing local guide to make you feel really welcome in a mosque as a non-Muslim, but at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, all are embraced and welcome to share in the Divine that they have to offer.
The Grand Mosque is truly breathtaking, but it is just one of the stunning mosques that I have been fortunate enough to visit. Check back in next Monday for a look at another equally beautiful (but remarkably different) mosque. Till then, Ciao Ciao, Darling!