Islam is an integral part of Emirati life in Abu Dhabi. With the state following a tolerant version of Sharia Law, the emirate displays a harmonious bond between Islam practice and westernised ideas. Anyone visiting Abu Dhabi should spend time learning about the fascinating religion and the impact it has on Abu Dhabi, both past and present. To do this, there are several centres dedicated to educating western tourists, in the most open and interesting way possible.
First up on the list in Sheikh Zayed’s Grand Mosque. One of the world’s largest mosques, it can hold up to 40,000 worshippers at a time. As well as its size, its design and décor is astonishing. It has over 80 domes and 1,000 columns, as well as one of the biggest chandeliers in the world – measuring over 10m in diameter and 12 tonnes in weight! The Grand Mosque is the only mosque in use in Abu Dhabi that is open to westerners and non-Muslims, so it’s an incredibly special experience. Care should be taken to abide by dress codes and etiquette. Women should cover their hair and shoulders, and not wear anything tight or revealing. There’s also a yearly festival at the mosque, the Sheikh Zayed Heritage Festival.
Working in partner with the Grand Mosque is the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Centre, where visitors can go and speak to Muslim teachers about the religion. This is a space where all questions are answered, and debates can spark. It makes for an interesting, lively morning or afternoon, where you can discover more about Islam and Emirati life.
From the opulent to the old: Al Ain is home to the Jahili Mosque, an ancient construct built by Sheikh Zayed the First during the 19th century. Its simple design harks back to the early days of Abu Dhabi’s history, when the emirate was first beginning to find its feet.
For more information about Islam, the Miraj Islam Centre is the perfect place to go. Featuring an extensive collection of Islamic art and artefacts from around the world, the centre is designed to provoke awe and inspire people, as well as teaching them about the origins and produces of Islam.