Our first sighting of The Grand Mosque was from a distance as we drove towards it. Even from so far away it looked so beautiful, elegant, extraordinary and exciting … we couldn’t wait to see what was held within!
The taxi dropped us off in the huge car park, at the far end, which we weren’t too happy about to start with but then quickly realised we were at the entrance area! Glass pods mark the spot where you must take a long escalator down, below ground, where it opens out into a ginormous white marble, open area reception! The queues looked crazy busy … but this is the UAE where calm efficiency is king … so we were actually checked in very easily and quickly!
There were just a few quick questions to answer on an ipad at the self check in area and then we were directed into to the security gates where we were checked over – not just our bags but also what we were wearing! Very strict rules apply here as you need to be respectably covered, with the most emphasis on the females, who not only have to have arms and legs fully covered but also your hair! Not a problem though if you are not fully prepared for this – there are gowns with hoods that you can borrow!
Only once this is all done, and you are deemed fit for purpose, can you finally ascend into the daylight and witness what is truly one of the most wonderful buildings we have ever seen and or had the privilege of experiencing! It takes your breath away because of the scale of it, the beauty of it, the calmness of it, the glorious details of it, the overwhelming atmosphere of it … we literally stood in awe to start with trying to take it all in!
Again security was red hot! Obviously noise levels had to be kept down to a minimum and any silly behaviour was shut down immediately – we saw a Japanese man filming himself singing something and he had to stop and delete the footage! We also saw a lady posing for photos who lifted her arms up – in our eyes simply opening her arms to show off and celebrate where she was … but security took a different view, from what we could understand, that the raised arms made a ‘cross/crucifix’ shape that was totally unacceptable and disrespectful. She too had to delete all photos that had been taken! Whatever our opinion on this we understood that the views and rules of the mosque had to be respected. So although the serenity and stunning beauty was all around we couldn’t say that an element of tension at having to be super aware of what you were doing, saying, wearing, behaving wasn’t there!!
The arched walk ways around the parameter were amazing and framed views across the mosque wonderfully! It is not possible to walk on or across the huge central open air space that has the most intricate inlaid patterns running through it. There is an indoor area that you can partially view which is the praying room – a massive space that can not only holds hundreds of worshipers but also has the worlds largest hand woven carpet! The glittering chandeliers where huge too and must weigh a ton!! At every turn it was detail after detail of the highest quality and craftsmanship.
And just to say that if you are in Dubai it is only a one and half hour drive away and totally worth the journey! There is no way anyone could go there, religious or non, and not be impressed, blown away or leave in awe of the magnificence that truly is this incredible Grand Mosque.