Last last year, on my way to Afghanistan, I spent a few days in the United Arab Emirates. While I was in the capital city of the UAE, Abu Dhabi, I visited the newly completed Grand Mosque. It is open to the public except on Fridays. I went to see the beautiful building, but I also wanted to have a look at the largest rug ever woven.

Main entrance to the Abu Dhabi Grand Mosque

Main entrance to the Abu Dhabi Grand Mosque

The Shaikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi is an architectural masterpiece dedicated to the late Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahya who is fondly remembered as the Father of the United Arab Emirates. It is the third biggest mosque in the world after Islam’s two holiest sites in Saudi Arabia; Mecca’s Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina.

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Side view of the Grand Mosque.

The designs employed in the building of the Shaikh Zayed Mosque were intended to help unify the Islamic world and inspired by Arab, Mughal and Moorish mosque architecture. Particular elements were drawn from the Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, Pakistan and the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, Morocco. The mosque’s archways are quintessentially Moorish and its minarets classically Arabian.

Rob Leahy in the courtyard of the Mosque. It was very hot that day!

Rob Leahy in the courtyard of the Mosque. It was very hot that day!

The most spectacular feature to me was the incredible inlaid walls, floors and ceilings. Every surface was marble and artistically adorned with Agate, Jade, Ivory, and Lapis floral designs.


Walls are inlaid with semi precious stone.                             The Shaikh Zayed Grand Mosque carpet

The Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi has also received attention for achieving three entries into the Guinness Book of World Records. It features the largest carpet in the world, the biggest chandelier and the largest dome of its kind in the world.

5. largest rug ever

Aerial view of the largest carpet ever made laid out before the installation

For all its spectacular scale and beauty at the Grand Mosque nothing quite compares to the world’s largest hand-woven carpet that graces the prayer hall. Production began in January 2006 at the Iran Carpet Company of Mashad in northeastern Iran and took 21 months to complete.

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Rob Leahy, inside the center of the Grand Mosque and the amazing carpet

The beautiful green rug was designed by famed Iranian artist Ali Khaliqi. The all wool pile carpet, with cotton foundation, was woven in parts by 1,200 weavers in three villages near Mashad. The design work took six months, the weaving a full year and the finishing work another three months. For shipping, 8 separate pieces were woven totaling 60,570 square feet which larger than a soccer field.

Close-up detail of carpet. Raised sections keep worshippers in straight lines

Close-up detail of carpet. Raised sections keep worshippers in straight lines

The carpet pieces were flown to Abu Dhabi in two Russian transport planes along with 100 artisans who hand-stitch the pieces together for the installation The rug used thirty-eight tons of wool and cotton and there are 2,268,000,000 knots. It is said to have cost $8.5 million.

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