Architecture: Mosque Globally Unmatched

Stone patterns on the walls.(June 2009) Stakes were high indeed: the building was to reflect the greatness of God and the strength of faith. By now the Sheik Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi has been completed, and, as far as the splendour of natural stone is concerned, seeks its match anywhere in the world.

Sheik Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahayan was the founder and first president of the United Arab Emirates. He died in 2004. Planning for the place of worship began under his auspices in 1996. Today 40.000 believers may gather there to pray. It is the world’s sixth largest mosque. Building was delayed among many controversial issues and changes in planning, until finally, in 2007, this architectural wonder, towering atop its man-made mound, stood completed in all its glory. It seems noteworthy that the mosque is open to non-Muslims as well as to believers.

Regarding the stonework, two aspects deserve special mention: the wall coverings in finest marble, and the mosaic inlay work in semi-precious stone. In keeping with one of the Sheik’s main aims of creating a place of worship for Muslims from all over the world, material and experts stemming from the four corners of the Earth were implemented.

Accordingly, architects, craftsmen, and calligraphers from Italy, Greece, India, Turkey, Iran, China and the United Arab Emirates, in all 3000 experts from 38 countries participated. Head of architectural design was Dr. Salma Samar Damluji. After a bumpy start the British Halcrow enterprise was taken on to supervise the work.

Of course only the purest white marble was good enough for cladding the concrete steel structure. With a view to the volume required Sivec-Marble from Greek Macedonia was deployed. For the interior Laasa-marble from the Italian Alps was used as it met all requirements in the face of sand blasting and flaming while keeping uniformity of hue.

Indian Makrana-Marble used to build the Taj Mahal, could only be implemented in small areas as only small quantities can be delivered today. Chinese marble Aquabiance, Bianco and Ming Green were used to build the ablution areas.

HAZ Metal was responsible for the adhesion of the outer siding. Marble for the interior and the inner court (Bianco Lasa Classico) supplied by Italy’s Henraux Company. The interior wall-coverings as well as the ornaments in the flooring were done by Budri and Fantini Mosaici from Italy and Al Hashem Marble from Abu Dhabi.

The elaborate floral patters in the interior deserve special mention, particularly those decorating the 96 pillars of the Arcade. The stone leaf and floral décor were carved by hand using dark Lapis lazuli, various types of Jade or Jaspis as well as mother of pearl 2 – 3 mm thick. These semi-precious stones are inlayed in the Sivec-marble and glued at the edges. The work was carried out by the Indian Saray Company.

The floral patterns on the walls are made of multicoloured marble and glued to the white background. The pieces were carved out of the stone by means of the water jet technique.

Whereas the floral pattern on the interior serves only aesthetic purposes, in the immense inner court they serve a second function, as well: on the flooring they bread the light. On a surface of over 18.000 m² white marble would be much too bright. First the floral pattern was applied and glued to the underlying surface. Then the marble was fitted around the décor.

The cost parameters for the mosque have been quoted at over 525 million USD.

And another superlative: the prayer-rug spreads over 7000 m². It is the largest of its kind worldwide. It was hand made by 1200 Iranian women and weighs 47 t.

Sheikh Zayed Mosque

Al-Arabiya-Video of the mosque

Webpage for visitors

Halcrow Video

HAZ Metal



Fantini Mosaici

Al Hashem Marble

Photos: Halcrow