Abu Dhabi Layover: Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Long 24hr-plus flights are brutal but when you can tack on a strategic layover? Things just got interesting!

Last year, I chose a 12 hour layover in Tokyo on my way to Hong Kong rather than 3 hours so I could at least leave the airport and try some cool food (I did! Can confirm even Japanese airport food is great!).

This year, on our way to the exotic Seychelles in the middle of the Indian Ocean, we had to stop in Abu Dhabi. Again, chose a long layover option (14 hours) so that we would have time to head out to explore and see a bit of Abu Dhabi and Dubai (an hour away)!



1) Visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi (this post)
2) Go up the World’s Tallest Building, Burj Khalifa, Dubai (next post)
3) Relax with some Fancy High Tea at the Palace, Dubai (next post)

About the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque


Doesn’t this look like a scene from Disney’s Aladdin?

I loved Disney’s Renaissance-era of animated films and Aladdin was one of them because of the exotic setting and stunning palace in the fictional Agrabah. “Welcome to Agrabah, city of mystery, of enchantment, and the finest merchandise this side of the River Jordan! On sale today! Come on down!” – The Peddler

This is the largest mosque in the United Arab Emirates, a key place of worship and designed to “unite the world”. Artisans and materials came from artisans and materials from countries including India, Italy, Germany, Morocco, Pakistan, Turkey, Malaysia, Iran, China, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Republic of Macedonia and United Arab Emirates. The building was constructed with marble stone, gold, semi-precious stones, crystals and ceramics.

Some special and unique elements include the world’s largest carpet, imported chandeliers with crystals and columns decorate with mother of pearl.

Visiting hours and tours

General visiting hours are from Saturday-Thursday 9am to 10pm.

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is closed for tourism activities (and open for worship) on Friday mornings, and reopens after 4:30 p.m.
Tours take place a few times a day – 10:00 am, 2:00 pm, 5:00 pm.

Check out their official website for updated hours: Website: http://www.szgmc.ae/en/

Travel to the Grand Mosque from Abu Dhabi Airport

We took a 20 min taxi ride, and it was a bit of a maze to get in. Try to get your taxi to drop you as close to the entrance gates as possible. We were dropped off on the side and had to walk in the blazing heat.


Proper Attire and Security

Two things slowed us down, I had a scarf I was wearing around my head and wore a long sleeved dress. My knees were covered but they still insisted I cover up more.

So, it speeds things up if you dress accordingly to begin with, otherwise you must get in line downstairs for some clothing to rent.

This is me.


Regarding security, men and women go through different entrances and scanning machines.

I made Eric carry our day bag that had my toiletries in it. He didn’t realize this though, so spent several minutes going through his bag for security to determine what was in it!


Once we finally got through security and got myself dressed, we didn’t have much time!

We only walked around a small section of the Grand Mosque.

The Grand Mosque in ~10 minutes


Gorgeous artwork – water mirror and columns.


Really beautiful gold decorations and flowers.


Pristine white.


I think coming back at night and sunset would be really gorgeous too!

But, we had to make our Etihad bus connection and ran downstairs to return clothes and hail a taxi to the airport.

Transportation between Abu Dhabi and Dubai


We booked with Etihad which offered a complimentary shuttle between Abu Dhabi and Dubai. You can also pay a small fee to use this if you’re not flying Etihad.

You must book this in advance and indicate your arrival time. The bus seemed to leave every couple of hours.

Note: The schedule online was different than the schedule in real life, which was super annoying! It cut into my time at the Grand Mosque, but since we was already here, we went for the quick visit anyways!

Airport Lounges

One thing that helped with this long flight and connection, was having access to the Abu Dhabi Airport lounges where we could shower and get clean!


(For more on cheap travel perks like airport lounges – check out my post on the benefits of Travel Credit Cards, specifically, the American Express)

View my Abu Dhabi and Dubai Flickr Gallery here.

Next: Dubai layover – Burj Khalifa, World’s Tallest Building and Our Afternoon Tea Buffet Experience

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *