Abu Dhabi: Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Louvre & Heritage Village
March 20, 2020
Today I wanted to tell you about three of the main attractions in Abu Dhabi.
They are Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the Louvre Abu Dhabi and the Heritage Village.
There is so much to cover so let’s get started.
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque also referred to by many people as the White Mosque, is one of the most stunning buildings I have ever seen.
Pictures just don’t do it justice!! The sheer size and beautiful architecture are literally jaw-dropping.
If you only have time to do one thing in Abu Dhabi, I strongly suggest you visit Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque (the largest in the country).
The stunning Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
It is free to enter and everyone is welcome. I would recommend going early in the morning to avoid as much of the heat as you can.
The Mosque is open from 9 AM to 10 PM every day except for Friday mornings. It is closed due to religious activities and reopens for visitors from 4:30 PM to 10 PM.
We were there around 10:30 AM and it was already extremely hot. Drink a lot of water!!!
Keep in mind, that Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is located pretty far from downtown which means you will need to drive there or book a tour.
Here is a video of us approaching it.
The beautiful courtyard, view of the entrance to the complex
What to expect
When you park your car, make sure you park close to the Visitor Center.
There are signs to guide you to it, so don’t park your car in front of the Mosque and think you can get in from there.
All visitors must go through the Visitor Center which is connected with an underground tunnel to the Mosque itself.
It takes quite a while to get from one to the other. You have to go through security, and if needed be given an abaya (more on this later).
Expect roughly half an hour from parking your car to actually being inside of the Mosque. This is one of the most popular attractions in the UAE so expect large crowds.
The Mosque is essentially divided into two sides, one side is dedicated only for praying and the other side is for visitors.
So when you enter you need to go to the left side of the Mosque. You are not allowed to go in the central courtyard, which is why in all pictures the courtyard is empty.
The beautiful courtyard
Visitors are to follow specifically outlined paths with frequent photo opportunity sections, where you can step into the courtyard and take pictures.
Here is a video of the courtyard.
Eventually, the path leads you inside the building where you can see the Main Prayer Hall adorned with amazing carpets and crystal chandeliers (7 in total).
There, you can also find the world’s largest hand-knitted wool carpet.
My friend said that the last time she was here, it was allowed to walk around the Main Prayer Hall, however this time there was a barrier and you can only see it from the hallway.
This is the Main Prayer Hall with the world’s largest hand-knitted wool carpet
There are daily tours that I believe allow you to explore it with a guide.
The tour also provides more information about the architecture and construction of the Mosque.
Here is a link where you can see the tour times. We didn’t do the tour, just walked around.
This is one of the rooms leading to the Main Prayer Hall. Look at that design!
Travel Addicted Unicorn Reminder: Don’t forget that during the month of Ramadan, the operating hours may be different (check the same link above for those).
The rest of the Mosque is also extremely beautiful. The columns on the side of the building and the reflective pool beside them are just breathtaking.
The white marble pillars with floral designs are like nothing I have ever seen before. The Mosque is also beautiful at night when it is illuminated in blue.
Here is a video of us driving by it at night.
The columns and the reflective pool
When you are done with your visit you have to go back through the underground tunnel back to the Visitor Centre, return your abaya if you borrowed one and exit to the parking lot.
They also have a huge souvenir shop with a lot of cool things.
As I said earlier, only half of the building is open to visitors (the other side is for prayers only), which means you probably won’t need more than an hour to see everything (without the tour).
Having said that I personally took over 200 pictures of the Mosque alone so take your time and enjoy the beautiful building.
Sooo pretty look at that
Don’t forget that there is a dress code in effect at the Mosque.
You must wear long, loose-fitting clothes for both men and women.
Your arms and legs need to be covered. If the clothes you wear are not appropriate, they will lend you an abaya (so don’t worry, they’ve got you covered (pun intended)).
All women must cover their hair (the abaya they provide has a hood, so you don’t have to bring a headscarf with you).
There is security everywhere and they seem pretty strict, especially when it comes to the headscarves so please follow the rules or they will ask you to leave.
Don’t forget that this is a place of worship and it’s extremely important to respect that – don’t make a lot of noise or say or do anything offensive or inappropriate.
Here I am in the courtyard wearing my abaya (the one they can lend you is different)
The Louvre Abu Dhabi
I have a confession to make!!! I love museums!! I have been to the Louvre in Paris and that is one of my favorite museums.
So imagine how excited I was when I knew there was one in Abu Dhabi and that I was going to see it. It is located on Saadiyat Island Cultural District (not too close to downtown).
The Louvre is not anywhere near Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, so you will definitely need a car to get from one to the other.
Like everything in the UAE, the Louvre building architecture is very interesting.
It looks like a giant brain surrounded by white cubes floating in the water. And no I’m not crazy, take a look for yourself!!!
The dome is supposed to let through the sunlight to create an effect that the roof is made out of palm branches (that’s what the roofs in an oasis were made from).
What to see
The museum had a lot of interesting exhibits including a lot of Egyptian stuff. And I love me some Egyptian stuff!!!!
Check out this video from the Egyptian collection.
Look at those canopic jars. When the body was prepared to get mummified, the organs were removed and placed in those. From left to right – Lungs, Intestines, Stomach, and Liver.
Pink granite stele of the Egyptian Pharaoh Tutankhamun
At the time there was a Rembrandt, Vermeer & the Dutch Golden Age exhibition which was pretty cool.
I love the Dutch masters (after visiting Amsterdam, I became a big fan).
Make sure you keep your ticket the whole time though because they scanned my tickets for a second time when entering the Rembrandt exhibition.
And I have noticed this practice in other attractions in Dubai and Abu Dhabi where they rescan your ticket later on in your visit so don’t throw away yours!!!
”Self-portrait with shaded eyes” by Rembrandt
There is also a very famous Da Vinci work that calls the Louvre Abu Dhabi its home.
And that work is “Portrait of a lady called Le Belle Ferronniere”.
It is referred to as the Abu Dhabi’s Mona Lisa. It is oil on wood.
There are only about 15 paintings of Leonardo Da Vinci in the world and all of them are in Europe except this one and “Ginevra de’ Benci” which is located in the National Gallery in Washington DC (I have seen that one too).
“Portrait of a lady called Le Belle Ferronniere” by Da Vinci
What to expect
There is no dress code at the Louvre but modest clothing is recommended. Also, inside is pretty cold so bring a little sweater/cardigan.
The Louvre is open every day except Monday. To confirm the operating hours check out this link.
The admission to enter the museum is 63 AED. Price is the same if you book online or if you buy the ticket at the ticket counter.
So if you are not sure about the dates and times, just buy the ticket at the booth. When I was there it looked like they were going to add a lot of new exhibits because some of the rooms were empty.
It didn’t take me more than an hour and a half to go through it. There is also a really nice terrace at the very end of the exhibits.
It looks like you are under “the brain” (the gray dome).
Check out those two videos from the terrace:
From the terrace, you can see the beautiful skyline of Abu Dhabi. If you like museums and have the time, definitely check out the Louvre Abu Dhabi.
Under the dome
The Heritage Village
The Heritage Village is a reconstruction of a traditional oasis village. It features artisan stores where they sell handmade goods – pottery, carpets, etc. and you can find unique gifts here.
There is also an area where you can take a camel ride and see the types of houses people used to live in.
You can watch artisans make all sorts of goodies as well as take part in crafts workshops or different monthly events.
The entrance is free. You won’t need more than an hour to browse around as it is not very big (unless you are doing a workshop).
It is pretty interesting to see a traditional desert village and get a glimpse into the country’s history.
It is open from 9 AM to 4 PM except for Fridays when it is open from 3.30 PM to 9 PM. So be mindful of the earlier closure of this attraction.
Friday and Saturday are the weekend in the UAE and Friday is their holy day which is why attractions open later.
A lot of things are not even open on Fridays so I would suggest double checking operating hours before going anywhere.
The workweek is Sunday to Thursday.
It is a reconstruction of an old oasis village
What’s around Heritage Village
While you’re in the area, you can also see the new Atlantis hotel which was still being built when we visited.
Also, in the area is the Marina Mall which has a white, tent-like roof. It is one of the biggest ones in Abu Dhabi.
The Marina Mall is very close to the Emirates Palace and the Presidential Palace (you can practically see them from the mall). If you want to learn more about those check out this blog post.
View from the Heritage Village towards Marina Mall. Atlantis on the right.
If you want to see the full list of stores and restaurants, then check out their official website.
In the mall, there is also a woolly mammoth skeleton which made me realize that I have never actually seen one before.
After walking around the Heritage Village it was a nice place to grab a snack, something to drink and most importantly cool off.
If you feel more adventurous, there is also a Ferris Wheel right in front of the Marina Mall called the Marina Eye.
We didn’t go on it, but I’m sure the views would have been amazing as you can see all of the downtown/corniche area of Abu Dhabi.
If you don’t fancy spinning around, there is also the Sky Tower. Not super tall, but like I said above, it overlooks some pretty cool stuff.
I believe the entrance to it is somewhere within the mall as it looks like the tower is protruding through the tent roof.
Overall the Heritage Village and the area around it are pretty cool to check out.
You don’t need to pre-book any of the above-mentioned activities.
The only place that had a lot of people was Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque; the other places were not as busy.
Unfortunately, all three places are quite far from each other and we were only able to do them because we drove.
I hope you enjoyed this blog post.
If you want to learn more about the Abu Dhabi history and culture, check out this blog post written by my friends at the Five Pax travel blog.
Let me know in the comments below if you have been to Abu Dhabi before?