City Visit: Getting into The Emirates Palace Hotel and Shiekh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Touring around Abu Dhabi was a little less exciting that neighbouring Dubai. While Abu Dhabi had a few attractions and things to keep things interesting, it was a much more business oriented city. Although it lacked some of the personality and spirit of Dubai, it was still an interesting stopover for a few days.


This post is one chapter in our trip to the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and the Maldives on United Airlines and Etihad Airways. This trip was booked and credited to Aeroplan and Etihad Preferred Guest. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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City Visit: Getting into the Emirates Palace Hotel and the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Despite the experience at the Sheraton, we had a nice brief visit to some of the attractions in Abu Dhabi. We spent the day visiting the Emirates Palace Hotel and the Shieh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan Mosque. We were happy that we had the rental car, because these places were not anywhere near each other, and would have required taxis over long distances (15-20 km) to each. 

Visiting the Emirates Palace Hotel:

The Emirates Palace Hotel is a luxury five star hotel in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The hotel project was started on December 2001 and occupies a grand area right on the Abu Dhabi Corniche. It was initially operated by Kempinski from opening in November 2005 until 1 January 2020 but management of the hotel has since been assumed by the Mandarin Oriental Group. Pop culture fans may recognize it from the film “The Fast and the Furious 7” which had several scenes shot there.

The Emirates Palace Hotel
Water Fountain Features

The Emirates place hotel had impressive grounds. The interior was about as strange and unique as the exterior. Opulence was the theme of the today. The architectural features include an impressive atrium and high ceilings with gold leaf throughout the property.

Gold Leaf Interiors of the Emirates Palace Hotel
The tall interior compound of the Emirates Palace Hotel

It easily looks more impressive than the 4 bedroom detached house that I call home.

Looking for the Gold Automated Teller Machine:

The main and unique sight of this property was the strange Gold ATM where you could purchase gold bars using a credit card. I haven’t had the opportunity to see this feature ever again.

The Gold ATM

How to visit the Sheikh Zayed Mosque:

The Shieh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan Mosque (or more commonly Sheikh Zayed Mosque) is arguably the most impressive structure in Abu Dhabi. The concept was convinced by the late president of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who wanted to establish a mosque that would unite the cultural diversity of the Islamic world with the historical and modern values of architecture and art.

The Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi

In order to attend the mosque as a “visitor”, you need to check the Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan Mosque website in order to time your visit with a visit time. We visited mosque in the afternoon and took the 5 PM tour. It’s worth noting that as a place of worship, consistent with Islamic Culture, conservative dress is expected and required. This means that no tight fitting or see through clothing, no shorts or skirts, no clothing with profanity or other swimwear or beachwear is permitted. In practical terms, MrsWT73 had to use a veil to wrap her head and neck, in addition to being covered to the wrists and legs.

After the initial clothing check, we were invited in on a guided tour. The mosque was absolutely fabulous, probably the nicest, more glamorous one that I had ever visited. Being newly constructed, it didn’t have the history some of the other famous mosques of the world, but like many things Arab, it aimed to impress. 

Water Mirror Features at the Sheikh Zayed Mosque
The impressive courtyards
Spacious Mosque Courtyards
Arches surround the courtyard

The courtyards represented majestic spaces that easily represented a grand facility worthy of greatness.

Inside the Sheikh Zayed Mosque:

The mosque continued to impress in every way as we were led into the mosque. One of the most impressive features was the inside of the mosque.

Beautiful elegant interiors

The mosque included several large Swarovski chandeliers and the largest hand made carpet in the world. The carpet was built in Iran, bought over in 7 pieces, and sewn together on site. 

Swarovski Chandeliers
Swarvoski Chandeliers
Unique and impressive structures

There are several calligraphy styles that are used through the mosque. The styles included Naskhi, Thuluth and Kufic.

Mosque Calligraphy
Mosque Calligraphy
Prayer Timing Clocks

It’s possible to visit the Mosque on an Abu Dhabi stopover, but before you make plans, check out the Shiekh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan Mosque website to make sure that it’s open and you’re not here during prayer time. The public opening hours can vary and of course, you need conservative clothing. They do not permit shorts and, at the time of our visit, abeyya’s were provided and mandatory for women.

MrsWT73 covered head to toe

She reported this to be a very warm experience being dressed in this manner.

Our Abu Dhabi stopover in summary:

All marketing aside, we enjoyed our visit to both the Emirates Palace and to the Sheikh Zayed Mosque. We didn’t spend any time out on Saddiyat Island which is on the list for the next visit. Having taken in just the attractions, we were happy with a two day stay in order to hit the main sights. I would certainly return to the mosque on a subsequent trip through Abu Dhabi, which is a sheer testament to how impressive this place was.


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