sheikh zayed mosque

Photographing Sheikh Zayed Mosque

Photographing Sheikh Zayed Mosque is really a pleasure for your eyes. The lavish and bright white Sheikh Zayed Mosque is a perfect place for shooting photos if you visit the United Arab Emirates. 

Located in Abu Dhabi but easily reachable also from Dubai being just one hour and half drive away, this modern mosque is one of the biggest in the world

It took twelve years to build it at a cost of nearly USD 500 million but once opened in 2007, the Mosque, beside attracting muslim worshippers obviously it became also an iconic attraction for many tourists. And photographers. This is also because the Sheikh Zayed Mosque is one of the very few mosques in the United Arab Emirates open also to non-Muslim visitors.


The breath-taking white mosque is an an exceptional piece of modern Islamic architecture rising elegantly to the sky with its four 107m-high minarets and a roofline topped with over eighty white marble domes. Its architectural references are an amazing mix of traditional Mamluk, Ottoman and Fatimid styles translated into a contemporary and innovative language. Modern floral designs inlaid with semi-precious stones, like red agate and amethyst provide with adorning a great variety of marbles and contrast nicely with the more traditional geometric ceramic details.

The entrance to the mosque through a vast courtyard provides many shooting opportunities to the whole structure thanks to hundreds of pillars and arcades richly carved and decorated with floral designs and inlaid with semi-precious stones which can frame ideal backdrops. The pools provide stunning reflections of the lined exterior arcades.

Inside the building you find plenty of interesting low angle views shooting dominated by domes, arcades and three steel, gold, brass and crystal chandeliers filling the whole interior with shafts of primary colored light. For more photos take a look also to the richly adorned glassy doors and look carefully to the floral-patterned interiors for interesting details and close-ups. Look also for low angle shots of the world’s largest loomed carpet hosted in the prayer hall.

Tripod is allowed outside the mosque and also in the main courtyard but not inside the Mosque. By the way, be always discrete while you use it and also when you are shooting photos. Remember you are inside a religious building and you have to respect the local worshippers. If you want to shoot a picture with a worshipper in always ask him gently for permission first.


The strong exterior day light combined with the bright white marble of the Sheikh Zayed Mosque allow you to shoot with very low ISO values while exploring the vast courtyard and the exterior. Inside you’ll have to rise the value but you should still manage to shoot under ISO800 if it’s a clear day outside.

Best light to shoot images of the exterior and the courtyard is at early morning or late afternoon when you can count on more gentle tones and colors. Remember, normally, late afternoon is very crowded as you will have plenty of tourists and worshippers between you and the single shot subjects. If you want to shoot more intimate photos to represent the beauty of the sacred place, you have to come very early in the morning.

Night is also a fantastic moment to shoot photos of the vast courtyard and exteriors as the lightly blue illuminated courtyard is in sharp contrast to the white arcades and columns which are reflected into the single pools. You can really shoot amazing photos by night! Though it can be extremely hot, you can take some great photos also during the day as you get a strong contrast between the blue sky and the white marble of the building. Use a circular polarizer to enhance such a light contrast.


Quickest and easiest way to reach Sheikh Zayed Mosque from downtown Abu Dhabi is by taxi (AED 25 or 6€). The ride takes about 10 minutes in ordinary traffic conditions. Alternatively, you can go by bus by catching RTA Bus lines 32, 34 or 54 which will drop you about 5 minute walk from the Mosque.

Also, you may be interested in these further photography tips:


Stefano Politi Markovina