Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

LASA marble for a new fairy tale from 1001 Nights

The Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi, planned and built from 1996 to 2007, is one of the largest mosques in the world and, as a modern wonder of the Arab-Islamic world, also an architectural masterpiece. Due to the quantities required, over thirty different types of precious marble were used to cover an area of almost 22,412 m2 (241,240.76 sq ft). For the wall and floor cladding in the large house of prayer and the associated entrance halls, the clients and planners opted for two exclusive commercial varieties of LASA MARMO: LASA BIANCO CLASSICO® and LASA BIANCO ORTLES®. These two varieties of marble, extracted from the Lasa (Laas) White-Water quarry, were the only ones among all the marble varieties selected worldwide to meet the special requirements for polished, sandblasted and bush-hammered surfaces with a uniform basic tone. LASA MARMO supplied 20,000 m2 (215,278.21 sq. ft) for the installation. Furthermore, more than 27,000 m3 (953,496 ft3) of LASA marble were processed into solid parts for design elements.

The mosque is named after Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, whose grave is located on the grounds. The Emir, who died in 2004, was the founder and first president of the United Arab Emirates. The planning for the mosque, which today offers space for 40,000 worshippers, had already begun under his direction in 1996. The construction of the world's third-largest mosque in terms of area dragged on with many delays and new plans until the marvel, visible from afar, was completed at the end of 2007 on an artificial hill at the south-eastern end of the main island. Today, the magnificent Sheikh Zayed Mosque in gleaming white, the colour of peace, looks like a paradisiacal fairy tale from 1001 Nights when it appears like a mirage in the desert dust around Abu Dhabi.

In terms of stonework, two aspects should be emphasised: on the one hand, the cladding of the walls with the finest marble, and on the other, the mosaic and inlay work with semi-precious stones. Here, another of the Sheikh's objectives came into play, namely to build a place of worship for Muslims from all over the world, to use materials from many countries accordingly and to involve international experts. Thus, numerous architects, artisans and calligraphers from 38 countries were involved in the project. The Iraqi-British architect Prof. Salma Samar Damluji was in charge of the design. The Syrian-British architect Yusef Abdelki was commissioned with the construction management.

For the planners of the mosque, only pure white marble types were considered. In view of the enormous quantities of marble required, several different types of white marble had to be used. The marble from Lasa (Laas) makes its main appearance in the interior of the large prayer hall as well as the front and two side entrance halls.

LASA marble in the main prayer hall

Anyone who enters the main prayer hall cannot believe their eyes. A huge room flooded with light and with oversized arches opens up and shows a magnificence that can hardly be described. The walls of the hall above numerous door and window arches consist of around 2,500 panels of the commercial grade LASA BIANCO CLASSICO®. As per the ground plan the hall is about 150 metres (492,126 ft) long and about 45 metres (147,638 ft) wide. These were cut into different sized shapes using water jet cutting machines and frame various floral motifs. For these inlays, glass, enamel and gold mosaics were worked into the sandblasted, bush-hammered and polished LASA marble. LASA BIANCO CLASSICO® was also chosen as the material for cladding the building structure of the wall areas below. Here, the surfaces were polished to a glossy finish. The surfaces of 46 pilaster strips as well as the surfaces of the Moorish arches above, including the massive top parts of the pilaster heads and the kerbstones for framing the arches, were also clad in this warmly tempered white LASA marble, with barely visible greenish flow marks. This also includes the wall surfaces of the central three-part entrance portal and those of the smaller side portals. The framing surfaces of the doors between the pilasters, as well as the capitals and cornices placed on the half pilasters, represent a special contrast to the polished surfaces. Oriental ornaments have been milled into these structural elements on the sandblasted surface here. The wall panels also flank the religious centrepiece of the mosque, the Qibla Wall. As in all mosques, this prayer wall faces Mecca. Polished and honed LASA marble of the commercial variety LASA BIANCO ORTLES® was used as the finishing material for the floor of the prayer hall. It forms the frame for the largest carpet in the world, knotted in one piece. This enormous work of art is larger than a football field and weighs around 50 tonnes. Cold-tempered LASA marble was also used on the floor in the intermediate areas of the 96 columns that support the main prayer hall and its three domes. The kerbstones, cornice elements and the surfaces between the large connecting arches above the columns are also made of LASA marble. Here, too, oriental ornaments were milled into the sandblasted elements. In total, more than 15,000 m2 (161,458.66 sq. ft) of LASA marble were processed and laid for surfaces in the large prayer hall.

LASA marble in the vestibules

Even before entering the large prayer room, the worshipper or visitor reaches one of the vestibules. They form the central main entrance as well as the north and south entrances to the prayer hall. The central main entrance is characterised by a three-part portal. Here, all wall surfaces in the interior are clad with the commercial variety LASA BIANCO CLASSICO® of LASA MARMO. The floor surfaces were covered with polygonal slabs of the commercial grade LASA BIANCO ORTLES®. The special feature: Magnificent inlays can be admired, which decorate the walls in a network of flowers made of semi-precious stones and then continue in the floor. Here, too, the shapes were cut out using water-jet cutting techniques. In the two smaller side porches, the walls and floors are decorated with the same types. In contrast to the large vestibule, however, the artistically worked-in floral inlays are only found here in the floor panels. In total, around 6,500 m2 (69,965.42 sq. ft) of surface area and over 22,000 m3 (776,922.67 ft3) of solid parts and building elements, including lesenes, capitals, pilaster bases, door frame surfaces, wall parts, arches and cornerstones, were laid with LASA marble in the vestibules.

The Grand Mosque can also be visited by non-Muslims. Thus, the fascination of the workmanship of LASA marble in this extraordinary and impressive building is accessible and can be experienced by everyone.
For LASA MARMO, this contract is one of the largest and most important orders.

Project information

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, 2006-2008

Product: Wall covering inside Lasa Bianco Ortles, floors in Lasa Bianco Ortles

Volume: 15.000 m2

Surface: Wall covering inside polished, sandblasted and bush hammered, floors polished and honed

Architect: Yusef Abdelki

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