The Grand Mosque: Art-Unparalleled
By David Belt copyright 2014
In Abu Dhabi, capitol of the United Arab Emirates, lies a marvel of man and stone. The late President Zayed Al Nahyan gave life to the dream of beauty that is now a temple for his people and the final resting place for his body. The Emirates claim their mosque to be the most beautiful in all the world, and they are not wrong. The people there call it the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque; I call it “Art-Unparalleled.”
As I have said before in my articles on Art in Three Dimensions, art is anything with form and style that influences us on an emotional level. As an artist, it is impossible for me walk away from the beauty of the Grand Mosque and not be impacted by it. The magnanimous artwork contained within its white stone walls is breath taking.
I have been to the Sistine Chapel and gazed up in wonderment of Michael Angelo’s miracle. The mural of flora that cascades the floors and walls of the Grand Mosque is nothing like Michael Angelo’s work, but then again, its not paint. In fact, there is not a drop of paint anywhere within the mosque.
77 different types of stone are fused together to create the intricate mosaics. The courtyard alone is over 180,000 sq ft, the largest mosaic in the world.
Of personal interest to me is the rug of the main prayer hall. I have a few, expensive rugs in my home, so I have acquainted myself the identifying marks of high quality, handmade rugs. Upon close inspection, I was able to tell the rug of the main hall was indeed made by hand, moreover, woven into the rug was a series of running boards designed to allow worshippers convenient marks upon which to line up. Finally, I realized the entire rug was continuous and seamless. The picture I was able to take shows less than a third of the over 60,000 sq ft rug. More than 1200 carpet knotters came to the mosque for 2 years to make the rug in place, tying over 2 ¼ billion knots.
I am a big fan of Swarovski crystals, and I make point of using them in my jewelry as I have come to count on their quality and excellence, but I never dreamed of making anything as expansive as the chandelier that hangs above the main hall. It is the third largest chandelier in the world and is composed entirely of Swarovski crystals and gold.
The most amazing thing that art does is that it captivates the mind and brings to the forefront that which we dared not imagine before. As I looked beyond the great chandelier, I could not help but stare in awe of the wall behind. I could not read the Arabic calligraphy that decorated the elaborate display, but I did note their meaning and felt the impact of those words. The words were not merely etched into the solid marble wall. The stone was hollowed out and the words were formed by the negative space left within the stone.
As the art spoke to me, it said that we hold our lives to be solid as stone, but the materialism of our lives is immaterial to God. He exists within the otherwise empty space composed of those boundaries held solid by his presence or left empty by his absence. One does not need to be Muslim or even religious to appreciate and feel the impact of the art captured within the stone. That is what makes art so wonderful. It transcends all boundaries drawn by man.
I later discovered the calligraphy on the wall was the 99 names for God as written in the Koran.
I am still doing my duty from half a world away, but whenever possible I stop to smell the flowers and take in the sites and see the wonders that can be.