The British lighting design company Speirs & Major Associates was entrusted with the interior lighting design for all front-of-house areas of the Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Mosque or simply the Grand Mosque of Abu Dhabi, a true religious icon in the United Arab Emirates.

The challenge was to create well lit spaces highlighting architectural features, yet providing substantial functional light without exposing luminaires. Another objective was to create strong lit image for normal, civic and TV events.
The Mosque, which accommodates more than 30,000 worshippers and is the sixth largest in the world, provided the perfect canvas for Speirs & Major to win the best interior lighting design for a Public Building and the coveted prize for Project of the Year at the Middle East Lighting Design Awards.
Along with concept design and workshops, mock-ups were required such that layered lighting effects created a single lit composition. Well concealed light sources in feature designed coves, niches, ledges and behind musharabia details hid many of the light sources.

The result is that the building appears to emit light and glow with a natural luminance. Each of the 34 constantly lit domes within the arcade have separate calligraphy inscriptions from the Koran. The illuminated halo effect around the curved surface proved complex to conceal.

Lighting accentuates marble panels and mosaic, glass mosaic and carved gypsum panels and calligraphy. Each material lit with an appropriate lighting technique revealing texture and natural veining of material. The Qibla is a unique art piece with fibre optic channels and lit harness enhancing the design. Lighting brings the wall to life; materials are no longer physical but part of a symbolic luminous panel. Fibre channels illuminate a gold curtain behind the 99 names of Allah, edge glow fibres reveal organic forms of vine-leaves and fronds.

Constraints included complexity of architectural and interior design plus installation speed. Coordination was solved on site through drawings. Many interior areas are predominately artificially lit, therefore lighting is an integral part of the appearance of the building.


Department of Municipalities and Agriculture, Abu Dhabi

Project partners:

Executive Architects: Halcrow Group
Interior Architects: Spatium Architects