Abu Dhabi forms and fragments: Muslim space and the modern city

Mohamed El-Amrousi, John Biln

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The urban reshaping of Abu Dhabi incorporates monumental construction projects as part of a larger government-sponsored strategy of economic and cultural development outlined in the Abu Dhabi 2030 plan. Once the salient features of several of the most important recent monuments in Abu Dhabi are understood, however, it becomes clear that their power cannot be reduced to a simple effect of an urban development policy. Indeed, these works can be interpreted as examples of a conscious semiotic strategy of ‘gathering’ identifiable architectural forms of major Muslim monuments from around the world into a single location, a new ‘centre’ of a multi-ethnic community that incorporates ‘Islamic’ arts and crafts across geographic boundaries from Moorish Spain to Mughal India. In order to appreciate the implications of this building programme, attention must be given to the history and built heritage of Abu Dhabi as an emerging modern city seeking a unique identity among neighbouring Gulf State cities. This article investigates the emergence of revived forms in selected congregational mosques in Abu Dhabi that are open for visits to both Muslims and non-Muslims. The Qubbat As-Sakhrah Mosque in Abu Dhabi, which is an exact replica of the original in Jerusalem; the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi with undeniable references to the Taj Mahal; and the Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Fujairah, which mimics the Sultan Ahmet Mosque in Istanbul, none of which were designed by star architects, are investigated in this article as manifestations of collagist practices that serve to reinforce a projected sense of community in the United Arab Emirates.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)349-367
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Islamic Architecture
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2013


  • Abu Dhabi
  • Culture
  • Meaning
  • Monuments
  • Sheikh zayed grand mosque

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Architecture
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Urban Studies


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