It recently took 45 men 45 days to implement a major maintenance programme for the seven unique chandeliers that adorn the iconic Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, UAE.
Complementing the exquisite beauty and timeless elegance of the Grand Mosque, the massive chandeliers embody Islamic architectural detailing at its finest and have continued to attract widespread global interest since the opening of the mosque on December 20, 2007.
The beauty of the chandeliers blends seamlessly and cohesively with the medallion and ornamental design on the hand-knotted magnificent carpet below – creating an integrated artistic ensemble. The carpet with colourful crystal pieces hanging overhead resembles a vast stretch of water reflecting vibrant colours.
The seven chandeliers in variegated sizes and colours each have a story to tell. The largest chandelier in the main prayer hall measures 10 m in diameter, is 15.5 m tall, and weighs nearly 12 tons. Incorporating 15,500 LED lights, it features a spiral staircase in its trunk to allow maintenance personnel to climb to the top to complete the cleaning work or fix any faults. Using a scaffolding platform, the middle of the cylindrical section of the chandelier can be lowered to a certain level to allow for seamless maintenance.
The design of this chandelier resembles an upturned palm tree, with the cylindrical section representing the palm’s trunk, the bowl-shaped interlocking section making up the palm’s fronds, and the red, yellow, and green-coloured crystal globes symbolising the date fruit. The overall design pays tribute to the legacy of the founding father of the UAE, late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the UAE’s first president, after whom the mosque is named.
Manufactured at the renowned facilities of German crystal chandelier maker Faustig, this chandelier uses stainless steel covered with 24-carat gold plates while Swarovski crystals adorn its panels. Nearly 40 million units of green, red, and yellow-coloured crystal balls were integrated into the design of the chandelier, lending a special elegance to the entire prayer area.
The two smaller chandeliers in the main hall weigh 8 tons each, and are 12.5 m tall and 7 m wide. They feature 9,500 intricate light bulbs, with an inbuilt staircase to enable maintenance work.
In addition, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque chandeliers that are 4.5 m in diameter and 6 m tall weigh two tons. The two smallest chandeliers are 3.5 m in diameter and 5 m tall, weighing in at 1.4 tons. The latter comprises 1,200 lamps while the smallest of them all consists of 1,000 lamps.
To preserve the design elements of these intricate masterpieces and ensure their sustainability, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Centre (SZGMC) recently mobilised a special taskforce of experienced Emirati engineers to implement a detailed maintenance plan.
The team comprised 45 members, including a project manager, a site supervisor, engineers, technicians, and health and safety supervisors. Across a 45-day period, the maintenance works continued for 12 hours every day (with the exception of Friday) and spanned the complete overhaul of the chandelier system.
Salem Al Suwaidi, Director of Support Services at SZGMC, says: “The maintenance of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque’s chandeliers is carried out as part of a strategic plan adopted by SZGMC to ensure future generations can continue to appreciate the mosque’s rich architecture. The chandeliers receive our special attention given their significance in enhancing the overall design of the mosque.”
The project scope included the upgrade of the electrical actuator systems, and the installation of an electrical circuit network linked to the mosque’s central lighting control system (one single output) located in the control room that can turn lights on, off or dim them. The integrated system increases the operational lifespan of the lighting units, reduces energy consumption, and lowers thermal emissions. Furthermore, the system prevents any potential malfunctions owing to the regular technical and engineering tests carried out under the supervision and follow-up of a team that specialises in lighting systems and crystal works.
As part of the maintenance, the light bulbs were also upgraded with custom-designed LED lighting from the Czech Republic. The complex replacement project mandated identical chandelier light bulbs in different sizes and colours corresponding to the colours of the crystal balls. The new lighting provides an enchanting visual experience for visitors through the reflection of red, yellow, and green crystal balls.
The chandeliers’ lighting is connected through power cables to an electrical transformer – facilitating self-sufficiency in power supply and the option to adjust brightness.
Furthermore, all crystal holders and interconnectors were carefully examined to ensure they are able to withstand the weight of crystals and prisms used in some segments of the chandeliers as well as of the glass panels covering them. The electronic and electrical components and the dimming systems of each chandelier were duly tested as well.
SZGMC exerts significant efforts to showcase the aesthetic aspects of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and its architectural elements that have made it a remarkable landmark attracting millions of visitors from across the globe.
Necessary safety measures are taken in performing the maintenance work, and the carpets and marble in the main hall, side halls, and the VIP Majlis were carefully shielded. This was ensured through two layers of protective carpeting and a layer of pressed wood that cover the scaffolded area. Clear guidelines were also observed in erecting and dismantling the scaffolding in accordance with the highest health and safety protocols, and under the supervision of its health and safety experts.
“The maintenance of the chandeliers is performed in compliance with the highest international standards, as they capture the attention of a huge number of visitors every day. We are proud of the contributions made by our Emirati workforce in ensuring the timely completion of the maintenance work that demanded meticulous attention to detail, and adherence to highest international quality standards,” Al Suwaidi concludes.