Category Archives: Sightseeing

The world’s largest carpet

Traveling through the United Arab Emirates, you get used to the omnipresent world records rather quickly. Everything seems to be the largest this, the most expensive that and the fastest what-have-you. So to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t that impressed when the tour guide told me that the carpet I was about to walk on was the largest in the world.
As usual, the exact details vary depending on who you ask but it took 1,200 carpet knotters about 2 years to complete the carpet. It has a total of 2.2 billion knots, weighs about 50 tons and measures 6,000m² – almost an entire soccer field. It is so large that it had to be manufactured in 8 separate pieces in Iran and shipped to Abu Dhabi together with some knotters who finally joined the pieces together inside the mosque. It provides space for up to 7,000 worshipers and the carpet’s pattern matches the patterns of the ceiling, especially the chandeliers.

World's Largest Carpet

Speaking of the chandeliers again, here is one more photo that illustrates the immense size of these lamps. You can see how small the people at the bottom of the picture appear compared to the chandeliers hanging above them. And from the side, the upper parts also become more visible with their thousands of small pieces of glass and Svarovski crystals.
Despite all the fascination I have with these chandeliers, I think they only look so good inside the mosque. I can’t imagine having an obviously smaller version of one of those inside my living room, it would just look out of place.

Visitors under the Chandeliers

As usual, you can find these and some other photos from inside Sheikh Zayed Mosque in the Abu Dhabi Gallery. I also took a lot of photos outside, but who knows when I’ll post those.

Fixing the Symmetry

The little irregularities in the last photo kept bothering me, so I decided to try and fix them with some digital trickery in the GIMP. While I was at it, I also enhanced the contrast slightly to brighten up the bottom a bit and make the pattern on the wall more prominent. Here’s the result:

Symmetrical Visitor

You probably have to directly compare it to the previous version to actually notice the changes in the bottom right. And only if you pay very close attention you can see parts of the cheating in the final image. While I don’t normally do this kind of manipulation on my photos, it is very common among photographers and I find myself playing with it more often these days.

Lone Visitor under the Chandelier

Whenever I promise that I’ll soon do something, soon somehow turns into a longer than anticipated time frame. It’s been more than 3 (very busy) weeks since the last post but now I can finally present a first picture demonstrating the size of the chandeliers inside Sheikh Zayed Mosque. If I’m not mistaken, this should be the central chandelier, and the guy in the picture is walking toward the main door.

Lone Visitor

He was walking away from me, so I didn’t have much time to take the photo. And even though I tried to frame it as symmetrical as possible, something went wrong in the bottom right corner. It is really a bit weird because all the rest of the picture appears very symmetrical. But that’s the part about shooting ultra wide angle (10mm again) – even the slightest movement of the camera can result in large distortions that are impossible to correct in post processing. Especially when taking indoor architecture photos that rely on perspective and have very dominant parallax effects.

Apart from that, the photo does a good job in showing the size of the building and the chandelier. Compared to the man in the bottom, the chandelier is gigantic – easily a few times taller than a person – and the entire room is even larger.

Symmetry inside Sheikh Zayed Mosque

Symmetry is an important element in both architecture and photography. It gives the subjects a simple, easy to recognize structure and allows the viewer to get an impression without having to move his eyes around much. That same trait makes symmetric images appear a bit hypnotic. Not only do you not have to move your eyes around much, it’s almost as if you don’t want to move them around and instead keep staring at the center of the picture. Creating symmetric photos on the other hand is not that easy. Not only do you have to find symmetric subjects, but getting the shot usually involves dozens of attempts of fine tuning the position and orientation of the camera, especially when you cannot use a tripod. Even then, the photos are almost never perfectly symmetric. But as long as the viewer only notices that upon closer inspection, everything is fine.

Central Chandelier

Abu Dhabi‘s Sheikh Zayed Mosque itself is a very symmetric building. It is the largest mosque of the United Arab Emirates and one of the largest mosques in the world, providing space for about 40,000 worshipers. The main prayer hall alone has a capacity of over 7,000 people. It has three domes, each of which houses a gigantic chandelier. The central one (pictured above) is a bit larger than the other two, but all of them are impressively large.
Most mosques don’t allow photographers inside, especially if they aren’t Muslims. Luckily Sheikh Zayed Mosque is a lot more open towards outsiders and lets tourists inside during certain times, when photography is also allowed and very common. Before entering the main prayer hall, you have to take your shoes off because the entire floor is covered by a giant, handmade carpet – also one of the largest in the world. The carpet’s pattern is aligned with the construction of the hall, making it easier to find the spot directly under the middle of the chandeliers. I only had to wait until all the other visitors were far enough away from me so they would be out of the frame of my ultra wide angle lens.

Side Chandelier

As I said above, getting the photo took a couple of attempts and would have been much easier with a tripod in an empty room. But that is something for professional photographers who have the time, dedication and resources for such projects.
When looking at the pictures, did you notice the places where the symmetry is not perfect? Or where your eyes locked in on the center of the chandeliers too much?

P.S.: I’ll soon post some more pictures of the mosque and the chandeliers with views from different angles that hopefully convey the size.