Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan, the man who founded and largely molded the United Arb Emirates, built what must be one of the most beautiful and vainglorious buildings of modern times. No, this isn’t the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. It’s the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, which sticks out against the modern cityscape like a scimitar of light, like a reborn Taj Mahal.
Technically this building is a mosque, although it is open to tours and serves (in my opinion) more as a vast decoration to the adjacent tomb of the Sheikh himself. Loaded with the best of old and new worlds — including escalators to bring worshippers and visitors up from the underground parking lots as well as inlays of precious and semi-precious stones on all of its forest of marble columns — the mosque is truly a ‘must see’ for a tourist but also an awe inspiring reminder to Emiratis and other Arabs of the incredible wealth of this oil principality.
The contrast, and perhaps stretching it a bit the NQR moment, comes when thinking of my own country, the US. What have we built (other than the Dallas Cowboys’ new stadium) with anything like the panache and truly lasting beauty of this edifice?