May 11th, 2012
11:02 AM GMT
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Abu Dhabi (CNN) - An Abu Dhabi mosque is being adorned with beautiful new mosaics - thanks to some traditional Italian craftsmanship.

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is first and foremost a place of worship, but in less than five years it has become synonymous with the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

Enrico Fantini is a fourth-generation Italian mosaic artisan who was recruited to work on the vast exterior ground and key parts of the grand interior. “We are very proud to have an Italian tradition - the mosaic started in the Byzantine world, the Roman world,” Fantini told CNN’s John Defterios.

That tradition is on vivid display in the flowers and fauna of the courtyard, made with marble of all shades, sourced from up to 15 countries, including Turkey, Italy and India. Each month, more than 300,000 visitors from around the world come here to take in what Fantini himself says is something unique.

“It is not a traditional mosque, it is modern, it is open - a completely different idea,” said Fantini.

His company was started by his great grandfather in 1904. “Fantini Mosaici” made its name discretely, working behind the scenes for royal families of the Middle East, including for the Emir of Qatar, the King of Morocco and members of the Saudi Royal family. A son of the late founder of the United Arab Emirates, for whom the Grand Mosque is named, urged Fantini to ply his trade on a much grander scale.

Fantini Mosaici has built a reputation in the Middle East and has trained craftsmen from South Asia to bring to its workshop in Abu Dhabi. Under a United Nations development program, the company trained Pakistani nationals from Lahore and then brought them to the Emirate. Today, they sit side by side with other South-Asian craftsmen after word spread of expansion.

It is labor-intensive, painstaking, detailed employment - cutting marble, designing panels and working the inlay. Fantini employs 90 people in the Emirate, nearly double the team back home in Italy. Some of their work will stay in the region, while some is exported back to Europe.

Another huge project for the company, the Palazzo Versace complex, is underway in neighboring Dubai. It’s another grand opera requiring the “Made-in-Italy” brand keeping alive a trade that stretches back four generations, and a craft that stretches back for millennia.

soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Santiago

    "Italian Style" it means almost "Church style"... sound very rare...

    May 11, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
  2. Marina Cabrillo


    May 11, 2012 at 7:00 pm |
  3. severino ubertini

    Sono un italiano ,posatore di pavimenti vorrei contattare Enrico Fantin.

    May 11, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
  4. alex

    They have so mocu money they can built whatever they like but mosques aern't going to be bringing any money once the oil dries up, they should buy up websites, but not ones like web proxys ( ) because they do not want to run a free country :(

    May 11, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
  5. anony

    they look to fancy, does that look liek something muhammed would want to be in with an 8 year old i guess so.

    May 12, 2012 at 1:41 am |
  6. sami ullah

    mosque is the place of worship now its becoming the place of picnic and visit ...........the same things the mughal king did in their era contracted beautiful mosque and eventually what happened to them defeat ,persecution and what else......................we need to build school ,university ,research center so that muslim can get progress like the era of cordoba in which muslim did innovation

    May 12, 2012 at 7:04 am |
  7. happy


    May 12, 2012 at 9:39 am |
  8. ....

    All the money spent for this piece of crap art could have fed a lot of people starving... According to Islam its wrong to adorn the place of worship in such a way.

    May 13, 2012 at 11:23 am |
  9. Said Al Ghamdi

    Money should go to poor people and kids medecin. Build an normal and simple placees for worshipping. God will accept your prayer if you pray any place.

    May 14, 2012 at 8:01 am |
  10. icon pack

    It is a shame!

    P.S. Please review 16×16 Free Toolbar Icons from milksharkcom20

    September 20, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
  11. Giuseppe

    siamo un azienda italiana ,intarsiamo il marmo cerchiamo agenti Negli Emirati

    January 20, 2013 at 8:56 pm |

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