We had one free morning - before we had to leave for Kolkata - and I had enough of the malls of Dubai. So we decided to rent a car and leave early for Abu Dhabi, spend the day there and return in the evening. Our flight was much later that night. And we had everything packed, so it sounded like a good plan.
Except for a couple of things.
1) Right as we approached Abu Dhabi, the Wife became really sick. At first we decided to just head back to Dubai, but after visiting a pharmacy, she became well enough so we could just do a very, very quick tour and then return. We decided to visit Sheikh Zayed mosque (which is right before Abu Dhabi starts) and Emirates Palace Hotel.
We were also meeting the world famous blogger Suroor at the Emirates Palace Hotel, where she was treating us to (a very expensive :-D ) lunch.
Unfortunately the Wife became sick again right after lunch, so we could not even tour the hotel properly, and returned to Dubai.
2) I hadn't thought of the ridiculous driving standards of UAE! But more on that later.
So, without much ado, here's the magnificent Sheikh Zayed mosque - the world's 8th largest mosque.
Each pillar of the mosque has stone mosaics following a beautiful "nature" theme. This was evident all over - the courtyard of the mosque, the beautiful carpet in the praying areas and the pillars throughout the mosque.
A view of the mosque from the courtyard. The mosque is built in the traditional Andalusian style, with a courtyard surrounded by a "fence" of elaborately designed pillars, and the main praying halls.
The men's praying area is to the left, the women's area was to the right.
Yet another view of the court yard. Every women visitor had to obtain an 'abaya' from the mosque's visitor's office.
The abayas were designed very well and looked expensive. Many of the women visitors were keeping theirs.
Sadly, I also saw some women clearly being disrespectful, and I had noticed the same attitude when visiting the Vatican.
Not only did they wear short dresses or shorts (they were visiting a place of worship in a MUSLIM country for God's sake) but when asked to cover up with the FREE designer abaya, they were rolling it up to leave their ankles exposed or throwing down the scarf to expose their hair - leaving the female guards chasing after them all the time. Why visit a place of worship if you can't respect it? When I visited the Vatican, or any churches on our Europe trip, I took care to respect their wishes, even if other Christian visitors didn't - such as no photography at some places, no talking, etc. Even the Vatican had modesty requirements for womens' dresses!
After 10-15 shots, I finally got one picture with the sky the proper amount of blue that I wanted. I hate having to process any pictures at a later time via Photoshop!
Each alcove at the mosque had a really opulently beautiful design. When I did wudu, there was a cleaner on standby to immediate wipe the area dry.
Here's a final shot of the mosque before we had to leave for the pharmacy to get some medicines for the Wife.
For more pictures of this mosque, visit Nadia's blog for some fabulous shots of this place during night time.
And then off we went to the Emirates Palace Hotel to meet Suroor. She is as lovely a person in real life as she is on her blog. I have been fortunate to have some really gem of human beings as my blogger friends, and who I have met during my travels. Suroor is one such kind hearted and smart human being. She treated us to a delicious lunch at the hotel, after which we explored a bit before heading back to Dubai.
Here is the world's most expensive Christmas tree - and that too in a Muslim country! Valued at over $11 million, standing over 13 metres tall and decorated with over 180 diamonds, pearls, emeralds, sapphires and other precious stones - this was one imposing tree.
This was in the lobby of the hotel reception. The following picture is the main rotunda of the Emirates Palace Hotel (above the tree).
Heading back to Dubai, I have to recount the wild driving incidents we saw on the road. On the way to Abu Dhabi in the morning, I stayed in the second lane, as I was doing around 145 km/hr. At that speed, I was routinely overtaken by zooming cars that were going easily at 180 km/hr. We saw a couple of deadly accidents too - but I guess the local Arab kids don't let that deter them. Driving is a crazy business here. I read somewhere UAE has the highest death numbers per capita from road accidents - and I can believe it.
I used to drive a lot in UAE. Here's a picture of Jabel Hafeet, a mountain you can drive up in the city of Al Ain, in the emirate of Abu Dhabi. These were my pictures on our last visit.
Now, I get scared when I think of driving in UAE, especially Dubai. As I entered Dubai, on the way back, we came upon a traffic jam. The car stopped as everyone was slowing down.
Apparently, not the car behind me. He saw he couldn't stop in time, roared on to the shoulder, clipped my mirror and damaged the side door before stopping.
For a second.
And then the driver sped off - a classic case of hit and run.
Thankfully, I had complete insurance and it was a rental car. If it was my car I would be seriously pissed off. Waiting for the police to come on their own sweet time, obtaining a report, heading to the car rental place to exchange the car (and driving in Dubai without a left side mirror - a death wish), returning home late - we managed to reach the airport just one hour before our flight was to depart.
Somehow, we made it. We were the last to board the flight to Kolkata!
Updated: Here are some more pictures from our last visit to beautiful Abu Dhabi.
The Etisatal Building - close to our old school
The beautiful Abu Dhabi Corniche - a great place for walks, bicycle rides, runs, relaxing or having a picnic in the beautiful parks
The shops inside Marina Mall - built on reclaimed land they call here "the Breakwater"
More Marina Mall pictures, probably Abu Dhabi's best mall (besides the self-titled Abu Dhabi Mall) - and unlike some of the malls in Dubai, here the malls are actually full of shoppers
The turquoise blue waters of the beach along the Corniche
On to Kolkata. To be continued ...