Monday, January 31, 2011

South Asia Diaries - Abu Dhabi

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 ...


Suroor said...

I'm so sorry that your wife got sick that day. And you didn't even tell me! She looked pale but I thought she was exhausted. Poor thing! No wonder she didn't order our "baby chicken" :-D

It was equally great to meet you. You both are so sweet, so soft-spoken, polite, well-mannered, kind and ... cute.

I actually enjoyed driving to the hotel that day - the traffic was MUCH better!

PS: LOL @ "world-famous" :-)

Check your email for photos.

Lat said...

Yes I was going to mention the phrase 'world famous' Hahaha! Mezba,you're right that there are gems of human beings in the world that we're fortunate to know!

Really loved your pics and I was thinking how Nadia's photos were more captivating,and then you mentioned and linked to her post.Sorry about that,Mezba! :)

And I hope your wife got better after that,and enjoyed the trip to KolKatta without any sickness.

Misha said...

Sorry to hear about your wife's sickness! Getting sick is always a let down, esp. on vacation. The pics are gorgeous, of course, and wow, the driving thing is pretty crazy.

Btw I forgot to mention on the last post - I wish you had taken more pics inside the Airbus a380, lol! I wanted to see how it was on the inside :)

Nadia said...

I'm sorry that your wife got sick; was it exhaustion? You guys only had 3 days here in the UAE. I'm sure there wasn't time to rest. And sorry to hear about the accident too. Alhumdulillah that no one got hurt. It's really crazy like that here, unfortunately. I face rude, reckless drivers every time I'm on the road :(

PS: Lat is taking my side by praising my photography because I forced her to.

Safiyyah said...

What kind of camera do you have? Great images Mezba!

Safiyyah said...

Oh, sorry about your wife being ill :(

mezba said...

@Suroor, thanks for the pictures - they came out great!

LOL at the 'baby' chicken - if that was baby I wonder what a full grown chicken would have been :-P

Traffic in Abu Dhabi was pretty good that day, except for a stretch on the Corniche. Next time would have to spend much more time in AUH.

I think the sickness was because of something we ate in Dubai the other night - we tried this new steak place. Suffice it to say, we won't go back there :-)

@Lat, Nadia is an amazing photographer. She also had the luxury of time at the mosque; I had to take care of a sick wife (apparently as a husband I am supposed to do that :-P )

Well she wasn't the one who got sick in India, let me just say that before my Kolkata posts... hehe.

@Misha, getting sick always messes up plans, especially when you don't have a lot of time.

I did take some (not a lot) of pictures inside the A380, I will post them in a later post iA now that you asked for it. But we flew economy :-( first class was way expensive.

@Nadia, I think it was some food we had in Dubai. We were ok trying out the fast food - the moment we decided to have something 'authentic' lol.

Do you know the police stopped on the other side of the highway, and then the guy crossed 5 lanes to come to our car - I still can't believe the POLICEMAN crossed 5 lanes of Sheikh Zayed Highway rather than driving his car and parking beside us!

@Safiyya, thanks! I use a Canon Rebel t2i. I have a polarizer cap too, for my lenses.

Anonymous said...

Very cool you guys met up with Suroor. I feel so absent from the blogging world :S

Love the pics, thanks for sharing. I would love to visit for a day even if just to see the mosque, it looks really beautiful.

- 'liya

Azra said...

Wow, just WOW. Stunning pics!! Glad you had a great time. Makes me want to go on holiday too :P

mezba said...

TO ALL: I have updated this post with some other pictures of Abu Dhabi from my last visit.

@Liya, so when are you coming back to the blogging world? :-D

The mosque is indeed beautiful. I find that Abu Dhabi is also warming up to welcoming tourists, but it is doing so in a more planned and better way.

Abu Dhabi has always been the more liveable city when compared to Dubai - it's beautiful, green, calm and not the fast, pacy, Westernized version that Dubai has become.

And now they have this mosque, the hotel, the general greenery, the desert safari and Al Ain resorts, the traditional attractions - and not to mention the Ferrari theme park and F1 - it's much more of a draw than before.

@Azra, thanks.

You should take a holiday - Canada's a great place to visit, especially in the summer! :-)

Musa said...


Your statement about Abu Dhabi being more calm and beautiful than Dubai would have ringed true for the last 20+ years, but only until 2008.
Since 2008, downtown Abu Dhabi has become much less liveable than the new parts of Dubai.
I just had a childhood friend pass by Abu Dhabi after 10 years and he found it hell due to the constant choked roads and unbelievably bad parking situation.
I am a lifelong Abu Dhabian, and I myself find it very frustrating to do anything in Abu Dhabi that involves taking a car. Not only do you have traffic lights every few hundred yards, you cant park in half the city, there is a regular stream of jaywalkers, and traffic is close to a standstill in downtown areas between 5 and 8 pm.
Dubai on the contrary has done quite well (helped by the downturn no doubt) and traffic there is much less stressful than Abu Dhabi's.
I dont know what parts of Abu Dhabi you went to , but if you did the "Zayed Mosque - Emirates Palace - Corniche" loop, it probably kept you away from the hell of inner Abu Dhabi roads and showed you only the better parts of Abu Dhabi with less traffic issues.

In fact that is the loop I take any short term visitors on.

Lat said...

lol@ Nakdia's comment.And you got sick at Kolcatta? Oh no! I'm always told that getting sick after a visit to India is very very normal :) I'm sure you are a good husband,Mezba.Otherwise your wife would not let you be in one piece :)Thank you again for sharing!

mezba said...

@Musa, I heard similar comments, that Abu Dhabi has now become busy, hectic and parking is the biggest hassle. And is Salam street seems always under construction!

This time we did the "Zayed Mosque - Emirates Palace - Corniche" loop, as you say! :-)

@Lat, Kolkata post is now up. Oh yes, if you go to India you will get sick.

I always say I am a good husband! :-)

Anonymous said...

The pictures are truly amazing. I never managed to make it to AD this time as my kids and myself got so sick and decided just to stay *put* in Dubai. sf

mezba said...

Thank you Sf. I always enjoyed my time in Abu Dhabi more than Dubai.

Halie said...

These are fantastic photos, thank you for sharing. It was super bright out when I was at the mosque, so I wasn't nearly as able to capture the blue sky in the background as you! I was also at the Emirates Palace's crazy in there, wow.


mezba said...

Thank you Halie, and congratulations on being Freshly Pressed on Wordpress!