Abu Dhabi, the Capital of United Arab Emirates
However, there are so many things to see and do in Abu Dhabi. You can shop 'til you drop at the Marina Mall Shopping Center or at the Souq. Your kids or the kid in you can enjoy the Ferrari World, an indoor amusement park. And if you're a photo enthusiast, you can drive around the city to photograph Abu Dhabi’s intriguing cityscape – a contrast of traditional palaces and modern buildings such as the Capital Gate, the leaning Capital Building (Hyatt), the Eithad Towers, and the pineapple building.
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
One of the most spectacular tourist sites in Abu Dhabi is undoubtedly the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. It was commissioned by Sheik Zayed and took 11 years to construct at the cost of $545 million. At 30 acres it’s one of the largest religious sites I have visited. Aside from its staggering size, it’s an architectural feat with stunning design. It has many intriguing features such as the largest carpet in the world designed and made by an Iranian carpet company and is made of wool from Iran and New Zealand, seven exquisite chandeliers one of which is the third-largest in the world and are made of Swarovski crystals from Germany, 96 columns in the main prayer hall made from marble and inlaid with mother of pearl. Most of the materials (Carrara marble, gold, semi-precious stones, crystal, and ceramics) used in the construction came from all over the world, including Italy, Morocco, Turkey, Iran, China, Greece, New Zealand, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, and Germany. (See the photo gallery below)
Although it’s one of Abu Dhabi’s most popular sights, it is still a working mosque and is closed to tourists during prayer time. The opening hours are from 9:00am until 10:00pm. I was there on a Friday, but it was not opened for tours. So, I went back the following day. We were advised to dress respectfully: long skirt or loose-fitting pants, preferably black, no short sleeves and with a head covering. One of the girls on the tour told me that the bus driver pulled the window curtain and gave it to her to use as a head covering...funny, and yes it's that strict. A few visitors, including myself, used a scarf as a head-covering. But a proper garment (abaya) is available at the entrance for use while touring the mosque.
The Abu Dhabi Heritage VillageLocated near the Marina Mall Shopping Center, the Abu-Dhabi Heritage Village is reproduction of a traditional Emirates oasis community, with its bait al-sha’ar (tents made with goat’s hair), al-areesh (sea house built with palm tree fronds), al-towee (typical water well), al-yazra’a (the old irrigation system) and al-aflaj (the water channels), all-around a campfire with the coffee pot included, but there are also live camels. A few steps from the village is a white sandy beach. Sadly, swimming is not allowed on the beach.
Louvre Abu Dhabi MuseumLocated on the Saadiyat Island Cultural District, the Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum is the largest art museum in the Arabian peninsula. Opened in November 2017 it houses Middle Eastern and Western art pieces and temporary exhibitions (loaned pieces from France). The building itself is an architectural masterpiece.
And speaking of architecture, there are new buildings such as the Atlantis that cut along sandy beaches and turquoise water.
|The Atlantis Hotel (Not Open Yet)
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
|Interior Courtyard with one of the Minarets (West Side)
|Dome Reflection on the marble floor
|Columns with floral design and gold leaf
|Interior of the main prayer hall with exquisite chandeliers
|Water Mirrors and Columns
|Tried to capture the whole mosque in one frame
NOTE: all photos by the author