To maximise my time in the UAE, I decided I wanted to get out of Dubai and see a little more of the country. Using GetYourGuide is becoming my favourite way to find day trips with great reviews. As I wanted to see as much of Abu Dhabi as I could in a single day, I chose one of OceanAir Travel’s day trips.
Out of respect to the UAE and considering the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is a place of worship I chose to stay on the bus and enjoy it from the outside. After all I’d be just as mad if a human visited a sacred dinosaur place; the review of the mosque is from my photographer.
Donning an abaya and headscarf as the travelator took me under the car park, where a certain adventursaurus was excitedly waiting to look at photos from inside the mosque, I was greeted by an air of grace. Though it was early yet still quite busy, though I didn’t come across a single crowd. Beginning at the fountains allowed me to see the famous view of the Grand Mosque. It is whiter than white, something not just achieved through Photoshop, so take your sunglasses. Only part of the mosque is open to tourists, something I hadn’t even considered prior to visiting. The parts which are open are reachable through walkways; photo stop signs are scattered about, though I found this to be a bit touristy. Each part of the mosque is as beautiful as the last, especially the patterned tiles.
90,000 tonnes of pure white marble from the Republic of Macedonia helped to create this masterpiece of modern Islamic architecture. It’s easy to forget this grand work of art is actually a working mosque. The love and care put into the decoration of the mosque shines through and adds to it’s beauty. 1096 columns are gathered together in lines of four to hold up the 82 domes, which lead to the 107 metre tall minarets in each of the corners of the building. Gold adorns the tops of the domes and minarets; also adding a splash of colour to the pillars.
Inside the domes, there are Arabic verses painted in gold; simple and beautiful, though it would have been nice to know what they said. Many people seemed to bypass the small details such as the decorated ceiling and rush to see the centre of the mosque. The courtyard or Sahan is a design mainly seen in larger mosques and in the case of this one, it’s the place to stand if you want to get the famous photograph of the mosque. You can’t walk over the centre of this as it is reserved for special celebrations such as Ramadan. I found this to be a good thing because the flower pattern on the floor could be enjoyed fully. The floor was being cleaned as I arrived, surprisingly all they use is a mighty mop.
The columns are decorated with red agate, amethyst and mother of pearl intertwined together to create flowers. Its a shame Rex missed out on this as I know he would have loved to see all of the dinosaur blue flowers. They reflect beautifully in the pools located around the outside of the mosque. One of the requests of the mosque, apart from being fully covered, is silence. This provoked a similar air of grace to the Buddhist temple Rex and I visited in Singapore. Losing yourself in the silence helps you find beauty in your surroundings. Hearing nothing but the call to prayer, seeing nothing but beautiful details. In a world centered around technology and to do lists, I find myself drawn to these places where time is an illusion.
Following the barriers past the security guards leads you inside to the prayer rooms. The clock has 6 times, a reminder of when to pray, and is shaped like a flower. The floral theme follows on and is the theme of the smaller chandeliers which are 8 ton blue flowers hanging from the ceiling. Taken aback by the size and beauty of the chandelier (and slightly relieved Rex wasn’t there to try and convince me to buy one). I thought I had seen the biggest crystal chandelier until I entered the prayer room. Three identical, golden, 12 ton works of art light up the room, which is also home to the world’s largest handmade carpet.
Symmetry is key here and the chandeliers line up perfectly, at first I believed there was only one in the room. The walls are covered in shimmering golden flowers, except for a small area in the centre which is covered in Arabic words with a golden arch in the middle. I liked this aspect of the room as it reminded me of a honeycomb. Making my way back to the bus, I realised how little I know about the Arabic culture. The mosque is best viewed from afar but I will definitely be returning at sunset to see the building all lit up beautifully.
Heading towards the Corniche it was time to view the city from above. Etihad towers are a cluster of 5 skyscrapers which have featured in the Fast and Furious 7 movie. Tower 2 is the tallest building on Abu Dhabi Island and should have beautiful views from the 74th floor, or so we thought.
Sadly we visited on a day when a sandstorm was floating around, so the views were not as clear as they should have been. We could see the Qasr al Watn from above which made me even more excited to visit. The city and it’s coastline were visible through a slight haze. Such a shame as we would have loved to see the islands from above.
A great start to a great day exploring Abu Dhabi. Although not everything went to plan, I saw enough of the city to decide I would like to stay here in the future. Stay tuned to see where else we visited in Abu Dhabi with OceanAir Travels!
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