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Sheikh Zayed mosque entrance panorama

UAE 2010: Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi

Date: 5th April, 2010

As I mentioned in my first post in this series, I had plans to visit Sheikh Zayed Mosque and explore the place a bit from the inside.

My mother and grand mother were keen on joining me as well. So post lunch, we set off by (the usual) taxi.

The eighth-largest mosque in the world is a 10 minute drive from Musaffah and around the same from Abu Dhabi city.

Sheikh Zayed mosque palm trees
The largest mosque in the United Arab Emirates

In case you are wondering, there isn’t an entrance fee or anything for non-worshippers.

There was a security guard right as I climbed up the steps and so I went straight up to him to ask him if photography was allowed. He said it is but asked me not to take photos of the burial site of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan — the late ruler of Abu Dhabi — after whom the mosque is named.

Sheikh Zayed mosque entrance panorama
The burial site is to the right in this photo

Another thing was (which the taxi driver also told us) women have to wear the traditional abaya to enter the mosque. My mother and grand mother didn’t hesitate. They laughed it off as an experience worth remembering while in the Middle East. Clean abayas are provided by the mosque as soon as you enter and they are free (you have to return them of course).

Shaikh Zayed mosque women abayaSheikh Zayed mosque no waterSheikh Zayed mosque pillar art

Sheikh Zayed mosque inside panorama
The courtyard of Sheikh Zayed mosque (panorama comprised of 5 photos)

Sheikh Zayed mosque ceiling domeSheikh Zayed mosque pillars womenSheikh Zayed mosque floor art

We walked around the quadrant before stopping to take photos my ‘elders’ could look back at and smile about.

Sheikh Zayed mosque Mithun mother abaya
I call this photo: "Prejudice"

We then walked across the courtyard to get to the other side because my mother went: “Well, that must be it”.

Sheikh Zayed mosque Abu Dhabi

Sheikh Zayed mosque minarets
Sheikh Zayed mosque has four minarets

Sheikh Zayed mosque panoramaSheikh Zayed mosque main domeWe saw a door to the left and noticed people entering it minus their shoes. So we did the same.

And then I went: “Wow.”

Sheikh Zayed mosque prayer hall entrance

Sheikh Zayed mosque entrance hall chandelier(Oh and by the way, I had no idea what to expect as I hadn’t researched on this place or anything prior to coming here)

This was the entrance to the main prayer hall.

Sheikh Zayed mosque prayer clockSheikh Zayed mosque wall artSheikh Zayed mosque prayer hall doorI walked through that door and then saw the main hall. That made me then go: ”                                         “

(that was my silent “HO-ly%&#*… W-O-W!”)

Sheikh Zayed mosque prayer hall center
This was the center section of the prayer hall

(The above photo obviously doesn’t give you the scale of this hall, so you’re better off just watching the video below for that)

I tried to take a panoramic shot of the whole hall but only managed to get the left side right.

Sheikh Zayed mosque prayer hall one half
One half of the hall

This being the UAE, they obviously wanted some record-breaking bragging rights for this project. Sheikh Zayed Mosque has:

  • the world’s largest single-piece carpet, made by an Iranian company using 1,200 weavers. Weighs 47 tons and measures 60,570 sq ft
  • the world’s largest chandelier, from Germany
Sheikh Zayed mosque largest chandelier
49 feet in height and 33 feet in diameter

The prayer hall has three massive chandeliers, the center one being the largest. On either side are two “smaller” chandeliers.

Sheikh Zayed mosque columnSheikh Zayed mosque column domeSheikh Zayed mosque dome chandelierSheikh Zayed mosque man prayingI spent a good 15 minutes inside the hall, just gawking in awe. They may have not built the biggest mosque in the world but they surely made one of the most impressive looking mosques.

And the funny thing is (being a gamer), all I kept thinking about was the video game Prince of Persia. When I saw the large chandeliers and pillars, I imagined what it must be like jumping from one to the next 🙂

We left the hall after a bit, put on our shoes and made our way out.

Sheikh Zayed mosque courtyardSheikh Zayed mosque cubesSheikh Zayed mosque steps mom

Outside Sheikh Zayed mosque
Step out from the old into the new

Shaikh Zayed mosque is ‘must see’ in my books if you happen to be in Abu Dhabi. It’s really impressive if you love Islamic architecture… or just about anything huge.

Here’s the HD video I took:

Pardon the shoddy editing. Still learning the basics.

Next posts in this series:

UAE 2010: Heading to Dubai by bus; checking out Bur Dubai

UAE 2010: Dubai Mall (Aquarium, Underwater Zoo & Gold Souk) – Part 1

UAE 2010: Burj Khalifa, At the Top (and Wafi Mall) – Part 2

UAE 2010: Mall of Emirates and Times Square Center

UAE 2010: Driving around Dubai (Souk Madinat Jumeirah, The Atlantis & The Palm Islands) – Part 1

UAE 2010: Dubai Marina, Jumeirah, The Walk and David Guetta concert – Part 2

UAE 2010: Showing my parents the sights of Dubai; inside Ibn Battuta Mall

UAE 2010: From the desert sands of Abu Dhabi to the corniche

UAE 2010: Yas Island, Abu Dhabi – Ferrari World and Yas Marina Circuit

Previous posts in this series:

UAE 2010: Heading back to the Gulf after 7 years

UAE 2010: Driving from Abu Dhabi to Dubai (& back)

Abu Dhabi to Al Ain highway distance sign

UAE 2010: Driving from Abu Dhabi to Dubai (& back)

Date: 4th April, 2010

On my second day in Abu Dhabi, I really didn’t have any plans besides checking out some stores nearby. But I ended up not doing so when my mother told me we had to go pick up my grandmother from our relative’s place in Dubai. And I thought: “Great, road trip!”

So post-lunch, we set off from Musaffah via Emirates Road for Dubai.

Driving from Abu Dhabi to DubaiDriving from Abu Dhabi to DubaiWe stopped at the gas station for fueling up and to grab some coffee, and while there, it was good to note the locals still love their SUVs.

Abu Dhabi Dubai ENOC station SUV
Fill 'er up! Even after the price hike, a litre still only costs Rs. 16 out here

There really wasn’t a whole lot to see on the journey besides dry land on either side and heavy vehicles…

Driving from Abu Dhabi to Dubai trucks… but my mother did ask me to notice just how long this green and white compound wall would stretch for.

Driving from Abu Dhabi to Dubai compound wall
I didn't see it end until after 60kms or so!

45 minutes into our journey, as we entered the emirate of Dubai, things started to get a lot more interesting.

Abu Dhabi to Dubai Emirates roadThe number of heavy-duty trucks all lined up, heading in and out of Jebel Ali was staggering.

Abu Dhabi to Dubai trucks highwaysThen, slowly but surely, came the construction projects. Besides factories, all the newer office buildings and the massive ambitions of Dubai.

Dubai motor city board sign

Dubai Autodrome Emirates road Motor city
Dubai Autodrome: The FIA certified racetrack in Motor City

If you want to know what heck is Motor City, check out their official website.

Driving past the Dubai Cricket stadium on Emirates roadDriving past the Dubai Cricket stadium sign on Emirates road The 25,000-seater stadium is part of the US$4 billion Dubai Sports City project. If you want to… actually, just click here (.pdf document).

(FYI, most Arabs don’t give a shit about cricket. The UAE national squad is mostly comprised of Pakistanis and Indians. Despite that, ICC’s international headquarters will now be in Sports City.)

Dubai Global village Emirates RoadThe Dubai Global Village mostly comes alive during the world-famous Dubai Shopping Festival.

But the sad reality behind the facade and the large signs that advertise these massive projects are that… well, they are either on hold or are lying empty. Some bits are done, but there are still many phases yet to be started/completed due to the financial crisis of last year that put an end to Dubai’s extravagant dreams.

An empty office on Emirates roadDubai Emirates road building constructionIn fact, the Motor City, Sports City and Global Village are all part of the massive (you’ll see me use this word a lot) Dubailand — what they described at launch would be the largest theme park in the world. But all I saw was a statue of a dinosaur near Dubailand’s hoarding. Sigh.

Abu Dhabi to Dubai power grids
Saw a lot of this on the way too. They'll need it.

Dubai Emirates road airplane

By evening, we were in Jebel Ali heading to a residential complex called LuLu Village where my relatives were staying.

Dubai Emirates Road to Jebel AliAn hour later, coffee and chit-chat over — and with grandmother in tow — we set off once again.

The sights weren’t obviously that different on the way back. More construction…

Dubai Emirates road twin towers
ENOC = Emirates National Oil Company

… completed apartments …

Dubai Emirates road apartments

… and Dubai’s new skyscrapers.

Dubai Emirates road Marina distance
Dubai Marina in the distance -- and where the mistreated labour that built them live in the fore

All of which now have disappointing occupancy rates.

Regardless, I was still looking forward to my time in Dubai.

Dubai Burj Khalifa shadow
You can't really hide the tallest building in the world now can you?

Dubai exudes excitement. It is the party capital of the Middle East. I was looking forward to meeting my friends and going around the city.

It’s not for everyone of course, especially the uneducated poor, for whom it can be one of the harshest places to be in.

Dubai Emirates trucks highway
There were a lot more trucks on our way back

Dubai to Abu Dhabi Emirates road sunsetDubai to Abu Dhabi Emirates road lamp postsAbu Dhabi lamp posts flyover

Abu Dhabi Yas Island Aldar distance
The impressive Yas Marina Circuit in the distance. (Yes, even this was on my itinerary)

Abu Dhabi underpass art

By nightfall we were back home in Abu Dhabi. The plan for the next day was a visit to Shaikh Zayed Mosque — and as with a lot of things I had planned, I was really looking forward to it.

Also read: Heading back to the Gulf after 7 years (First post in this series)

Next posts in this series:

UAE 2010: Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi

UAE 2010: Heading to Dubai by bus; checking out Bur Dubai

UAE 2010: Dubai Mall (Aquarium, Underwater Zoo & Gold Souk) – Part 1

UAE 2010: Burj Khalifa, At the Top (and Wafi Mall) – Part 2

UAE 2010: Mall of Emirates and Times Square Center

UAE 2010: Driving around Dubai (Souk Madinat Jumeirah, The Atlantis & The Palm Islands) – Part 1

UAE 2010: Dubai Marina, Jumeirah, The Walk and David Guetta concert – Part 2

UAE 2010: Showing my parents the sights of Dubai; inside Ibn Battuta Mall

UAE 2010: From the desert sands of Abu Dhabi to the corniche

UAE 2010: Yas Island, Abu Dhabi – Ferrari World and Yas Marina Circuit

Qatar Airways flying over doha

UAE 2010: Heading back to the Gulf after 7 years

For the few who regularly check my blog, first of all — thank you! Secondly, I know I haven’t updated it much in the past 2 weeks.

And that’s because I was on a two week vacation to Abu Dhabi and Dubai to visit family and friends.

I was last in the Gulf in 2002, having spent 6 months in Bahrain, after graduating from college. Since then, the Middle East has been a hot bed of activity — both good and bad. From the US-invasion of Iraq, the war in Lebanon, to rising oil prices — a key factor for the US invasion of Iraq — and one that helped fuel the massive construction boom that left the world stunned.

‘Stunned’ is truly the only word to describe the ambitions UAE had. The leader of the pack was, of course, the one-and-only Dubai. From the tallest building, to the biggest shopping mall in the region to recreating the Las Vegas strip and all the seven wonders of the world… one could only gape at their colossal projects. And as always, when Dubai does something, the other GCC nations wake up and shamelessly try to play catch up.

But in 2007, I knew it was all going to come crashing down. Which it did. Very Badly.

My opinion piece on all that will come later. Beginning with this, the next few posts are going to document my two weeks in the UAE (Abu Dhabi and Dubai mostly).

Date: 2nd April, 2010

I booked my tickets online from both and I could have just done with Yatra but unfortunately the stupid site won’t allow for one-way international flight searches. So I booked my onward journey with Yatra (Bangalore to Abu Dhabi via Doha) on Qatar Airways (because my father insisted that I fly with them)  and the return journey (Dubai to Bangalore via Goa) on Indian Airlines. Totally, the tickets cost me around Rs. 18k (10k change + 7k change). In the morning, I got me some UAE dirhams from the UAE Exchange branch in Koramangala and decided to take the Vayu Vajra BMTC bus at night to go to the airport.

Unfortunately, when me and my brother headed to the HSR Layout bus stop, assuming I could board the 12am bus, I was told by the passing-by Volvo bus driver that all buses post 11:30pm were cancelled! Figuring the options were slim or too expensive at that time, my brother decided to drive me all the way to the airport. I had the time, my flight was only at 4:35am.

The drive took us an hour and just past 1am, we finally arrived.

Driving to Bangalore International Airport late at nightI thanked my brother and after our goodbyes, went in. The first thing I did before checking in my luggage was declare my camera with customs and collect the customs duty form. I had learnt from my last Thailand trip and didn’t want any issues this time upon return.

The last time, the Customs officer told me there were large banners informing passengers that they need to declare anything above Rs. 25,000 in value before “exporting” it. I found no such sign or information anywhere at the check-in area. So I asked one of the airport assistants and after asking one another, one assistant offered to accompany me to the customs officer where I can collect my ‘export certificate’.

I had to go all the way upstairs with my luggage, past the immigration counter to get to the customs officer’s desk. He finally inspected my Canon 7D, my two lenses and stated the same on the form before signing it off.

On the way back down, I asked the airport assistant as to why the desk was upstairs after one checked in their luggage. He just said, well, that’s how customs can screw you over. If you check-in something you should have declared, upon return, if customs catches you, you’ll have to deal with them by paying the duty or just paying them off. So my advice is, get to the airport a bit early, inform the assistants that you have something to declare and get the ‘export certificate’.

Having done all that, I came back down, checked-in my luggage and went on with the usual process. I couldn’t get a window-seat or one by the aisle as the lady at the counter said the flight was “over-booked”. (Never, understood how one can “over-book” a flight.)

I passed the rest of my time by taking advantage of the free Wi-Fi service at BIAL. The flight was on time and I sat in-between a rather large man and a woman. Now I understand the controversy over why some airlines are demanding obese passengers buy two seats for themselves.

The Qatar Airways very-late dinner/very-early breakfast was quite good.

Qatar Airways flight food dinner
My rating: 3.5/5 (Photo taken on Nokia E72)

The main course was a meat-stuffed cheese omlette, chicken cutlet and baked potato. The croissant was quite greasy though. The rest were the usual: fruit juice, salad and dessert.

I tried to sleep but couldn’t manage much of it. So I just watched a heavily-censored version of the very adult situation-centric ‘Up in the Air‘. Since I had already watched the film, it was funny to see them censor certain words like “Asians” with “they” in the film.  Oh well, playing it (too) safe I guess.

By 9am, we had landed in Doha, Qatar — also the hub for Qatar Airways. I had switch flights now, which meant getting out of the plane, hopping into the airport for a bit before getting on to another one.

Doha airport Qatar AirwaysOnce inside, the queue to pass through security was rather large. I was starting to get worried if I would miss my flight but after half-an-hour so, I was done.

And though I was supposed to rush to my flight’s gate, instead, I got distracted by two beautiful works of engineering.

Aston Martin DB9 Doha Duty Free
The Aston Martin DB9 (Photo taken on Nokia E72)
Aston Martin DB9 Doha Duty free back
One of Jeremy Clarkson’s favourite cars
Maserati Gran Turismo Doha Duty free
Maserati Gran Turismo
Maserati Gran Turismo Doha Duty free
Both cars were top prizes for the Doha Duty Free raffle

After enjoying being this close to such nice (expensive) toys, I made my way to the gate which was near by and boarded the bus to my connecting flight soon after. This Qatar Airways flight was a better plane though (newer I’m presuming). Qatar Airways in-flight entertainmentAnd this time, I got a window seat.

Qatar Airways flying over doha
You see those buildings? That’s Doha, the capital of Qatar (Nokia E72)

Qatar Airways flying over QatarQatar Airways flying over Qatar seaSince it was just a 45-minute flight, the ‘meal’ was a yummy puff-sandwich and juice. That’s it.

Qatar Airways flying over Abu Dhabi houses
Flying over houses in Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi Airport air traffic control tower
The air traffic control tower at Abu Dhabi International Airport
Abu Dhabi airport Etihad airplanes
Abu Dhabi International Airport
Abu Dhabi airport inside
The only bit of the airport that I found interesting

Once I disembarked, I really didn’t have much time to look around as my father had arranged for an airport service by which someone would receive me (with a name card and all) and then guide me through the necessary procedure. Also, I get preferential treatment, which means no waiting in lines! 🙂 The Filipino lady who received me first took me down for the eye-scan, followed by the passport and Visa check and finally baggage collection. All-in-all, 10 minutes and I was out to the lobby where my father was waiting for me with a smile.

Abu Dhabi airport Acha on the phone
Dad calling the taxi to take us home
Abu Dhabi inside taxi meter
From the Toyota Corollas of the 90’s, most taxis have now upgraded to Camrys
Abu Dhabi inside taxi Acha taking photo
Father taking a photo of me taking a photo of him taking a photo of me taking a photo of him…

The taxi was headed to a place called Mussafah where my parents were staying with my uncle and aunt (also where I would be staying). Since my dad was only going to be in Abu Dhabi for a year-long project, and since he was new here, he didn’t bother looking for an independent accommodation. Once home, it was welcoming by my mother, aunt and my pesky little cousin. A short sleep and a lunch later, my parents decided to show me around town a bit. Driving around Abu Dhabi city Even though my father has a UAE license, he also didn’t bother getting his own car as he was only going be in the country for a year. So he called his regular taxi guy, a fellow Mallu, to take us for a drive to Abu Dhabi city.

Musaffah Toyota Camry taxi
Our ride, the same that picked me up from the airport

Driving on Abu Dhabi Musaffah highwayWe passed by some notable landmarks, first being the Sheikh Zayed Mosque — a.k.a Grand Mosque. Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu DhabiAbu Dhabi Sheikh Zayed MosqueAbu Dhabi Grand Mosque bridgeAbu Dhabi Grand Mosque bridgeSheikh Zayed Mosque Abu Dhabi gateSheikh Zayed Mosque Abu DhabiJust seeing it from the outside left me impressed. The taxi driver told me it was far more impressive from the inside. My mom told me it’s even prettier at night! But we had to move on. I decided I’d come back the day after to visit the mosque.

Abu Dhabi road to corniche
(Photos taken from inside the car)
Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre
Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre
Abu Dhabi roundabout buildings
Construction still in progess in oil-rich Abu Dhabi

We drove past the massive US$2 billion-plus Emirates Palace. Abu Dhabi Emirates PalaceAbu Dhabi Emirates Palace wide shotThe photos I took through gate from outside really don’t show just how impressive this place is. The Emirates Palace was featured in the movie ‘The Kingdom‘. You’re better off just visiting the official website or watching this video to get an idea what this government-owned hotel offers it’s guests. Or you could just work/stay at the neighbouring Etihad Towers to get a birds-eye view of the hotel. Etihad towers construction 2010After a quick stop for me to take photos out of the car, we drove along the Abu Dhabi corniche. Abu Dhabi corniche roadAl Hilal bank office building Abu DhabiAbu Dhabi towers construction 2010Next, the Marina Mall area of the corniche. Abu Dhabi tunnel underpassAbu Dhabi corniche road sunsetAbu Dhabi corniche street lampsAbu Dhabi corniche buildings

Abu Dhabi corniche jet ski
Rich boys and their toys

Abu Dhabi corniche yachtsAbu Dhabi SUVs mosque

Abu Dhabi corniche Marina Mall
Marina Mall — one of Abu Dhabi’s most popular malls; houses a Carrefour too

Being back in the Middle East, another thing I was looking forward to was ‘car-spotting’. Most of the world’s fastest and most expensive cars can be found here. While I did spot a few older Porsche’s, they are no match for the über-impressive Nissan GTR.

Abu Dhabi Nissan GTR
The first one I spotted on this trip… there would be many more
Abu Dhabi corniche office buildings
Sorry, I’m a sucker for good architecture. Thus so many photos of buildings.

Then we got down as my parents wanted to do a bit of shopping. Which gave me the first chance of actually walking about town. Abu Dhabi construction trafficAbu Dhabi mall nightAbu Dhabi mall night over bridgeAbu Dhabi mall insideAn hour or so later, we headed back home… and on the way back home, saw the Shaikh Zayed Mosque ‘at night’. Abu Dhabi Shaikh Zayed mosque night blueAbu Dhabi Shaikh Zayed mosque nightDriving back, I was happy to be in the Gulf again and looking forward to the next few days. Everything just got bigger and taller in the past 7 years and all I kept thinking to myself was — how glad I was that I invested in a wide-angle lens! You so need it here! Abu Dhabi underpass nightI ended my day with one other thing I love (and missed) about the Gulf…

Musaffah Lebanese shawarma stand
… the food!

13 more days to eat. Oh the joy!

Read the rest of the posts in this series:

UAE 2010: Driving from Abu Dhabi to Dubai (& back)

UAE 2010: Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi

UAE 2010: Heading to Dubai by bus; checking out Bur Dubai

UAE 2010: Dubai Mall (Aquarium, Underwater Zoo & Gold Souk) – Part 1

UAE 2010: Burj Khalifa, At the Top (and Wafi Mall) – Part 2

UAE 2010: Mall of Emirates and Times Square Center

UAE 2010: Driving around Dubai (Souk Madinat Jumeirah, The Atlantis & The Palm Islands) – Part 1

UAE 2010: Dubai Marina, Jumeirah, The Walk and David Guetta concert – Part 2

UAE 2010: Showing my parents the sights of Dubai; inside Ibn Battuta Mall

UAE 2010: From the desert sands of Abu Dhabi to the corniche

UAE 2010: Yas Island, Abu Dhabi – Ferrari World and Yas Marina Circuit

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