Abu Dhabi and the Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque

Tuesday 25 August 2015 – Wednesday 26 August 2015

Today the long awaited holiday begins – after a hectic day at work and then a couple of last minute emergency emails we are off to Brisbane International Airport for our Etihad flight to Abu Dhabi. For the first time in a long time we are not flying with Emirates. Our 9:30 pm Etihad flight is on a 787-9 Dreamliner – a smaller plane with better air conditioning and bigger windows and small seats.

14 hrs 20 mins – that’s too long to spend on a plane. Way too long – especially in cattle class. We have exit row seats which is a plus and a nice Italian boy to keep H company. It’s a pretty bumpy flight, not bad turbulence but pretty constant for most of the flight.

14 hrs 20 mins – that’s 4 movies and lots of disturbed dozing.

We land in Abu Dhabi – bright and early in the morning. The flight was a bit late departing, but we made up time during the night and then had to stand around for 15 mins waiting for an air bridge to be organized. Customs etc is pretty breezy (terrorists aren’t a problem here) and we are quickly in a taxi and heading towards our hotel – Park Rotana, for our 24 hr layover. I’ve got us a brilliant 2 nights for the price of 1 deal, this means we can check in early and get some sleep. Park Rotana is not exactly in the heart of things, its isolated, next to a highway in a business park, but its close to the things we want to see

Room 107

Room 107

View from Rotana

View from Rotana

Turns out it’s a pretty good choice – very nice room (room 107) with a brilliant view of the highway, a very nice buffet breakfast and very friendly staff.

Breakfast

Sleepy Janet at Breakfast

We have a pretty lazy morning, and after a few hours sleep we head down to breakfast at 10:00, then I treat myself t o some pampering at the spa, then I try out the pool and grab a beer, but its too hot outside – about 45 with a very, very hot wind.

Eventually we brave the heat and head off to the Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque – words cannot describe how stunningly beautiful the mosque is.  Its totally over the top and yet so perfectly simple at the same time. White marble covering everything, courtyard columns with ornate inlays, gigantic chandeliers and the magnificent massive hand made Iranian carpet that covers the floor inside the main prayer hall. I have to wear an abaya to respect custom (basically a huge black polyester tent). Long pants and long sleeves are fine for me. So its shoes off and away we go in the mosque. The toilets are a revelation, with their washing rooms and fountains.

The Grand Mosque is without doubt the most beautiful building we have seen.  Definitely a must see.

The Grand Mosque - exterior view

The Grand Mosque – exterior view

The mosque entrance

The mosque entrance

The Grand Mosque - the big picture

The Grand Mosque – the big picture

Central Chandelier

Central Chandelier

Wall marble carvings

Wall marble carvings

Ornate columns

Ornate columns

View across the courtyard

View across the courtyard

After the mosque we end up at Marina Mall shopping complex, which is a disappointment. Its very big, but old and frankly a fit shabby – nothing like the malls in Dubai. Why the taxi driver took us there is beyond us – its 30 minutes in the wrong direction from where we are going – guess he wanted a big fare.

We are meeting Tyson and his girlfriend Jane at 7.30 at The Shangrai La Hotel for dinner, so we jump a cab and head back. The hotel is amazing (next time). We decide on a drink at Pearl and Caviar which has a great view looking across the water at the Grand Mosque. Later we head down to The Souk, which is a buggy ride from the restaurant.

The mosque at night

The mosque at night

H & J

H & J

At the entrance of The Souk, H is in full car envy mode – all types of luxurious super cars are there.

We end up eating at Milas, which serves local cuisine and is full of Arabs in traditional dress. Must be good.

H is fascinated by the way the men greet each other with a gentle kiss to the lips and touch nose to nose. Then a shake of the accompanying females hand! The men also have this habit of flicking their head and preening their head wear. The food is good lots of entrees to share – houmas, grilled haloumi, moutable mouhamra (eggplant dip with a spicy sauce) and lots of flat bread, then a selection of grilled meats served with rice dishes and lots of flat bread. Jane introduces us to garlic paste – a very strong garlic spread. Yum yum – I will have to work out how to cook that.

A middle eastern feast

A middle eastern feast

Very good choice – we even got a little gift to take home.

Alas thats it for us – early tomorrow morning we are back to the airport for the next leg of our journey.