Travel

Abu Dhabi

While I was in Dubai, I made a couple of trips to Abu Dhabi. On my first weekend there went on a drive to Jebel Hafeet. It is a mountain range in the city of Al Ain in Abu Dhabi on the United Arab Emirates’ eastern border with Oman. The Jebel Hafeet Mountain Road, built in 1980, extends for 11.7 km up the mountain, rising 3,900 ft. With 60 turns and three lanes, the road is one of the top 10 driving roads in the world. Words can’t describe how beautiful the drive was. There was a short while where my phobias about drives kicked in but for the most part it was awesome. The setting sun, the view over Al Ain city were breathtaking. It was so cool and windy up there, couldn’t believe I was in a desert. Had an amazing view of the sunset. These pictures just don’t do justice to the beautiful view.

Then, I did a day trip (One of the packaged tours on viator). One of the things I liked about traveling solo here was that it can open you up to interesting conversations with people from other walks of life. I met people from so many different countries and had such interesting conversations with them. Sharing my culture, understanding their perspectives was very  eye opening.

Started with a visit to Ferrari World. It is an indoors amusement park. We didn’t go in. Just saw it from outside. It is the first Ferrari-branded theme park and has the record for the largest space frame structure ever built. Formula Rossa, the world’s fastest roller coaster, is also located here. On the drive there we also got a glimpse of the formula one racing track.

From there we went to the Lourve Museum. Didn’t have time to go inside but it was at a beautiful location. Rumour has it that the Government is in talks to get the Mona Lisa here for a year during the expo 2020.

Next stop was the heritage village. This reconstructed village is one of the few places to get an insight into the pre-oil era of the United Arab Emirates. The walled complex includes all the main elements of traditional Gulf life: a fort to repel invaders from the sea, a souq and a mosque as a reminder of the central part that Islam plays in daily Arabic life. Basically a place that showed the past of the Bedouin life of Abu Dhabi before it turned into the vast metro that it is today.

I knew that this was a gulf country but somehow the image in my mind had always been only of the vast desserts. The waters never entered my mind. It’ so beautiful, pristine, unspoilt. They have such beautiful white beaches. During the drive, I saw the various colours of blue reflected in the waters. The pictures I took just couldn’t do justice to the beauty of it all.

The final stop was the Sheikh Zayed Mosque. It is the Largest mosque in the UAE. The project was launched by the late president of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed, who wanted to establish a structure that would unite the cultural diversity of the Islamic world with the historical and modern values of architecture and art. His final resting place is located on the grounds adjacent to the complex. Oh My God! It was so beautiful. The entire place was constructed from marble imported from Italy, Greece.

It has seven imported chandeliers that were custom made in Germany and incorporates millions of Swarovski crystals. The biggest one weighs about 12 tonnes and the smaller ones about 3 tonnes. The shape of the chandeliers brings to mind an inverted palm tree.

The carpet in the main prayer hall is considered to be the world’s largest carpet. This carpet measures 60,570 sq ft, and was made by around 1,200-1,300 carpet knotters in Iran. The weight of this carpet is 35 tonnes and is predominantly made from wool. It took approximately two years to complete. It’s so exquisitely crafted, you can’t even see the stitches.

The pillars in the main prayer hall are clad with marble and inlaid with mother of pearl. The work here was so exquisite. I thought that this type of workmanship was lost to us. But it was amazing to see that out modern Architects can still produce wonders like this. The design of the Sheikh Zayed Mosque has been inspired by Persian, Mughal, and the Alexandrian Mosque in Egypt.

All in all it was a pretty good experience. I’m really glad I made this trip.

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