Although this is my third stay-over in Dubai, I have seen some new sights. Travelling to Abu Dhabi (350 km round trip) was culturally interesting, a scary road trip and hot. Abu Dhabi is the capital of the UAE and the base of the country’s political management. The Palace is huge, hidden behind a wall and no photography, even in the surrounding streets is allowed. Those working in the Royal grounds also live in a degree of comfort, but outside of the grounds.
The trip each way was a finger tingling, seat grabbing experience. Our guide spoke five languages fluently, informative and didn’t stop talking for six hours. However, he talked with his hands, emphasising each point with a gesture – both hands. Normally that is fine, but when you are travelling at 130 kph, no hands on the steering wheel and tailgating, I think I drove every metre of the journey – from the back seat. Everyone tailgates in UAE.
One of Hollywood car chase sequels was filmed (in part) in Abu Dhabi as well. Apparently a car was jumped from the top of one building to the adjacent tower. Impressive. It is also the land of the rich. Multi million dollar homes, The Royal Palace hotel has the world’s longest private beach. Not quite as impressive as the Australian beaches, but then is is private and if you are of the rich-set, privacy is a luxury I guess.
The main reason for the trip was to see the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. It is the seventh largest in the world. Tens of thousands can pray there at the one time. Security is tight, two checkpoints for the vehicles, then the dress compliance check. Woman must cover their head, long sleeves, the men again long sleeves and no tattoos must show at all. I wonder how some of our Maori cousins would get on? Then it is the body scan and security check of bags. All this in 44C heat in the sun. It being Ramadan there is no eating or drinking, although the water fountains in the Mosque surrounds were operational and no one was stopped from drinking.
The Mosque is beautiful. The grandure, size and detail in the adornments are impressive. The rug on the floor in the inner area, no shoes allowed, is the largest single floor rug in the world – it must reach for well over 100 metres. Photography is allowed, but strictly controlled. I saw security/police removed the sim-cards from a number of cameras when they suspected the person had broken protocol. No good arguing, that is not the way in the UAE. As a non believer, the hour spent there was adequate.
Back in Dubai, I at last, got to see the nighttime lighting and water display at the Dubai Mall. The mall is the largest in area, in the world. The opportunity to visit the ‘under-water world’ is a must see. Even a little bt of Australia is there in the form of a huge croc. At 7.45pm there is a lighting display on the Burj Khalifa tower. There must be million of led lights, computer controlled to provide a spectacular display. The at 8, the water and light fountains erupt. This is special to watch, but the accompanying music is nothing inspiring.
The mix of photos cover some of my activities during these few days. The first three are of the Mosque, then the building used in the car jump sequence. If you are in to Formula 1, well there is a big display in Abu Dhabi, but I had a bit of a power nap. Then after a rather filling Indian vegetarian diner we went to a ‘juice joint’. Its uniqueness is the formations of hanging fruit – certainly different. Next photo is part of the light display on the tower. The final photo is a bit different. Situated at the back of the Dubai Mall, this high-rise block went up in flames late last year. The images of the fire were quite spectacular. Not an easy job for the firefighters though. So that locals and visitors are not offended by the burnt structure, it has been temporarily clad while the repairs are carried out.