On Monday, I ended up staying at our hotel, the Crowne Plaza, which was located on Yas Island, quite a distance from downtown Abu Dhabi. The nearest tourist attractions were the Ferrari indoor theme park, the largest indoor theme park in the world with the fastest roller coaster in the world, and the Yas Marina Circuit, a car race track, which is home to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
On Tuesday, we moved hotels again to the Intercontinental Hotel, a bit closer to the downtown area of Abu Dhabi. It’s located right on the Arabian Gulf, and we had a room with a nice view over the pool and harbor area.
After checking in, I decided to take a Big Bus tour – one of those double decker buses where you can hop on and off at a variety of different stops. The tour began at the Marina Mall, which was close to the hotel and accessible with the hotel shuttle.
Earphones were provided to listen to commentary about the city, its history, and culture in about 8 different languages. It was a great way to get a good, quick overview of the city and still see some attractions up close. I decided to get off at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and the Heritage Village.
The Mosque is among the largest mosques in the world, and the largest in the UAE. It was opened in 2007 and is the burial place of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the first president of the United Arab Emirates. In a couple of weeks, the country celebrates its 40th anniversary of nationhood, so we see flags and the national colors everywhere.
The Mosque is especially impressive, with its gleaming white marble and beautiful details. It holds the world’s largest chandelier and the world’s largest hand-knotted carpet. While I expected that I would have to dress conservatively and wear a headscarf, I was a little surprised that I was required to don an abaya (I published the photo of me here), the black robe and headscarf worn by Muslim women here. Non-Muslims are not permitted to enter the prayer rooms, which are separated into male and female rooms. Unfortunately, I missed the only public tour that is provided at 10:00 am, so I wandered the square until the next bus arrived. Here are some photos from my visit:
The other stop I made on the tour was the Heritage Village, which was supposed to be a recreation of what life had been like before oil was discovered. Overall, this place was very disappointing, as nothing was open, even though I was there during a time when it was supposed to be open. There were two positives, though: one, was that I saw a camel, though he seemed a bit lazy as he was just lying down. (At least, I hope he wasn’t sick!)
And two, there was a sandy beach with a beautiful view over to the downtown area.
We’re back in Dubai now, staying closer to Michael’s office. Tomorrow (Thanksgiving!), I’m going to do the Big Bus Tour of Dubai, while Michael golfs. On Friday, we have tickets to go to the Observation Deck of the Burj Khalifa.