Monday, March 24, 2014

day 4: abu dhabi do

Sometimes you have a great plan for how you are going to get from Dubai to Abu Dhabi. And sometimes you end up in the back of a hot, cramped van with 6 other strangers, all men, on your way to being dropped off in the middle of a 6-lane interstate.


On Tuesday, I did extensive planning for our day trip to Abu Dhabi. We would taxi to the central bus station in Dubai, buy tickets for the E100 bus, find the E100 bus, and sit back for a relaxing 2-hour(ish) trip to Abu Dhabi. I had even looked up the bus time tables to make sure we could catch a bus with plenty of time to spare before the morning tour at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

We woke up early to execute said plan. We made it to the bus station no problem. As soon as we got out of the taxi, we were approached by a man who offered to take us by taxi to Abu Dhabi. We must have looked like pretty obvious tourists on our way to Abu Dhabi. Taxis are plentiful & cheap in UAE so hiring one for a long trip was not out of the question. They are subsidized by the government to keep the cost way down. Still, we had planned on the bus because it was only slightly longer, but much less expensive.

Jon, however, jumped at the chance to go by taxi instead. I guess he is easily persuaded. I couldn't understand why the guy was offering to take us for so little money, until he ushered us to a van and told us to pick our seats. It became clear that we were not going to be alone on our little voyage. At this point, I wanted to bail. But Jon was committed, and we weren't going anywhere until that van was full.

Starving, and annoyed, I hopped over to a gas station and bought the only thing that looked familiar - peanut M&Ms. Once the van was fully occupied with 6 men, we were complete silence. No radio, no talking, little AC - just the awkwardness of 8 strangers and the sound of Jon crunching his M&Ms. It was basically my worst nightmare.

They had promised to be drop us off at the Mosque. What they didn't tell us, is that we would actually be dropped off on the side of this 6-lane interstate several hundred yards from the entrance to the Mosque. We didn't really have any choice in the matter so we hopped out & attempted to run across the road without dying.

Safely on the other side, all we had to do was walk to the Mosque, right? Wrong. The Mosque is rather large. There are multiple entrances. We chose wrong. So back toward the road we headed so we could walk in some just-watered dirt until we had reached the correct entrance all the way on the other side. Jon fail. He still owes me a new pair of shoes for that one, I believe.

So our morning was off to a rocky start, but things were looking up. Way up. The Grand Mosque is one of the most beautiful buildings I've ever seen. It was truly spectacular.

I'm not very good at describing things so I'm not really going to try. [See photo dump below]

What I can tell you is why I think I liked it so much. Sometimes I see something really intricate, detailed or impressive and I can appreciate and acknowledge the skill & expertise that went into creating it, but I don't necessarily like it. I feel this way about most works of art. They just usually aren't my thing or my taste. What I liked about the Grand Mosque is that it was not only impressive, but I personally found it to be beautiful. It's how I would build my mosque if I were building a mosque :)

The spotless white marble, the semi-precious stones, the mosaic tile, the gold (yes, some of it was real 24k gold), the colors, the pools, the carpet! I was just blown away. I could have spent all day there just staring at everything.

We went on the free public tour that started at 10 a.m. If you haven't already noticed, I love a good tour (and I really hate a bad one). This one was especially great because it was free, short, informative, and allowed us to access some areas outside the tourist ropes.

abu dhabi had flowers and trees

yep, that's 24k gold
how do you keep all that white marble clean? lots & lots of sweepers

the clock that tells them sunrise & the 5 prayer times for the day
used to be the world's largest chandelier. they seemed unhappy about losing that title. 
our fearless tour guide (and that amazing carpet)
this is where the Imam gives his Friday sermons - a pulpit of sorts. 
it's supposed to represent the milk & honey of heaven
it took over 1,000 Iranian women 2 years to hand weave this carpet
it's the largest single piece of carpet in the world
i just happened to wear matching pants and polish
the women's wash room

After leaving the mosque, we had lunch by the water and enjoyed a great view of Abu Dhabi. We took the bus back to Dubai, and it was lovely. Bus > taxi van.

Abu Dhabi

That night we went back to eat dinner at a Lebanese restaurant near the Dubai mall. We got another view of the Dubai Fountains, but our main reason for eating there (besides the yummy food) was to be near the movie theater in the mall. We had reservations (yes, reservations) to see the movie Non-stop, perfect choice before our impending trans-atlantic flight. Ha! The movie was fine, but the main reason for going was the theater.

more fountains

We bought tickets for the platinum experience - there were only 32 total seats in the theater. They were big, comfy lazy boy-like chairs that fully reclined and came with a blanket & pillow. We pressed a little button to call the attendant when we wanted to order food & drinks. It was amazing, and it has completely ruined any future movie theater experiences for me. Nobody does luxury better than Dubai.


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