Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is the largest mosque in the United Arab Emirates. It was completed in 2007 (although the gardens are still a work in progress). The mosque is quite far away from downtown Abu Dhabi so I went there by public bus. I missed the stop and I found myself in the middle of nowhere, waiting for the bus to go back towards downtown. Anyway, I finally got in: To enter, one must follow a blue path to a parking next to the mosque. Entrance is free and even non-muslims can come in. The mosque looked really beautiful, all in austere white with colourful decorations in contrast. I took a taxi on the way back downtown (40AED).

Above, view of the mosque coming from the bus stop.

Above, it is not possible to enter through the main gate. Instead, I had to follow the blue path along the fence until a car parking near the mosque.

Above, abayas and thawbs can be borrowed if wearing clothing deemed unsuitable for the mosque.

Above, the main hall of prayer.

Above, minaret.

Above, carpet inside the prayer hall.

Above, mihrab.

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Abu Dhabi: Corniche, Emirates Palace, Marina Mall & Abu Dhabi Theatre

In December, a few weeks after Dubai, I came back to the United Arab Emirates, this time in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the country. It was just a single day layover on my way to Amsterdam but I was able to see a lot.

After I arrived at the airport in the early morning, I took the shuttle bus to downtown Abu Dhabi. I then walked along the Corniche, a pedestrian path along the coast, until I reached the road that leads to the Marina Mall. Instead of going there, I continued along Corniche Road to the Emirates Palace, a 7-star luxury hotel. Part of the hotel is open to all visitors, so I got inside. It was indeed quite nice… After that, I took the bus to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, which was actually pretty far away. It was a bit of an adventure so I will make a separate post about it later. After the Mosque, I took a taxi to the Marina Mall and had a quick look inside. Then I headed towards the Heritage Village nearby but there was an event for the Volvo Ocean Race so I went in. It hadn’t really started yet so it was not very interesting. I continued on the road, past the Heritage Village, until the Abu Dhabi Theatre. There was a great viewpoint on the skyline of Downtown Abu Dhabi from there. Finally, I walked on the road towards the Etihad Towers but stopped at a café for sheesha and diner until it was time to go to the airport.

Above, the corniche.

Above, the artificial Al Lulu island.

Above, Marina Mall in the distance.

Above, an oil exploration platform.

Above, beach.

Above, Emirates Palace and ruler’s palace.

Above, Marina Mall.

Above, Emirates Palace.

Above, Abu Dhabi Theatre and its flagpole.

Above, the St. Regis hotel.

Above, Etihad Towers.

Above, Emirates Palace.

Above, below the dome.

Above, Gold to go gold vending machine.

Above, the white Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

Above, Marina Mall tower.

Above, Abu Dhabi Marina.

Above, at the Volvo Ocean Race event.

Above, on the way to the Abu Dhabi Theatre.

Above, Abu Dhabi Theatre.

Above, downtown Abu Dhabi seen from the jetty.

Above, Abu Dhabi Heritage Village. It was closing just as I came in so I only had time for a few quick photos.

Above, café with a nice view. I had some sort of arabian pizza (manakish, I think), tea and sheesha.

Above, night on downtown Abu Dhabi.

Dubai Creek, Bur Dubai & Deira

On my last day in Dubai, I checked out from my hotel early and headed to the Dubai Creek area. I started first in Bur Dubai, where the original inhabitants of Dubai settled in the early 19th century. I walked along the Creek (the promenade is interrupted by construction work though). I then visited the Dubai Museum and walked in the area. I crossed the Dubai Creek using one of the many abras and arrived in Deira, where I visited the souk next. I crossed the Creek again: I had to be at the Burj Khalifa to visit the observatory (the ticket was tied to a specific time) so I left the area for a few hours. When I came back, I continued at the same point as I left and visited the Heritage Village in Bur Dubai. There was not much activity there, maybe because it was a bit late. I walked along the Creek until I reached the mouth, then settled at a café, smoking sheesha until nightfall. After that, I crossed the Creek again to visit the spice and gold souks of Deira at night. Then it was time to go to the airport to catch my plane back to Lahore.

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Above, near the Bur Juman Metro station, in Bur Dubai.

Above, Dubai Creek.

Above, the historic district of Al Bastakiya.

Above, remaining section of the old city wall.

Above, at the Dubai Museum.

Above, reconstructed dwelling of the original ruler of Dubai.

Above, the inside of the museum shows the traditional life of the people of Dubai through mannequins.

Above, Grand Mosque.

Above, near the hindu temple. The narrow street was really crowded.

Above, on an abra to cross the Creek. It only costs 1AED (20¢), which must be given to the driver when coming aboard. They depart every few minutes.

Above, in Deira, on the other side of the Creek.

Above, the local Shahi Qila.

Above, in the souk.

Above, entrance to the spice souk.

Above, crossing the Creek again to get back to Bur Dubai.

Above, Heritage Village.

At this point, I took the Metro to my appointment to the Burj Khalifa observatory. But I came back later in the afternoon.

Above, at the Heritage Village.

Above, Diving Village.

Above, the old fishermen of Dubai.

Above, the current fishermen of Dubai.

Above, at the mouth of the Creek. There is a military installation so that is as far as I went.

Above, sitting down at a café next to the Creek.

Above, my sheesha (mint).

Above, stray cats.

Above, Burj Khalifa from afar.

Above, Deira seen from the Heritage Village. I crossed the Creek again using an abra then walked in the souk.

Above, spice souk in Deira.

Above, gold souk.

Above, lobby of Dubai Airport.

At the Top, Burj Khalifa SKY: 148th floor observatory

On my third and last day in Dubai, I went back to Burj Khalifa, this time for the so-called “At the Top, Burj Khalifa SKY” experience. At 555m, it is the highest observation deck in the world (as attested by a plaque from the Guinness World Records). It opened a few months ago and is located on level 148 of the tower. There are 163 floors in total so it is almost at the top.

I had bought my ticket in advance (for an entrance around noon) when I was there on the morning on my first day in Dubai: It costs much more (400AED or 100€) than the normal one (“At the Top, Burj Khalifa”, with no SKY), which only goes to the observatory on level 124. However, beyond the observation deck, the SKY package is also a bit of a VIP experience: There is a waiting lounge where coffee and dates are served. When the time comes (I waited about 10min), a guide leads a group to the elevators bypassing any waiting lines along the way. At the lounge on level 148, waiters walk around offering free pastries and fruit juices. The observation deck itself is very similar to the one on level 124 (even though the orientation is slightly different). The glass panels have large holes so it is possible to take great pictures. Note that the outdoor deck is only on one side of level 148: The other walls have windows (with no holes). When I decided I was done on level 148, an elevator got me down to level 125, which has no outdoor observation deck, just windows all around. Then, I had to take yet another elevator to go down to the ground floor and the Dubai Mall.

Having done both, compared to simply going with the normal ticket (and only to level 124), I would say the SKY is not really worth it for the view alone: Level 124 is already so high relative to the surrounding area that the view does not seem much different on level 148. However, I liked the fact that there was very little wait (even in the middle of the day) and the general experience was very pleasant.

Above, SKY waiting lounge.

Above, the 148th floor.

Above, Dubai Fountain.

Above, Dubai Mall.

Above, Emirates Towers.

Above, the outdoor observation deck on level 148.

Above, looking in the direction of the Dubai Marina.

Above, Jumeirah Beach.

Above, The Palace Downtown.

Above, the basin of the Dubai Fountain.

Above, looking towards the World Islands.

Above, Guinness World Records certificate for highest observation deck in the world.

Above, the lounge on level 148.

Above, financial district.

Above, Metro station.

Above, on the 125th floor. This floor does not have an outdoor observation deck.

Above, the observation deck on Level 124.

Above, near the basin in Dubai Mall. After the observatory, I walked around the basin for a bit but soon settled at a café in Souk Al Bahar smoking sheesha for a couple of hours.

Above, the midday show of the Dubai Fountain was just starting. There was not nearly as many people as for the night shows.

Above, The Address Downtown.

Above, Souk Al Bahar.

Above, the basin near the café where I had my sheesha.

Above, a last view of Burj Khalifa.

Above, Dubai Mall.

Boat tour in Dubai

For my second day in Dubai, I had booked a boat tour with Yellow Boats in advance. The 90min tour goes through the Dubai Marina, the Atlantis Hotel on the Palm Jumeirah and Burj Al Arab, which is a bit further away. I went on the first tour of the day (9am), so there were not a lot of people on the boat.

Above, view of Cayan Tower from the boat, still docked.

Above, a mosque in construction.

Above, Marina Mall.

Above, Yacht Club.

Above, Jumeirah Beach Residence.

Above, abra.

Above, exiting the Dubai Marina.

Above, Jumeirah Beach.

Above, hotel on the Palm Jumeirah.

Above, the Atlantis. We stopped a few minutes for pictures.

Above, Burj Khalifa and Downtown Dubai in the distance.

Above, Burj Al Arab and Jumeirah Beach Hotel.

Above, Persian Gulf.

Above, Jumeirah Palm in the distance.

Above, on the way back to the Dubai Marina.

Above, the artificial Logo Island, owned by Dubai’s ruler.

Above, this is the site where the ruler of Dubai parks his superyacht.

Above, under the bridge that leads to the Palm Jumeirah.

Above, reentering the Marina.

Above, Cayan Tower.

Above, back at the docks.