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 car park 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
On my second day in Dubai, I had to be at the Marina early for a boat tour I had booked (I will write a full post about it later). After the tour, I continued walking through Dubai Media City to the Palm Jumeirah Monorail Gateway station. The Monorail leads to the Atlantis hotel, built on the artificial Palm Jumeirah Islands. A small part is open to the public. Besides the hotel, there is also an aquarium (The Lost Chambers), a waterpark (Aquaventure) and a dolphin park (Dolphin Bay), where you can swim with dolphins.