This was supposed to be a free day, the last day of our trip, but the group decided to visit Abu Dhabi and the women were told to dress modestly and bring hair coverings for the mosque.
But before we took off for Abu Dhabi, we drove over to the, now famous, Jumeirah Palm Island. There are 3 Palm Islands in Dubai, we visited Jumeirah, and the first Island built; Combined with the newly developing ‘The World Islands’, 730 km of beach will be added to Dubai. The Jumeirah Palm Island is now almost fully developed and just some minor construction is left. There are many condos, apartments, hotels, malls, etc, and your location determines your rent on the island. If you have a beach front condo it is more expensive than let's say across the street. The rents range from US$ 40,000 to 50,000 per year. The cost of
living in Dubai is expensive. Remember you can only lease, not own the
property. Leases are for 99 years and then you have to give your property back
to the government. Yes, give it; you will get nothing for it in exchange. How
popular are those places here? An area on this Palm island of about 200 villas
was put on the market at a cost of 1.2 million US$ each. All were sold within 4
hours. Add to your mortgage or rent, other expenses like school fees (tuition),
health care, car expenses, utilities (water costs more than gasoline), etc,
etc, and you will see it is expensive to live in Dubai.
|An Apartment Building|
We took the monorail back to the entrance to the island to get somewhat of an aerial view, our bus picked us up there.
|Aerial View of Palm Island Housing|
We stopped at the marina part of the Palm Island, filled with yachts and watched nearby sky divers jump out of small planes. We took a group photo with the strangely twisted skyscraper buildings in the background. Whatever we saw around us was not there 5 years ago. Years ago camels raced here on a desert race track, now it’s all developed. The camels now race someplace else, deeper into the desert. Around us are tons of parks and tourist attractions; Lego-land Park, water parks, Bollywood and many new hotels. It's a buzzing area. All this costs money. Dubai lives large!
I found out cars are relatively cheap, zero import tax on cars. Of course all cars are imported.
About 90 minutes later we were in Abu Dhabi. One can tell by driving down the super slab when you enter this Emirate. As soon as you enter Abu Dhabi it gets greener. The medians on the highway are planted with trees. So are the sides, when no housing is around. I forgot the number but millions of trees that were and are planted and watered with desalinated water. The watering systems are all under ground, like drip irrigation.
I noticed the shape of the overhead lights change. We are in another country so to speak, another Emirate. The Emirates only united by the 1971 treaty. And the man who organized this unification was Sheik Zayed. He was responsible for the boom of the UAE and he was the first president. Zayed died in 2004 and left behind 19 sons. He left all of his wealth to his eldest son Khalifa. Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan became the next president of the UAE, hence the name Burj Khalifa (the name of the tallest building in the world). It is said Khalifa has no fear, he walks around without a body guard.
Before his death Sheik Zayed wanted to build a new mosque in Abu Dhabi, a mosque we now call the Sheik Zayed Mosque. This Mosque is the finest mosque I have ever visited. No money was spared. Zayed took no loan, he paid for everything from his income and he never tallied up his expenses. Nobody knows how much the Sheik paid, one can only guesstimate. The amounts are staggering…… a bit over 4 billion US$ dollars is the guesstimate. Sheik Zayed died before his Mosque was completed, his burial site is nearby so he can see it forever.
Wow!! It just came out of my out of my mouth when I walked in. This place deserves one’s respect.
The mosque can accommodate 40,000 worshipers. There are 1000 marble pillars. Marble in pure white of the finest stones, each pillar inlaid with mostly mother of pearl snaking up each pillar like vines, studded with flowers and inlaid with semiprecious stones; All the mother of pearl sparkles. The top of each column is 24 carat gold leaf.
|To Get Into the Main Mosque (previous picture) We Had To|
Walk Around the Courtyard, Through the Pillared Hallways
Which Were Open On Both Sides to Catch the Breeze
(see left side of picture)
The floor is inlaid marble overlaid with carpet where people tend to walk. The carpet in the main prayer room is so large it took 1200 to 1300 people 2 years to hand knot it. It is, no doubt, the largest carpet in the word. The carpet is made from New Zealand wool, hand knotted in Iran. The total weight of this carpet is over 35 tones and it had to be shipped in sections. The colors, beige and green indicate the desert (beige) and the green of the Garden of Paradise. Strewn across both colors are flowers. All this is made in a beautiful color combination. Raised pilings in the carpet itself indicate the rows for the worshipers to use to kneel in prayer.
Every detail is thought out. The air conditioning is hidden within the columns. There are 7 chandeliers throughout the Mosque; each one is made in Munich, Germany. Each chandelier incorporates millions of Swarovski Crystals that sparkle like diamonds. There are 3 chandeliers in the main prayer hall, the middle chandelier weighs 11,5 tons but can be lowered easily for maintenance, using a hidden hydraulic system. The rest of the chandeliers have similar hydraulics. It is a modern marvel.
Outside, against the walkways, against the buildings are reflection pools which reflect the beauty and make it seem even bigger. This Mosque is the epitome of a modern, yet elegant house of prayer. The UAE should be and is very proud of Zayed, he left a legacy.
|You Can Almost See the Raised Pilings In the Carpet Which Indicate the Prayer Rows|
(the pilings run from top to bottom of the picture)
Marshall, the guide took us to the Heritage Village to have lunch, but it was too late in the day. And it was also very crowded and touristy. We opted for a nicer, air conditioned mall nearby to have lunch. Plenty of restaurants but they were hidden. Carol and I saw a Fuddruckers and had a good old fashioned hamburger.
|Emirate Palace Hotel In the Distance|
(picture taken through the wrought iron gate which was
We stopped at the Emirate Palace Hotel for pictures but they only let you take a picture from afar; One more of those $10,000/ night places. Even the hired security guy was snobby and threatened me with the police if I don't do as he says. I don't need people like that in my life.
Abu Dhabi has the world's fastest roller coaster, 240 km/hour. Now that is scary.
The population of Abu Dhabi is 2.8 million spread out over a large area. Oil was discovered here offshore in 1958.
There was a small town here as far back as 1757 when nomads chasing gazelles settled somewhat. Abu = father. Dhabi = Gazelle.
We saw a leaning tower (Capital Gate) that leans 4 x as much as the leaning tower of Pisa. We drove past large palatial residences for the 19 sons of Sheik Zayed and their families.
It is said there is no corruption in the police department, everybody is treated equally.
Informers can just call and get a thank you and then a hang up. You do not have to give your name or identify yourself when you call with a tip for the police. You can use a toll free number that is not traced.
The windows of many cars are fully tinted; you cannot see who is inside the car from the outside. We were told this is because women were driving the cars.
|The "Can Opener" Building (supposed to have been in either |
a James Bond or Mission Impossible movie - I forget which)
Oman is ruled by a Sultan. The UAE is ruled by Sheiks and is much more multinational.
Abu Dhabi is really a large Island.
We stopped on the way back at a market, specializing in all kinds of dates. Chocolate covered yum! I bought a package to take to Crete, our next stop.
We had a great time romping around India, Nepal and the UAE. But it beat us up too. So before we go back to Canada, we will decompress in Crete for a few weeks.
We got back to the hotel around 7.30 PM
We went back down to the lobby around 8:45 pm to say good-bye to the rest of the group who now had to fly back to BC, with a layover in Hong Kong. What a weird world we are living in.
Auf Wiedersehen! Tschüß!