Part 1. Off to Abu Dhabi, then Dubai...photos...

As we sped along the freeway to Abu Dhabi, a 90 minute drive, we encountered numerous mosques.
Abu Dhabi, the capitol city of United Arab Emirates was hovering in my mind after arriving here more than a week ago.  How could we possibly leave Dubai not having seen the world-renowned, most opulent city in the world?


Each mosque had its own unique architecture.

Dubai, in itself is a wealthy city of perfection, cleanliness, low crime rate, strict cleanliness laws and a gentle demeanor by its occupants.  How could yet another city in this country be more in excess than Dubai?  We were compelled to find out.


Umer, our trusty tour guide and driver, was waiting outside the parking ramp for us when we arrived 10 minutes before our scheduled time of 8:00.  Still feeling ill and hesitant about going, I was determined to make it through the day of sightseeing that we had arranged and rescheduled once already. 

As we entered Abu Dhabi, our mouths were agape at the world's first round skyscraper, AIDer HQ.

 
 

As we neared the mosque.
Much to our delight, Umer arrived a brand spanking new Lexus, comfortable, smooth and well equipped for our day's outing.  As he explained he spent most of his days driving travelers about to see the various treasure of Abu Dhabi (and Dubai), a 90 minutes drive on a flawless, seemingly no-speed-limit freeway.  His vast knowledge and experience were astounding, ensuring us we'd made the right choice in a driver.

As we approached Sheikh Zayed Mosque.  It was difficult, based on its size and location to get a full shot of the mosque's enormous expanse.  This link will depict a full range.
With three hours of driving time to arrive in Abu Dhabi, we were left with five hours of actual sightseeing to include both cities.  Would I last that long?  My head still pounding, along with a feeling of exhaustion and weakness, I felt determined to do push myself as hard as I could. 

Real gold, everywhere!
The three hour drive was pleasant and uneventful, as we chatted on endlessly with Umer, learning the many ways of Muslim life.  Our preconceived notions and prejudices are often far removed from reality. 

The crispness of the white exterior was astounding!
This has been an eye opening experience that will remain in our hearts forever.  A particular area of interest to me when speaking with Umer was the attention of one's physical and emotional health, as well as spiritual well being.  The work ethic is embedded in centuries of taught disciplines.  Respect and care for one's elders, arranged marriages and family life are the core of their existence. 

Almost to the entrance!
And, of most curiosity while here in Dubai and then yesterday in Abu Dhabi was the five times a day loud speaker chanting announcing prayer time, during which everything stops for those of the Muslim faith while they commit to prayer.  Many times, we've heard the sounds, more so when we've been out to the pool at precisely 12:20 pm, less so when inside.

Umer insisted we stop for a photo op, taking this of us.
The first place we visited upon arrival in Abu Dhabi was the 8th largest mosque in the world and the largest in UAE, Sheikh Zayed Mosque.  Before getting out of the car, Umer explained we'd be required to change into a black full coverage abaya for me and a white long thobe for Tom which would be provided for us upon entry into the mosque.  As a result we wouldn't need to wear the long pants we'd brought with us nor the long black scarf I had in our bag.
Definitely not my most flattering photo.  Tom looks great!  We're standing in front of the architectural scale model. After we posed for this picture, a security guard rushed over telling us we are not allowed to touch one another in the mosque.  Of course, we complied.






The beauty continued at every step.



Hand cut granite floors.



This chandelier, one of three, was made entirely with gold and jewels.

The long walk from the parking lot to the mosque, in the heat with no breeze, was almost unbearable in my weakened condition.  Tom and Umer's patience with my slow and unsteady gait was appreciated but the longer I was in the heat, the worse I felt. 

Handmade carpeting.

By the time I reached the ladies open air changing room I was beside myself wondering if I could go on.  The thought of donning the long dark garment in the heat was overwhelming.  There was still quite a walk to reach the mosque.

More eloquent beauty...
The attendant looked about trying to find a garment tall enough for me with the requirement that the ankles are covered.  She handed me a jumble black ball..  I struggled trying to figure out how to put on the silky one piece garment, finally requesting her help.

One of several areas for display of the Koran.

The sleeves to the abaya were inside out making it impossible to put on.  I felt as if I had a tight turtleneck sweater caught on my head while trying to pull it off.  Add, my bad shoulder and how I was feeling and I nearly panicked. 

Standing among the gilded elegance left us in awe.
Alas, she helped untangle it and minutes later I walked out of the changing room to find Tom standing proudly in his white collarless one piece thobe looking at ease and quite dapper.  In looking back at our photos I felt as if I looked more like the "grim reaper" than a respectful tourist.
Hand crafted prayer time clock...
With yet another stop outside in the heat to remove our shoes placing them in little bins, I couldn't wait to get inside the air conditioned comfort of the mosque.  Moments later, the blast of cold air filling us with relief, our eyes beheld a plethora of sights no word can describe. 

It was difficult to decide which way to look.  The jewel encrusted accouterments were not only breathtaking but tastefully designed eliminated any sensation of gaudiness one might expect in such a lavish, opulent environment.

Umer suggested this traditional photo op in this designated prayer area.
For a period of time, I almost forgot how awful I was feeling becoming enraptured by this experience.  All along, both Tom and I have said that we are more interested in people and culture throughout our travels than we are in visiting buildings. 

Every nook and cranny beheld another work of art.
The more buildings we see, we find that they bespeak their people and cultures, the finest workmanship, the creative minds and the often profound messages they are striving to convey in their work.  The mosque was a fine example of this message and we felt honored to share in its glory and gift to the world.
Tom, as we're nearing the turn toward the end of our tour through the mosque.
Let our photos depict the elegance and grace surrounding us as we slowly walked through this memorable spiritual place, Sheikh Zayed Mosque.

Our personal tour guide, Umer, couldn't have been more helpful.  Should you decide to come to Dubai or Abu Dhabi, whether vacationing or on business, you can feel comfortable having him provide not only your transportation needs but as a tour guide as well.  At approximately US $250, AED $900 (plus tip) for the day, it was well spent. His personal email is listed here at this link.

Tomorrow we'll post Part 2 of our day trip to Abu Dhabi and Dubai and also photos of Tom's visit to the 124th floor observation deck of the famed tallest building in the world, Burj Khalifa.  Unable to join him, I was thrilled with the excellent photos he was able to take while Umer and I waited in a café at the Mall of the Emirates in  Dubai, the largest mall in the world. 

They do "largest" here in UAE.  Interesting.

Only steps from the door to exit the mosque, Umer again grabbed the camera insisting we take one more shot of us, pressing me to smile.  The experience, worthy of great smile.  My headache, not so much.
 

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