Saturday, 28 April 2012

Abu Dhabi : Desert Safari

On our last day in  Abu Dhabi, we finished the tradeshow at 1pm and our flight back to KL will be later on  the same night (well technically it will be tomorrow morning at 2.40pm (via Etihad Airways)). Since we have more than 12 hours to kill before our flight, we decided to go on the desert safari which will start from 3pm and finish around 9pm. We calculated that we will be back to the hotel latest by 10pm, have at least 1 hour to refresh ourselves before heading out to the airport by 11.30pm that night.

The safari cost us about 200 dirham each (about RM168). Pick up was at hotel by the tour company in a 4WD. There were 3 of us in the car and we shared with a family of 3 (minimum 6 pax) - John, his daughter and granddaughter. We rode out from Abu Dhabi to Al -Ain which took about 1 hour. John used to work in the UAE many year ago and he shared with us that Al-Ain was the old capital of Abu Dhabi and used to be Summer administration and come winter, the administration moved to Abu Dhabi. Finally, it was decided that the administration moved to Abu Dhabi.

Along the highway to Al-Ain, we saw many trees on the right and left side f the road. John told us that Syeikh Zayed the ruler had planted those trees. Each tree has its own water outlet which hydrates the tree. A massive undertaking to keep Abu Dhabi green.

Then we reached our first stop at a camel farm. There were a bunch of camels feeding on dried grass. we were told that they were females and males were kept in a nearby cage as they are quite volatile and likes to bite and spit on people.

Females are docile enough and I was able to pet its body. She doesn't mind it though. The fur wass rough like carpet.

The reason for the stop at the camel farm was to cool down the 4WD engines

Look at the smooth desert with its fine grain sand. There are some plants but it will soon wither and die.

We reached base camp after more than half an hour of dune basing
Entrance to the base camp (view taken from the inside)

Yours truly at table for all the travellers

Behind our table was the  stage for the entertainment

With Emily, John's grandaughter

Belly dancer

Henna tattoo on my arm. Stayed there for two weeks!

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Abu Dhabi: Sheikh Zayed Mosque

The majestic Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque was initiated by the late president HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who was regarded as the father of the UAE. The construction used artisans and natural materials such as marble, stone, gold, semi-precious stones, crystals and ceramics from countries such as Italy, Germany, Morocco, India, Turkey, Iran, China, Greece and the UAE. The 22,412 square metre Mosque site is equivalent to around the size of five football fields, and can accommodate 40,960 worshipper. More info on Visit Abu Dhabi and Wikipedia. Walk-in tours are available every day and its complimentary. Guest are reminded to be properly dressed as a sign of respect. However, abayas and head cover are readily available for loan. The Mosque guards will guide you on what ti wear and where to walk onsite.

Tip: If you take a taxi to the mosque, please ask the taxi driver to wait as it is difficult to find a taxi for the return trip.

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque features 82 domes of Moroccan design and all decorated with white marble.

Italian white marble and inlaid floral designs adorn the prayer halls- this is on the wall

On the floor - Italian white marble with inlaid floral designs
The main prayer hall features the world’s largest chandelier under the main dome – being 10 metres in diameter, 15 metres in height and weighing over nine tonnes. The Mosque’s seven gold-coloured chandeliers, from Germany, feature thousands of Swarovski crystals from Austria and some glasswork from Italy, and cost about US$8.2 million (AED 30 million).

The 99 names (qualities) of Allah featured on the Qibla wall exemplify traditional Kufi calligraphy, designed by the prominent UAE calligrapher - Mohammed Mandi. 
The Qibla wall also features subtle fibre-optic lighting, which is integrated as part of the organic design.

The 96 columns in the main prayer hall are round in shape and inlaid with mother of pearl.

I am standing on the world’s largest hand-knotted carpet. Designed by Iranian artist, Ali Khaliqi, the carpet was hand-crafted by 1,200 artisans in small villages near Mashhadin in Iran, a region renowned for its carpet making expertise. The artisans were flown to Abu Dhabi to stitch the carpet pieces together for the final fitting. Consisting of 2,268,000 knots, the Mosque’s carpet is estimated to be valued at US$8.2 million (AED 30 million).

The Mosque has approximately 1,000 columns in its outer areas which are clad with more than 20,000 marble panels inlaid with semi-precious stones, including lapis lazuli, red agate, amethyst, abalone shell and mother of pearl. 

Inside of one of the minaret

Water cooler

Side view of the mosque and this is where the visitors exit

View from the highway: 4 beautiful minarets standing at almost 107 metres each at the four corners of the mosque.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Abu Dhabi

View from hotel. Building of a new shopping mall
I was in Abu Dhabi last month for a business trip. This was my second time to Abu Dhabi, the first was way back in 2005. I saw very little of Abu Dhabi back then because we were only on a day trip from Dubai but the impression was that the city has nothing much to offer. But this time around in Abu Dhabi was an experience for me because there were so many things to do and see in Abu Dhabi. Not as any other tourism destination, everything in Abu Dhabi is about new development and the biggest and best of everything. But didn't have much time to explore the city (all pics was taken within one day). There were many other parts of Abu Dhabi that I didn't explore such as the Heritage Village, Souk at Shangri-La, Marina, etc.

Fountain in the middle of tourist area. Le Meridien hotel just at the back and Abu Dhabi Mall just next to it
Abu Dhabi Mall - good shopping for international brnads like Michael Kors, Marc Jacobs, etc

The Abu Dhabi Co-Operative Society - a small scale shopping mall

We walked from Sheraton Abu Dhabi to the tourist area (near Abu Dhabi Mall) which took about 15 mins. Cool weather and windy in the early morning but gets very hot at noon.
Street signs in Abu Dhabi
Mc D promotion - The Arabian
Hardees - looks like Carls Jr but tastes much better!