Today we fly Etihad Airways from Delhi to Abu Dhabi on the start of our journey back to Australia via the United Arab Emirates, where we will spend 2 nights in Abu Dhabi, incorporating a one day tour of the main sights. It is a long way home, but we got a very cheap price for the flight which made it worth it. We check in to the Bin Majid Nehal hotel and then explore round our hotel and enjoy an Italian meal.
The first stop on our tour of Abu Dhabi, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is the largest mosque in the country, it is the key place of worship for daily prayers, Friday gathering and Eid prayers. During Eid, it may be visited by more than 41,000 people. The Mosque has four minarets, (each 106 meters high), 82 domes (the largest is in the centre of the main prayer hall) and the world’s largest hand-knotted carpet. There are seven crystal chandeliers inside, the largest weighing approx. 12 tons.
Entry is free, but dress code is very strict – no skirts, shorts, sleeveless shirts, tight or see through clothing. Women must wear loose clothing with only the hands and face showing (i.e a scarf must be worn & no sandals).
Our second stop on our tour of Abu Dhabi, the Emirates Palace hotel, a scene of almost obscene opulence. Built at a cost of 3 Billion dollars, much of the inside is decorated with pure gold and marble. The 1.2km long private beach was constructed from white sand imported from Tunisia. Some parts of the palace are off limits to everyday guests — there are six ruler’s suites reserved for Royal families. Emirati restaurant Mezlai has three private dining facilities that you can use (try the 23k gold camel burger on a gold-dusted bun), or enjoy the famous Palace Cappuccino which is sprinkled in real 24k gold flakes, this is the epitome of indulgence at the palace.
We end our tour of Abu Dhabi continuing past the houses of the Royal Family (all enclosed behind a very long wall). We then continue to the Emirates Heritage Club Heritage Village. Looking a bit fake and tired, this reconstructed village gives an insight into the pre-oil era. It speaks of a completely different time in the United Arab Emirates, the oil boom and resulting wealth is quite recent and here shows that the people prior to the ’70s were still very poor and their only source of income was pearl diving, farming and fishing. The village includes all the main elements of traditional life: a fort, a souq and a mosque as a reminder of the central part that Islam plays in daily life. It also houses the obligatory souvenir shops. From here we went for lunch at an Arabic buffet restaurant and then to the docks markets and on to Yas Island Mall, Ferrari World and the Formula 1 race track. We then went back to our hotel for our last night before heading back to Australia.