Saudis LOVE Dubai. Dubai has everything Saudi Arabia is missing: clean streets, big and well-maintained green spaces, law-abiding motorists, neat pavements, alcohol (for some), cinemas, concerts, and even more and larger shopping malls. Hence, Dubai got flooded by Saudi tourists during this Eid break (often called Haj holiday, as it marks the end of the yearly Haj pelgrimage to Makkah).
And so Ahmed and I decided to travel to Abu Dhabi.
Abu who? Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates and neighbor of Dubai, which is another Emirate. Although it is currently trying to attract more tourists, the capital of the Emirates is not as known as its little brother, but has everything to become the world’s next place-to-be, as Dubai was before the financial crisis hit its dazzling skyscrapers.
While Dubai is famous for its gigantic shopping malls, artificial islands, 7-star hotels and other extravagances, Abu Dhabi’s main tourist attraction is a mosque. Although, the word extravagance is not misplaced here either. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is the eighth largest mosque in the world and although its noble goal allegedly is “to serve as a platform to enhance culture and knowledge in Abu Dhabi and the surrounding region through organizing a variety of activities seeking to promote a culture of tolerance, love, rationality and mutual dialogue” I could not help but perceiving it as a symbol of power and an attempt to impress the world, just like the Christian cathedrals in the old world used to be. It is definitely not in the first place a place of worship, but of flaunting.
It was nevertheless an iconic place to take some snapshots:
The mosque was in the news a few days ago, when Rihanna decided to have a daring photo shoot at the premises, which naturally led to some criticism from Muslims.
The same day we visited the Emirates Palace, a 7-star hotel located in the heart of Abu Dhabi. We knew what to expect when we parked our rented car, a small Mazda, next to this baby:
However, the staff at the hotel were extremely friendly, and we were treated as if we were guests staying at the palace (we obviously were not). We were not the only tourists who just came for a peek into the world of the rich and famous.
(If you’re curious about my experience of living this lifestyle, check out this post. And this one. And this one. I did, however, already conclude that life as a rich girl does not really suit me, but it remains intriguing to observe this world so unknown to most of us.)
The café on the ground floor was mainly occupied with outsiders. And the prices were surprisingly affordable, which explains the crowd sitting at the café for their afternoon high tea – or, in our case, coffee with baklava and a date.
We explored the aisles and corners of the palace until we were stopped by security: We could not enter the private beach of the hotel, an enormous stretch of white, sandy coast that only allows a maximum of 100 hotel guests at a time. To guarantee their privacy, you know.
We witnessed a beautiful sunset that I – obviously – had to capture with my camera:
You might wonder how Abu Dhabi is different from Dubai, since I’ve only been talking about its extreme lavishness. I will give you the answer in my next blog about this trip, so stay tuned!