As we have breakfast overlooking the Arabian Gulf, we think about our programme for today. It’s not our first time in Abu Dhabi, and we know from experience that there are always new things to discover in this rapidly growing metropolis. If your idea of Abu Dhabi is just desert, think again!
During our last visit we made a few laps on the Formula 1 circuit on Yas Island. Not really my cup of tea, but “you have to try everything in life”,
my grandmother used to say. But then again, she has probably never driven a 500 horsepower Nissan GT-R.
On Saadiyat Island a modern version of the Louvre is being built. A Guggenheim museum of modern art is also planned for 2016. “No time
to wait for the Guggenheim to arrive,” I say. “Let’s visit the Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Mosque.”
Known as the Grand Mosque, this edifice is on a different scale from anything else you will see in the UAE. With about 80 domes topped with
24 carat gold, more than 1,000 columns, and four minarets rising to a height of over 100 metres, it is one of the largest mosques in the world.
As I enter the premises, I’m asked to cover my hair and put on an abaya before entering.
“This makes the experience even more authentic,” I think to myself, “as it is the same veil worn by women who come here to pray.”
I open Wikipedia on my phone and read some background information.
The marble-covered courtyard can accommodate 30,000 worshippers, while the prayer hall itself has the capacity to hold another 14,000 people. I cross the courtyard and stop right in the middle. The outside temperature must be over 40 degrees and the sun hitting the white marble floor merciless. “Let’s see if it’s true,” I say to myself as I kneel down and put my hands carefully on the marble. “Wow, incredible! The Italian marble that covers the courtyard does stay cool, even in the stifling Abu Dhabi summers.”
Anouk Pappers – Author ‘Around the World in 80 Brands’