During my seven night stay in Dubai, I was keen to explore other emirates, so, I was driven through to neighbouring Abu Dhabi. You have two main options of travel. One of which was the local taxi operator and the other was to book a somewhat more comfortable Lexus to get you to A to B without melting in the heat. Needless to say, I took the Lexus. Not because I wanted to travel “in style” but because I had made the fatal mistake of booking a trip to the UAE in July, a time where even the locals refrain from going outside because it is too hot. Unfortunately, I did not know that until I got there. Schoolboy error by lack of research on my part.
The cost of been driven into Abu Dhabi and back into Dubai takes roughly three hours, is a 140 mile round trip and sets you back somewhere in the region of £80 GBP. I personally, didn’t think it was all too bad compared to local taxi prices where I live. Costing you around £100 to go to Gatwick with no exotic view at the end, I know which one I’d rather pay. Along with that, while you walk around the stunning place I had chosen to visit, the driver is happy to wait for you until you feel you have seen everything you want to see.
That place was the Sheikh Zayed mosque. It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.
Before I had even so much as a minute to revel in such a beautiful place, I heard someone shout to which I turned around and someone dragged me by the wrists. There it was, the stark realisation thar Abu Dhabi WAS in fact conservative like people spoke about. Nothing like Dubai, its surprisingly cosmopolitan neighbour.
I had taken the time to wear a floor length skirt, long sleeve loose top and even bought a headscarf from home to use as my own makeshift hijab, as I knew I wanted to see this beautiful place and I wanted to be respectful. That, and I had had plenty of forewarning about the conservative nature of “the Emirate next door”
I was dragged into a changing room with security! I was terrified. Had I done something wrong? Was I in trouble. Not as such. My wrist bones were showing. As such, they gave me a mosque issue dress to put on over the top of my clothes. Please feel sorry for me at this point, it was 7pm on a Thursday night, 40 degree heat and I was being given a dress with a hood on to cover my hair. All of it a thick polyester from which there was no escaping. I very quickly began to feel dizzy and as if I was overheating. I was even sure to do a sunset visit to avoid the afternoon heat. Whilst I was still hot to the point of sweating and feeling a little sick, I’d have been a lot worse off had had I done the trip in normal daylight hours.
As I made my way through the mosque, I was absolutely astounded at what I was seeing. Gold ceilings, arabic writing hand engraved on walls and pillars, some of which was also filled in with gold. Marble floors you could see your reflection in. The place was spotlessly clean, laden with security (increasingly the norm it seemed) Everything was brilliant white, as if it were newly built.
I was just in awe the whole trip, I hardly uttered a word. There was a room full of literature about who Sheikh Zayed was filled with stained glass and what looked like diamond chandeliers. There was a Catholic woman in there who was so moved by the things she say she got down on her knees and started praying. The Muslim guards have never moved so fast they pulled her up to her feet by her underarms made her delete all the photos she had taken on her phone and sent her on her way – through the exit. I was shocked but, to tell the truth, I was so absorbed in what my eyes were feasting on. Besides, you DO NOT mess with security personnel in Abu Dhabi. You’ll be on the phone to the British Consulate asking for help the next morning that much is true.
Fact time. The Sheikh Zayed mosque is the largest mosque in the UAE and one of the largest in the world. Up to 41000 people visit during Friday prayers (Jummah) or Eid gatherings. It took eleven years to build and was only opened to the public in 2007
After sunset, the mosque took on a whole new level of beauty for so many reasons. Mahgrib was called (sunset prayers) and that was chilling in itself. Also, the lights of the mosque turned purple. Against the brilliant white walls of the mosque itself, it looked stunning. I suggest that anyone who goes here, particularly at sunset, take some time out for personal reflection. Not for religious reasons or anything like that. Just to reflect on what you have seen, as it can be a massive case of sensory overload, which I loved every minute of. I reflected on my time there, my time in the UAE, and my life at home. A lot changed when I got home. I don’t think that’s because I took that time, but I think it helped.
So, would I recommend a trip to the Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi if ever you’re in the UAE? Wholeheartedly. Its something you will never forget.