May 2, 2017
As I mentioned in the previous blog post from Dubai, because of the cleansing of the ship, we were offered a complimentary tour here. Last time we were here we did the desert safari, so this time we had planned to take the hop on hop off bus. When we found we were getting this tour we decided to take it.
Our guide was Marietta who is originally from Egypt but now lives in Dubai. Abu Dhabi is one of the 7 Arab Emirates. It is the world’s richest city and is the biggest of the Emirates as well as being the capital city. It is on a peninsula and is surrounded by 200 islands. The city was founded in 1761 but was really a Bedouin city of tents until about 1964.
On our drive out to the first stop, Marietta told us a lot about Abu Dhabi. They have 96% of the oil in the UAE, so they are very generous to the citizens and to the other Emirates. Housing costs about $100/month and everyone has housing. It is supplemented by the government. Education and health care are also free here. There are no taxes. If you take any money out of the country or make any investments outside Abu Dhabi you are heavily taxed.
The Sheikh is often seen out and about and the royal family here believes in being one of the people – as they are all descended from the Arabian Bedouins. He gives out his phone number and residents can call him at any time and he also holds meetings with anyone who wants to come once a month.
They are in the Guiness Book of World Records for the largest number of palm trees – 45 million of them in the UAE.
It is very hot here -it can get up to 50 degrees celsius which is 122 fahrenheit – and it gets very humid. Thank goodness it was only about 104 today.
80% of the people living here are foreigners.
We saw a lot of the buildings including businesses and apartments on our way. Amazing!
Our first stop was the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, named for the much loved Sheikh who was the one who had the vision for today’s Abu Dhabi. The mosque is owned by the Sheikh and is the largest in the United Arab Emirates and the 8th largest in the world.
Well, I used my shawl in all of the mosques we visited last year and had no problem, but at this one, the men would not let me in. They said the top I had on was too revealing, even though it was completely covered by the shawl. Norm had already gone ahead. Men can go in looking like anything they want! So Peter, our destination lecturer, went in and bought me this outfit so I could enter! When Norm spotted me, he didn’t know who it was at first!
Halloween costume anyone??
The mosque took 10 years to build and was completed and opened in 2007. It is made almost entirely of marble from 12 different countries. There are 82 domes and 4 towers. There is inlaid marble throughout. Over the 10 years, 30,000 workers were used.
The carpets in the mosque took 2 years to weave by 1700 people in Iran and they are gorgeous. It is the only mosque decorated with flowers, all made of the inlaid marble.
There are 6 large reflecting pools outside the mosque.
The chandeliers cost $12 million apiece and were created in Germany. There are 4 of the big ones and 3 of the smaller ones. The overall cost of the mosque is unknown.
It is quite a work of art and worth putting on that “costume” to get in to see it!
The bathrooms here are equally amazing!
We then traveled past the Emirates Palace Hotel (we had a dinner there last year – you can’t get in without a reservation). This is the place that had that ATM like machine in the lobby that dispensed the gold bullion bars. We also went past the Royal Palace and all of the beautiful homes that surround it.
This building is being constructed and is the Fairmont hotel.
We visited the Heritage Village which had a small museum and demonstrations of the crafts and daily activities in the Arab community. It was very interesting to see the 1964 pictures when there were only sand and tents in this now huge modern place.
On our way back to the ship, we drove along the spectacular corniche and around the city – known as the Manhattan of the Gulf due to the ultramodern skyscrapers and high rise condominiums here.
And, in the terminal, Norm couldn’t resist getting up close and personal with the camel!
We got back to the ship and the many new guests had come on board. All the cleaning had been completed and I am sure the crew was very tired!