Abu Dhabi and Dubai October 2012

Sunday 14 October
We flew from Frankfurt to Abu Dhabi on Etihad, then caught a taxi to our hotel, the Al Jazeera, in the centre of the city. On interacting with people in the hotel it was immediately clear that there is one common passion here: cricket.

Monday  15 0ctober.
We had a quiet day and used it to orientate ourselves to Abu Dhabi. The heat was bearable so we walked to the nearby shopping centre, then later walked downtown to the luxurious Corniche overlooking the sea. Everyone is polite and the city is busy but not over-bearing like some Asian cities.

Downtown Abu Dhabi

Tuesday 16 October.
We took a half day city tour of Abu Dhabi with our guide Rodney and one other. It was an excellent tour but Abu Dhabi obviously isn't primarily a tourist city. We visited the date, vegetable and gold markets, and then had a tour through the magnificent Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. It is the third largest in the world and contain 40,000 people. Most of it is decorated with white marble inlaid with gold or floral themes in mosaic marble. Inside there are seven massive crystal chandeliers, one for each of the Emirates. A feature of the mosque is the floral carpet in the main prayer area (men only) which is the world's largest hand made carpet. Overall the mosque is a "wonder of Islamic design and a feat of engineering".  It was given to Abu Dhabi by its first President Sheikh Zayed. His son, Sheikh Khalifa is now the President and their family are the 'local residents', for whom everyone works. Residents are paid $40,000 per month and have free housing, education, medical benefits etc. and no taxes. 80% of the population are from other countries and must be sponsored by a resident to live and work. They must leave when they hit 65 and can be told to leave if they do anything wrong. They have it pretty good, though, and many come and work here to set themselves up for the rest of their lives. Oil was discovered here about 60 years ago  and now funds everything (through the sheikhs).

Grand Mosque

At the Heritage Village we saw how the Sheikhs used to live as bedouins in the desert sands. The contrast with the modern buildings of the city was stark!  Next we visited a craft shop overlooking the super expensive Emirates Palace Hotel and the Marina Mall. We especially admired their amazingly beautiful woven gold rugs used as wall hangings. We now have a much better idea of life in this incredible city.

 Abu Dhabi Heritage Village

Wednesday 17 October.
We took a day tour to Dubai, a separate Emirate and 150km from Abu Dhabi. Dubai is noted for its big buildings and wide ranging tourist experiences and it didn't disappoint. There are gigantic buildings everywhere including the 7 star Burj Al Arab Hotel that soars to a height of 321 metres in the shape of a sail. It dominates the skyline and has become iconic for the city.




After the obligatory stop at a art/craft shop we went to the excellent Dubai Museum and saw the development that has taken place from a Bedouin village beside the Dubai Creek since the 1960s when oil was discovered.
Next we went on a water taxi across the creek then braved the local craft, spice and gold markets. Again we were struck by the amazingly fine gold work on offer for the rich locals - probably the only ones who can afford them!


Our final stop was at the magnificent Dubai Mall. It is big and luxurious with great views, a massive waterfall and the biggest aquarium in the world.

Dubai Mall

Interesting on coming back at the border was to see the "forest" beside the road in Abu Dhabi. Millions of trees have been planted to created some green places which contrast with the desert vistas outside of Dubai.

Thursday 18 October To Melbourne.
Our 14 hour flight to Melbourne left at 10.30pm so we rested, did some shopping and used the hotel computers to fill out the time before we departed.

Our brief time in UAE was interesting because it enabled us to see a rich Muslim society in action. It was good to be able to visit both Abu Dhabi and Dubai and to get a feel for how these cities work.

Click here to watch the video we made of our time in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.


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