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Published: February 13th 2016
Sheikh Zayed Grand MosqueDay 21 Monday 8th February 2016
Blue ponds that surround the mosque
Oh my God 4.15am and we are crawling out of bed! I don’t mind early starts but it always seems so unnatural to be getting out of bed when it is still dark. We managed to get ourselves into gear and got dressed and finished our packing and out the door in 30 minutes. Our taxi turned up after a short delay and he got us to the bus station without any hassle. Our bus today was an old piece of junk that looked okay on the outside but was filthy inside with lots of broken seats and fittings. We were underway shortly after 6am and pushing through the suburbs of Muscat as the sun rose. Discovered something peculiar on this journey in that all the highway overpasses had signs saying that no vehicle over 3 tonnes including all buses and truck could use them, so that every time we came to one the bus had to exit the freeway and cross the street below the bridge and then re-enter on the other side; very strange.
The journey today was very slow with lots of stops to
let people on the bus and for the little girl on the bus to go to the toilet. When we got to the Oman Passport control there was a huge line up of about 100 people which took over an hour to clear. Our processing took less than a minute but we had heaps of people in front of us screaming at officials to be let in to or out of Oman that took up a lot of time. Never thought screaming to be let in would be a successful tactic but it seemed to work.
Further down the road we stopped at the U.A.E. passport control to get stamped into their country and Shelley went first and it was funny watching the woman behind the counter as she flicked through Michele’s passport and I noticed how her stern look broke and she let out a small giggle and I am 100 percent positive it must have been because she saw Michele’s visa photo for Iran, it’s an absolute shocker. When it was my turn it was the complete opposite as the guy serving me saw my Iranian visa and called another official over and they both
Al Ain Zoo
Desert Eagle Owl
had a heavy discussion as they examined my passport as if I was public enemy number one. Thankfully they stamped us through so we could continue our journey and we arrived at Dubai at 1.30pm. The bus dropped us at the ONTC office but we needed to continue onto Abu Dhabi and so had to get a taxi to the Dubai bus terminal for our onward bus. The taxi ride cost us 25 Dirham ($10 AUD) and the driver offered to drive us personally to Abu Dhabi for a vague 200 to 300 Dirham. We declined his offer and got a bus ticket for 35 dirham each, and within 5 minutes we were on our way again.
The journey between Dubai to Abu Dhabi took a bit over two hours and for a lot of the journey we passed skyscrapers or vast industrial estates. When we got off the bus at Abu Dhabi I decided we should save money and just walk to our hotel rather than get a taxi, as it was only 2 blocks. Silly me, should have had a better look at the scale of my map as that walk ended up taking us
45 minutes, which would have been fine except for carting our back packs in the full sun. Not many budget options for hotels in Abu Dhabi (or Dubai for that matter) and we found the best options is trying to pick up a better class of hotel on special, but it is still more than we like paying. Staying at the Cristal Hotel which is pretty fabulous and we have a great room on the 14th
floor and what made the hotel even better is that it has a bar and they gave us vouchers to use there. Before having a drink we had a walk around town picked up supplies and picked up a cheap feed for dinner. At the bar we got our first drink for free and lucky us it was lady’s night so Michele’s drinks were also free for the rest of the night. A live band was playing so we could have stayed there till the wee hours but at 11 after only 3 drinks we were both falling asleep so it was time to get back to our room. Day 22 Tuesday 9th February 2016
Abu Dhabi Mall
start to the day which was fine as we didn’t have any great plans for the day. One of our first tasks this morning was ringing home on Skype, because Oman has blocked it we couldn’t use it for the past 2 weeks so it was great to be able to speak to family again.
Put on our shoes and hit the streets to have a look around stopping at the Abu Dhabi Mall for a coffee and a quick wander past the shops and then onto the corniche. The corniche was not what we were expecting, yes it was on the water but it was miles and miles of paved walkway with no shops and no kiosks. It was fabulous walking along next to the beautiful blue ocean but after a long walk we turned back into the city and made our way back to the hotel. There is some amazing buildings in the city but it is a very modern and starts to all look the same. Went to the hotel bar armed with note book and Lonely Planet to make some plans and have a drink and we have decided to hire a car
Small part of the vast skyline
on Thursday to get out of the city for a day. Day 23 Wednesday 10th February 2016
Today we got a taxi out to Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque which was constructed from 1996 to 2007 of white marble and incorporating many different styles and seems to be greatly inspired by the Taj Mahal. The exterior is beautiful and the inlaid patterns on the floors and columns (over 1000 of them) are amazing. The interior of the main prayer hall which holds 7,000 worshippers is also beautiful with mother of pearl inlaid columns, but very busy and those chandeliers! well let’s say they are not to my taste. The biggest problem I had with the mosque was the other tourists, I know I do not understand all the rituals and etiquette of the faith but I do know it deserves respect. I am sure that they would not enter a church or temple and carry on this way. Women turning up in short shorts (on entering if not appropriately dressed you are supplied with an outfit), pulling their scarves off soon as they were past the security guards, leaning and posing all over
Probably what Abu Dhabi used to look like
everything including traditionally dressed residents, walking through areas that are clearly marked “no entry”. It seems some people believe is there right to do what they want instead of appreciating that they are being welcomed into a place of worship. We did see some of the tourist being asked to delete photos from their cameras which the security deemed inappropriate but only after they were asked nicely and repeatedly not to take the photo in the first place. On the other hand I found the Coffee Club café at the exit gates a little strange.
We got a taxi back to our hotel and because the mosque is 14km from the centre of town it cost 40 Dirham $16 AUD, which although expensive was worth it. Before returning to our room we picked up supplies for breakfast (some croissants), from the nearby supermarket as the hotel charges a ridiculous $30 a head for breakfast. Had a few beers at the bar at night and despite it being “ladies night” again we left early as we are off on a drive tomorrow and we will need our wits. Day 24 Thursday 11th February
The Abu Dhabi Corniche
Picked up a hire car today so we can get out of the city centre. On the way to the Emirates National Auto Museum we started off fine then hit major road works which made the trip a little longer. Finally got to the museum and saw a group of 6 tourists standing outside not going in and we found out why. The Lonely Planet which is now getting old with a new edition due later this year has the museum being free but it now costs 50 dirham (AUD$20) each. After a quick discussion decided to go in as we had driven about 1 hour to get here. The collection is housed in a pyramid shaped building and there is definitely quantity here but I would not call it quality. If you like Mercedes from the 1980’s then you will be in your element especially if you like them in tacky colours. The range of American cars were OK but generally not showroom quality more like something you would find in Grandpa’s garage. Then there was the collection of Suzuki Jimnys, why? In general it was very average, it was the quirky oversized things that
the “Rainbow Sheikh” as he is known, gets built that are more interesting. There is a huge eight bedroom motor home with balconies, a huge world globe trailer (which are outside the museum), a huge replica dodge truck and an interesting black car with spider web motifs (inside). We have seen much better auto museums and if we had known would not have bothered.
On the road again and off to Al Ain about one and half hours on a great freeway, we were not sure what to see, it was more about getting out. As we hit town we saw a sign to the zoo and although we normally would not do this decided to have a look, it is meant to have a well-respected conservation and breeding program. To our surprise it was modern and some areas like the UAE World Desert section were well presented, here they have the Arabian Oryx. The sad thing is the Oryx was extinct in the wild here and is only now being reintroduced because of breeding programs like this one. All countries are destroying the habitants of animals and now zoos are where we get to see vulnerable
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Marble inlaid inner courtyard
species. Hopefully when people walk around zoos we ask ourselves “are we pushing our governments enough to save animals in the wild”. We saw some relatives from home like cockatoos and emus. The strangest thing we saw was Lady a forty year old gorilla who unfortunately lost her partner in 1998 so to help her with loneliness they have given her a TV to watch and two large rabbits and yes the rabbits are still alive. It was amazing watching her go up to the rabbits and interact she seems so gentle with them and the rabbits are not scared.
After a long day we drove back to Abu Dhabi and on the way we were overtake again by cars doing well over 140km/hr and then we saw our first accident a ute had hit the safety rail and flown over landing on its roof. He was a lucky man although bloody and shaken he was sitting in the sand outside his ute, he must have been wearing a seat belt. Dropped off the car at the rental place and walked back to the hotel for a drink and then a spicy (tandoori) doner kebab from a
Turkish place across the road. The meal was a bit of a reflection of Abu Dhabi, Turkish Kebab, with Indian Filling in an Arab city. It is only a small place and we were squashed up the back to eat, while a line up went out the door for take away. We both really like Abu Dhabi more than Dubai as it has a better vibe and seems more alive. Day 25 Friday 12th February 2016
Friday once more and once again most things are shut. Decided we would have a sleep in as the drive yesterday was fairly stressful and must admit I was glad to hand back the keys. Our plans for sleeping were scuttled when our mobile phone rang at 7.16 and then again every 15 minutes after that from a number we didn’t know and whoever was ringing would hang up when we answered; probably a feedback survey from Optus. We ended up filling the day wandering around the local area checking out all the closed and opened shops. Today was windy and cold, the coldest day we have had in the U.A.E. so in the end we
beat a retreat back to our room and spent the rest of the afternoon planning our next leg. At 5 we headed back up to the bar to perhaps have our last drinks for a while. Would have loved to have sat there all night but once happy hour finished at 8 we opted to save our money and retreat to our room and prepare for our journey back to Dubai tomorrow.
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