The city of Abu Dhabi is located about an hour and a half by car from Dubai and worth a day trip if you have the time. Originally we were going to take a taxi for about $200 round trip/$100 per person as we didn’t know another way to get there, but as we’re walking out of our hotel in the morning, the clerk behind the desk suggests we take the metro to the Ibn Buttuta Mall, then hop on the bus to Abu Dhabi. This costs us about $35 total, per person. So much cheaper! Plus, they’re pretty comfortable.
The bus takes a bit longer, closer to 2 hours, so we get to Abu Dhabi around 11am and head straight to the Sheikh Zayed Mosque. It’s located a little ways outside of downtown so we have to taxi there, but it’s worth it. This place is so impressive (and free)!
As with all mosques, women must cover their head, shoulders and knees to go inside. I brought a lightweight sweater and scarf with me to wear over a maxi dress, but Maggie only has a scarf. Fortunately, the mosque is used to having western tourists and provides a full length garment with hood, free of charge.
Have I mentioned how massive this place is? It’s so big! In fact, it’s the 6th largest mosque in the world (according to some lists. It’s surprisingly difficult to find a definitive list, but 6th is what the people tell me). I am not shocked.
The mosque was built from 1996-2007 for a cost of $545 million. It’s very new and very expensive. Everything is very over the top, and kind of reminds me of the Taj Mahal. I especially love the beautifully decorated floors with their inlaid stone artwork.
We spend close to 20 minutes, sweating in our overdressed clothing, taking pictures from every angle before joining the throngs of tourist to check out the inside.
Before you enter, you have to remove your shoes. Thankfully everything is well thought out for tourists and cubby’s are provided to keep your shoes safe. They even provide benches to sit on!
Inside the mosque, we’re overcome with a sense of peace. Maggie says several times, “It’s the same feeling I had at the Golden Temple in India.” I completely agree. And really, isn’t that what it’s all about? Finding peace.
Another fun statistic (that may or may not be true) – this chandelier is the 2nd largest in a mosque, 3rd largest in the world. Honestly, does it matter though? It’s freaking HUGE. I’m not sure the pictures can possibly do it justice.
The rest of the mosque is just as opulent. Obviously no expense was spared. This place can hold up to 40,000 worshipers at a time, and on Friday’s, that many people actually do show up.
Back outside in the almost unbearable heat (inside was delightfully air conditioned), we wander around a bit more, stop to say hello to Sheikh Zayed’s mausoleum and eventually catch a cab back into downtown.
I would have loved to stay here all day, photographing every angle in every light, but hunger and heat drive us to the Emirates Palace for high tea, recommended by Nevine.
True story – when Nevine told us to get high tea at the Emirates Palace, I assumed it was a hotel. But as our taxi cab is pulling up, I start doubting this assumption and worry that maybe it’s an actual palace! Are normal people allowed in the palace for tea? Is this a thing here? What if they take one look at us and turn us away? How embarrassing! Fortunately, my worries are unfounded as yes, it is indeed a hotel. Phew!!
Inside, this place looks very much like a palace you would find in UAE. Extravagant and over the top.
There’s even the infamous Gold ATM! Are you kidding me? How is this a real thing?
We decide to splurge on the high tea with champagne. It’s a bit spendy (but what isn’t spendy here, I ask you?!), but so refreshing. I love a good glass of champagne.
When we first look at the menu, we’re both so starving that Maggie considers ordering more. Just a burger or something to hold her over for dinner. Having just had my first (and up to this point, only) high tea earlier in the year in Australia, I manage to convince her that these little treats are WAY more filling than you might think.
Everything is so delicious, but even though we ordered 2 teas, we only get one of everything except the biscuits. It’s a bit cumbersome trying to split everything up, but in the end, as predicted, we’re so full we can’t even finish everything.
Before we head back to the bus station to Dubai, we check out the Corniche beach. It looks like a really fun place to spend a day relaxing, but as we’re short on time (and swim suits), we give it a quick walk through.
Being a Seattle girl, this SBC catches my eye. I used to love this place before it was taken over by Starbucks. I’m pretty sure we don’t even have these at home anymore, but it sure is fun to see them here!
Finally it’s time to leave Abu Dhabi behind. It’s been such a fun place to spend the day, but aside from the two places we went, this city isn’t much different from Dubai. Shiny new skyscrapers on the beach. But while there’s way more to do in Dubai, Abu Dhabi is definitely worth a day trip if you have the time for the mosque alone.