Abu Dhabi

Dubai Mall with the Aquarium in sight

After we rented the vehicle at the Dubai Mall, the drive was a bit tricky. I missed some exits and ramps but finally was on the road to Abu Dhabi. It is about 140 Kilometers via the multi-lane E11. You can reach up to 110 kmph officially on the highway, but 120 is more like the limit. It was a busy drive on the Tuesday morning. We were hoping to reach there by lunch, but a couple of stops and the missed turns added up and we ended up being there around 1 PM. The Sangeetha Vegetarian restaurant was suggested and we found it after more driving. The restaurant is more like the Kamats in Bangalore, food was good.

The Emirates Palace is a magnificent display of opulence.

The Emirates Palace hotel with the million dollar X-mas tree on display

You see gold everywhere – on the doors, pillars and even on the ground with a strip of gold separating the tiles. This is a luxury hotel. It cost about 3 billion dollars to build this place and is the second most expensive hotel to be built. We strolled by the Million dollar Christmas tree on display there and a bit in and out. Parking is free – it should be pocket change for the Emirs not worth bothering the accounting necessary. After a visual infusion of opulence and pictures, the next stop was the Grand Mosque. We were about half hour late for the previous tour so we took the opportunity to grab some coffee at the nice cafe on premises. This mosque took about 11 years to be built and can house about 40,000 worshippers. The main assembly hall is lavish and houses a chandelier that weighs about 85 tons of gold and precious metals and stones. The main hall also has the world’s largest carpet and the wall for worship has 99 different names of Allah inscribed on it. As we stepped out of the guided tour, the moon had risen and the crescent looked auspicious. Women have to wear the traditional cloth – abaya and need to cover their hair with a scarf. The security’s around here keep an eye on scarves that have fallen off or inappropriate dresses. You can’t hold hands here. Just read the instructions before entering.

After the mosque, we visited a relative and spent some time strolling on the Shangri-la walkway by the river. This is across the mosque and provided some nice photo opportunities. Then we were back driving to Dubai. Filling up the gas and finding way into the mall to return the car was an effort and it was about 11:30 pm by the time we finished dinner. Shops are open till midnight with some restaurants as well, so it wasn’t too big of a hunt getting food.

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