If you’re visiting Abu Dhabi, be sure to visit the Sheikh Zayed Mosque and the Emirates Palace – a hotel made of gold which is open to anyone who is suitably attired: long pants, a long-sleeved top and covered shoes. We first visited the mosque, which is one of the biggest in the world. Women must wear traditional dress, i.e. a black abaya, for the duration of the visit. At the entrance they inspect your bags, then you have to go downstairs to the cloakroom to rent an abaya and present some form of photographic ID. After that you’re free to enter the mosque, which you may do either barefoot or in socks.
It’s worth checking the opening times, because we got there a little before one o’clock, not long before closing (it was Ramadan). The mosque is closed to tourists on Fridays. You can take photographs, but not during prayers, and there are many guards to ensure that the rules are strictly enforced. Architecturally the building is stunning, with meticulously crafted walls and areas decorated with Swarovski crystals, as well as huge, brightly colored chandeliers and the largest hand-woven carpet in the world.
From here we travelled on to the Emirates Palace, the site of the world’s first gold-dispensing ATM. There you can acquire 24-karat gold in bars of up to ten grams. The quality and quantity can be selected on the touch-screen display, and the prices are adjusted to match the current stock market value.
Photos can only be taken in the hotel when no guests are present, and unfortunately visitors are not allowed down to the private beach or into the gardens. It’s worth visiting the hotel restrooms, because they’re extremely well maintained, while in the lobby café you can have a cappuccino sprinkled with gold flakes, and a plate of first-rate dates. From here we went to a shopping mall to eat, but when he saw what we had bought, the security guard escorted us to a separate, small room where the Indian employees ate.
After lunch we took a look at the Al Maqtaa Fortress and the Al Bateen shipyard, where the iconic Arabian dhows are still built by hand. We also saw two shopping malls, the Marina Mall and the Abu Dhabi Mall, but we didn’t visit the Al Ain National Museum, the Car Museum, the Louvre, the Cultural Foundation or the Zayed National Museum. We couldn’t go to the beach either, because you have to pay everywhere, and the men’s and women’s beaches are separated by a screen. Women, in any case, can only bathe in a chador. The Heritage Village was closed, unfortunately, so we couldn’t go their either, and Yas Island wasn’t quite finished during our visit.
After a long drive we reached the famous Ferrari World, a vast theme park with the Ferrari brand as its central theme. That’s why the most interesting attractions here had to do with cars, from a number of simulators to a rollercoaster that reaches top speeds of 200km/h. The theme park on Yas island is 30-40 minutes from Abu Dhabi, and entry costs 225 dirham. We didn’t go into the park, but we did go into the Ferrari shop in the nearby shopping mall, and took a look at the cars exhibited next to it. Incidentally, the Formula One race is also held here, on the Yas Marina Circuit. Freshly squeezed fruit juice can also be enjoyed at the cafés on the Corniche, or seafront promenade, while at the harbor of Mina, on the northern shore, you can taste some fresh seafood. (2018)