Last September, my then boyfriend and I went to the UAE for ten days. We were visiting some friends of his in Abu Dhabi, so we didn't do as much sightseeing as I would have wanted, but I got to see and experience things I never thought I would.
Here are some of them:
The Burj Al Arab in Dubai, probably the most famous building of the UAE. You have to pay to go in, so we didn't. We were told the decoration inside is a big disappointment compared to the awesome architecture of it.
You wouldn't believe how hot it was. That particular day the temperature was 113°F/45°C. This little "market" (actually a shopping mall inside the hotel right in front of the Burj Al Arab) was actually indoors, air conditioned. We just ran out to take pictures and ran right back in.
That's probably why the sight of this:
is so amazing. That, and the fact that it's in the mall (the Mall of the Emirates, largest in the Middle East).
We went a desert safari, riding the sand dunes on a 4x4. It's an unbelievable experience, I loved it.
After the safari they take you to a "camp site", where you eat a traditional dinner, and there's usually a belly dancer (even though belly dancers are not from anywhere near the UAE). We were there for Ramadan, so no belly dancer for us. I read there are tour companies that offer falconery exhibitions instead.
A wind tower at the Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House Museum... That's how Emiratis used to keep their houses cool.
And now, what was probably the most amazing part of the trip: the Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Grand Mosque, in Abu Dhabi:
One of the largest in the world. Honestly, it's hard to imagine such luxury without seeing it for yourself. It's a magnificent building, and a very special place for the Emiratis, since Sheikh Zayed, who unified the Emirates, chose to be buried in it. You can't take pictures of the place where he was buried (a separate building near the Mosque).
As massive and exquisite as the building itself is, I think my favorite part was the guided tour, where we were told about some of the principles and beliefs of Islam and some Emirati customs. It was truly fascinating, and it's so sad that even the word Muslim has such a negative connotation in the Western world... It's hard to believe some people could twist principles based on love and respect into... murder, and the sacrifice of innocent people, and-- oh well. I don't mean to get all deep. I just found it so interesting.
If you'd like to see some more pictures, including some of the Emirates Palace (the only seven-star hotel in the world) and the Burj Dubai (the tallest building in the world), here's a link to the full set on flickr. All I ask is you leave a message here so I can keep track of who's looking :)