On Thursday we made a two hour drive to Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE. It still has a lot of oil which supports its economy. Dubai by contrast is out of oil and depends on tourism, and real estate to support its economy. Only 15% of the population are citizens or Emiratis. One third of the citizens are millionaires. The rest of the population are immigrants, mostly from India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, with no path to citizenship. There are no taxes except for a recently added VAT of about 4% on purchases. Healthcare is free to everyone, and education costs are nominal for everyone. Only citizens have the functional equivalent of Social Security. Citizens also get free housing. The immigrants feel they have to leave once they turn 65.
There is no crime. There is no drug problem. There are no guns. There is a police department and any crimes are dealt with very harshly, so people don’t commit crimes because it is not worth the risk of the punishment.
Our first stop was the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. It can accommodate over 7000 worshipers in the main prayer hall and over 40,000 worshipers overall.
You enter the mosque through an underground mall complete with a McDonalds for the Americans and a Tim Hortons for the Canadians. There are shops selling a variety of goods. The long shopping hall above…
… leads to the nearly mile long Tolerance Path to the Mosque. This path resembles an airport concourse with moving walkways. The walls contain information about the construction of the mosque plus the promotion of tolerance and acceptance amongst all people and religions.
The marble used in construction came from North Macedonia, Italy, and India.
Top picture is the main entrance to the courtyard. The middle picture shows the main entrance to the mosque. Women had to have long pants that covered their ankles, long sleeves that covered their wrists, and a scarf covering their head. Men had similar requirements except they could wear short sleeves and didn’t need to cover their head.
The main courtyard is considered to be the largest example of marble mosaic in the world.
The columns are marble inlaid with semi precious stones.
The anteroom to the main prayer hall had what we thought was the prettiest chandelier. All chandeliers are made with Swarovski crystals.
The main prayer room had the heaviest chandelier in the world (the center one) and the largest carpet in the world. The carpet weighs 35 tons and contains 2,268,000,000 knots woven by about 1250 Iranian carpet knotters over a two year period.
The windows are Murano glass.
Reflecting pools surround the mosque.
We had lunch at another five star hotel. After a round of hearty appetizers, this is our main course served family style for a table of seven people. We didn’t finish it all. It is going to be very hard for us to ever stay at a Hampton Inn again!
After the morning visit to the mosque, we thought any other building would be anticlimactic, but we were wrong. After lunch we visited Qasr Al Wata, the Palace of the Nation or the presidential palace of the UAE. It was originally intended to be the home of the sheik, but he never lived in it. It is used primarily to host visitors, but most of it is open to the public.
The entry gate would indicate something impressive lies ahead.
The entry courtyard in front of the palace.
The entry. The walls, floor, and ceiling are all beautiful.
From the entry hall, the corridors go to the left or right.
One room contained the gifts that had been given by visiting dignitaries. The gift from the United States was a modest stainless steel eagle. It seemed rather insignificant in this building.
More of the hall.
These are the sinks in one of the men’s bathrooms.
Meetings were held in this room that contained another chandelier which claimed another superlative that I can’t remember. Of course it is made from Swarovski crystals.
A dining/meeting room.
Some details of the building. It was truly spectacular!
This was once a palace and is now a five star Mandarin Oriental hotel near Qasr Al Wata.
As if all this wasn’t enough, we ended the day with a visit to the Louvre Abu Dhabi, an art museum with a partnership agreement with the Louvre Museum in Paris. It is a cluster of buildings under a metal roof designed to let the light through but reduce the heat load on the buildings beneath it. The same principle is commonly used to reduce the heat load on the buildings. The museum had 12 galleries and we only made it through the first four. There are two other massive museums under construction in the area. We started the tour at 8:30 AM and got back to the hotel at 8:30 PM. It was an exhausting day but well worth the energy expended.