The Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi is one of the most impressive structures I've ever seen and hands down the most stunningly beautiful. These pictures don't do it's size justice. To give you a frame of reference, the prayer room underneath the two largest domes in the first picture will easily hold 10,000 people. The mosque was just recently completed with materials imported from around the world, and it contains the world's largest crystal chandelier and rug, seen above. For those who are wondering, no, it is not required to wear the abaya and head covering everywhere in the UAE, but it is done out of respect when visiting mosques.
A model of Saadiyat Island, located off the coast of Abu Dhabi, on which architectural tributes to the Louvre, and the Guggenheim will be located along with the campus of NYUAD and other cultural attractions.
Evidence of the incredible expansion in the UAE...hopefully at a more sustainable level in Abu Dhabi than in Dubai! On the right is a view of the world's tallest building from Dubai airport. It's even more impressive up close, but since I saw it in the wee hours of the morning the first time, this is as close as I could get with the camera! To the left is a view of construction seen from the Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi...we were told construction continues 24-hours a day, but only at night in the hottest months of summer.
And here is the Emirates Palace "hotel" itself, surely one of the most expensive venues in the world. Again, these pictures hardly do it justice, but suffice it to say that the Ferrari's and Lamborghini in its valet parking and the number of dignitaries who have stayed here are probably a good indicator of its opulence. As for the interior, they say everything that looks like gold is. We had a multiple-course dinner in their outdoor gardens on our last night, complete with the sound of the ocean, dancers, and view of the gazebos and fountains which kept me just waiting for a princess Jasmine to appear. It was an unforgettable experience but a bit surreal for this Midwesterner!
Despite the plentiful opulence, Abu Dhabi seems to be a lively and comfortingly less than immaculate city. It's a hub connecting North, South, East, and West in many ways, and an ideal place to make connections...like the one my coyear from UWC in Hong Kong and I made here.