While some of us only think of Dubai when we plan a luxurious vacation to the Gulf, Abu Dhabi can be your chance to have a 'cultural' experience. It is also the largest of the UAE's seven emirates and traces it's rich history back to around 3000 B.C.. Abu Dhabi maintains a more distinctly Arabian ambiance than glitzy Dubai. Dubai is cosmopolitan, Abu Dhabi is more residential they say but, the capital of the UAE has more to offer if you have the irk to see the 'local culture'. Abu Dhabi has attractions that are just as fun and exciting as Dubai, with much less hassle, making it a much better destination during peak season. These three places in Abu Dhabi are just as enriching, traditional, beautiful and mind boggling and when you come back, will be sharing stories of a truly authentic and unusual holiday.
SHEIKH ZAYED GRAND MOSQUE
Grand Mosque is the first place that you shouldn't miss. Beautiful chandeliers, high security, exquisite marble flooring, adorning water pools and a showers of prayers while the sun sets. The gleaming white marble mosque conceived by the late Sheikh Zayed boasts 82 domes of various sizes and several reflective artificial lakes surrounding the structure. I t is the largest mosque in the UAE and one of the largest in the world. As the sun sets, a unique lighting system reflecting the phases of the moon transforms the mosque's white and gold accents.
Built in 1996, its visited by around 5000 people every day. It's I ndo Islamic mosque architecture catches your eye and makes your whole experience a holy one. You walk through through different rooms to go to the main one and the feeling is very immaculate (I felt that). The best time to visit the mosque is before the sun sets so that you can also see how beautiful it gets then the rays fall upon the mosque and when the sun sets, how flawless it looks with the lights turned on. The mosque creates a haven that is truly diverse. Visiting hours are 9 am to 10 pm except for Friday mornings. Visit at 4:30pm - and catch a glimpse of golden hour, along with the perfect sunset. It's also a cooler time of the day to visit.
( It's important to dress appropriately when you go to the mosque to not hurt religious sentiments and if needed, abayas can be borrowed free of charge. )
LOURVE ABU DHABI
I call it the ' universal' art museum. T he collection in this 'one of a kind' art spectacle will celebrate cultural exchange and diversity. Located in Saadiyat Island Cultural District , The Louvre museum was originally built in France, but it was opened in AbuDhabi in the end of 2017. I visited the museum on my company layover all by myself and it was an enriching experience. A virgin lagoon island, between sand and sea, shade and light, high security, beautifully built with a man made water body like an oasis that contrasts the structure with a huge dome that covers the entire museum from the abundance of the heat that the Gulf offers thus reducing energy consumption.
Inside, you'll see ancient and contemporary works of historic, cultural, and sociological interest from around the world. Connections between civilisations and cultures that may, at first, appear to be far separated by time and geography.
You will be guided through a chronological and theme-based display, traversing different periods and civilisations. Extraordinary sculptures and the vivid art drawings, self portraits of Vincent Van Gogh and Pablo Picasso, you will be mind blown.
You go from one to room to other expecting something and those expectations are actually fulfilled and I couldn't believe I saw this with my own eyes. Imagine o bserving a precious relic from one ancient community to gazing at a completely different one from a different society in just one step!
This museum is high-quality work and displays a first-class collection worthy of international recognition.
Time required : Approximately 2 hours.
QASN AL HOSN
Qasr Al Hosn is the OLDEST and most significant building in Abu Dhabi, holding the city's first permanent structure; the watchtower. HOW CAN YOU MISS THIS!!!
It'a the nation's living memorial and the narrator of Abu Dhabi's history. Located in the heart of the city, it is an important fragment of Abu Dhabi's past. The fort takes you ona journey into its history and culture, as well as the people who resided in the fort turned palace, right from the guards to the servants to the royal family.
The historic Al Hosn area, which comprises Qasr Al Hosn, Cultural Foundation and House of Artisans.
HOUSE OF ARTISANS
House of Artisans is a place to showcase film screenings, cross-cultural craft demonstrations, workshops celebration to promote and preserve the intangible heritage of the United Arab Emirates. A coordinated effort to protect and bring the traditional Emirati crafts of the past to the heart of contemporary culture. The crafts represented in House of Artisans celebrate the creative and artistic relationship between the people of the United Arab Emirates and the locally available natural resources. The UAE has the coast, the desert and the oases and they tried taking every resource available from their surroundings and create a life for themselves. The House of Artisan starts with a workshop of serving of traditional (ghahwa) which is also a social ritual. The beautiful women demonstrate the making of the l ocal coffee that comes blended with cardamom and saffron, served in tiny, handle-less cups.
The house also hosts a number of crafts and skills as you go forward with your tour. It showcases skills like Al-Sadu, Khoos, Talli styles of weaving where you see actual women weaving beautiful clothes. You'll also see local materials to create unique designs for fishing nets and traps which improved the catching of the different types of fish found in the Arabian Gulf waters. The house ends with a souvenir shop where you can purchase everything handmade.
The Artisan centre serves as a centre for preserving and displaying the traditional crafts of the UAE. The Qasn arena pass is 30AED which includes the fort and the House of Artisans. It's upto you what to visit first.
All in all, all the three places are beautiful and not just a 'one time watch'. I visited all these places in 2019 and if given a chance, I'd like to visit them once again because theres so much more to them than what you see in the pictures. If you're in Abu Dhabi, don't forget to look up at the chandeliers while you're in the mosque, don't forget to wear a hat if you at the fort and don't forget to take hold of everything as possible at the museum because there's so much information that you won't find any where else.