Posting this a bit late as I was quite busy at work after this trip, and decided to write my El Nido post first. Hope you enjoy them both! 🙂
Being in an international long-distance relationship will make you travel to crazy places for aggressively short periods of time. And this is what brought me to the Emirates for quick, three-day trip last weekend.
I got in late Thursday night, landing around 1AM. José hooked me up with a Fast Pass at the airport because he is a champion of life, so I was able to zip through security and immigration in no time.
Basically Thursday night we just chilled because I had just landed and he had just come off a week-long work training, so we took the opportunity to hang out and sleep. Friday morning was pretty much the same: lazy breakfast, pool/beach time, hanging out. Super nice after such hectic weeks for the both of us! In the afternoon, we met up with a group of José’s friends from MBA, mostly living in Dubai (with one there for the same week-long training). We met at Kite Beach, a beach filled with sea surfers, watersports and loads of people on the sand doing beach activities. After months of stories about them, it was great to finally meet the gang! It was quite cold on the beach (I was actually very surprised by how cold it was the whole weekend—only about 79/26 at the hottest part of the day), so we headed to Tony’s (friend’s) apartment for some sunset drinks. After a few hours we went home to change before dinner, which ultimately meant me falling asleep due to jetlag and waking up only after midnight highly disoriented. Sorry, gang!!
We made it up to them on Saturday, when we met up early in the morning in a rented van for a day in Abu Dhabi. AD, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, is about 90 minutes south of Dubai, and is quite a gorgeous place. We first hit up the Louvre, a satellite location of the famous art and civilization museum. It was wonderful! My art heart was very happy seeing the collection of cultural assets and works by artists like Monet and Van Gogh. And the architecture, ah! The museum is designed as a “seemingly floating dome structure;” a web-patterned dome allowing the sun to filter through and creating an effect meant to represent “rays of sunlight passing through date palm fronds in an oasis,” according to Wikipedia. It was built by Jean Nouvel, an architect who also constructed the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis, and the Arab World Institute in Paris. All of his works are the perfect combination of complex and calm, but what makes him so interesting in my eyes is that he has laid claim to no distinct visual style throughout his career: each of his pieces are completely different, yet all beautiful in their own rite. I actually found out last week that my colleague’s sister-in-law was an architect involved on the project. I’ll be meeting her at a baby shower in a few weeks, and I can’t wait to talk her ear off about the work. Absolutely stunning—see photos below.
As if our eyes hadn’t had enough visual stimulation from the museum, we headed to the Sheikh Zayed Mosque after a nice lunch on the water (with an extensive menu that had all going from starving to overly full in 20 minutes). This mosque is the largest one in the country, and is open to the public when it is not in use for prayer (when it can fit up to 41,000 people!). There are very strict dress codes within the mosque, and myself and Helena wore robes (abayas) provided by the mosque to cover ourselves completely.
I was blown away by the grandiosity and craftsmanship of the structure. And, upon further reading within the mosque and afterwards, I found some astounding pieces of information about its construction:
- The carpet in the main prayer hall is said to be the largest single piece of handmade carpet in the world
- The Mosque contains seven chandeliers, each are made up of millions of Swarovski crystals (the largest of these is the second largest in the world!)
- There are 96 marble pillars in the main prayer hall, each delicately inlaid with mother of pearl
- The mosque features a unique lighting system designed to reflect the phases of the moon. There are 22 light towers which project soft clouds of a ‘bluish gray’ color on the exterior of the mosque (this light changes according to the moon phase every night)
The mosque is a beautiful, huge, and a wonderful example of modern Islamic architecture. I was very happy to have been able to visit, especially at the time of day we went—having this experience at sundown made it all the more stunning! (Thanks to the squad for supporting my #InstagramCelebrity dreams)
On Sunday morning, it was early to the airport for the two of us, headed back to our respective domicile countries. But it was a quick weekend well worth it: a great time together, meeting friends, and seeing another city in the world I never dreamed of visiting!
Some photos from Dubai/Abu Dhabi: