Abu Dhabi, Capital of the United Arab Emirates

Night falls over Abu Dhabi

It's hard to believe, that only 50 years ago, Abu Dhabi was little more than a fishing village, surrounded by desert sands. Now, although still surrounded by sand, Abu Dhabi is an attractive, modern city, with parks, beaches, and gleaming skyscrapers, all paid for by the massive deposits of oil beneath it.  But, the amazing progress of this area isn't solely dependent on the oil (which is expected to run out around 2100), great strides are being made to attract tourism, and present investment opportunities.

Unfortunately, the only time we could visit our daughter, Clare and family, was during Ramadan, in almost unbearable heat (47°C or 116°F). As a result, we didn't go out much! One thing we did manage, apart from shopping in some of the many shopping malls, was to take the air-conditioned hop-on hop-off bus on a tour of the city. We actually decided not to hop-off at all, as it was far too hot, but we managed an overview of the city, and promised ourselves a more comprehensive tour when we visit again later this year.

The first landmark we saw from the bus, was the 7 star Emirates Palace Hotel. 
Where, they say, even the cakes are made of gold!

Our next stop was at the stunning, jaw-dropping, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

Said to be the world's most expensive mosque, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, with its glistening white marble dome, is absolutely beautiful! I'm looking forward to seeing the interior on our next visit to Abu Dhabi. The mosque is said to contain the largest carpet in the world, hand made by 1,200 Persian carpet weavers; plus 7 gold chandeliers, dripping with Swarovski crystals!

UAE Pavilion

This, the UAE Pavilion, was moved piece by piece to Abu Dhabi from Shanghai, where it welcomed almost two million visitors to the UAE’s national exhibition during the World Expo 2010. This unusual dune-shaped structure, was designed by London architects Foster + Partners, and stands close to the Manarat al Saadiyat exhibition centre, on Saadiyat island.

We also passed the site of the Abu Dhabi Louvre, still under construction. 

This project was conceived in partnership with the Louvre, Paris, and promises to be a "world-class destination, bridging global cultures."

Al Hosn Fort

We managed to glimpse the Al Hosn Fort over the billboards surrounding it, as it is undergoing a conservation project. But, it looks very interesting, and worthy of a visit in the future.

The Al Hosn Fort was constructed in 1761 as a conical watchtower to defend the only freshwater well in Abu Dhabi island. The tower was later expanded into a small fort in 1793 by the then ruler, Shakhbut bin Dhiyab Al Nahyan, and became the permanent residence of the ruling Sheikh. It remained the emir's palace (hence the name Qasr al-Hosn, meaning Palace fort) and seat of government until 1966.

Our tour ended, where it began, at the Marina Mall, 
with the prominent Ikea Tower, and a ferris wheel nearby.

I really look forward to exploring Abu Dhabi later this year, but hopefully in more clement weather! This time we were just happy to stay out of the heat, and gaze out at the amazing view of the city from the 43rd floor of Clare and Reg's apartment.

The view from our bedroom. The haze over the city is a sand storm coming in!

Elizabeth Coughlan

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