Abu Dhabi from the Water

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, is one the world’s largest mosques,
with room for 40,000 worshippers.

At the moment, it is far too hot and humid to venture out in Abu Dhabi, unless you’re on a boat on the water. We are fortunate to have friends like Billy and Lisa, who love boating, and invite us along. It gives us great opportunities to see a different view of Abu Dhabi from the water.

As we zip along in our speed boat, with the wind in our hair, we are largely spared from the oppressive heat of the city, and are able to view the fascinating architecture unique to Abu Dhabi.

The Aldar headquarters is the first circular building of its kind in the Middle East

It is hard to imagine the layout of this building’s interior. It was voted ‘Best Futuristic Design 2008’ by the Building Exchange Conference, and it is easy to see why. One day, I must definitely pay it a visit, just to see inside.

The luxurious Ritz Carlton Hotel

The architecture of this 5 star hotel was inspired by the elegant buildings of Venice. The beautifully laid out beach resort is directly across from the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, and is set among exquisitely manicured gardens and trickling fountains.

The Ritz Carlton’s Venetian Village

The Venetian Village is in the grounds of the Ritz Carlton, and is Abu Dhabi’s newest place for fine dining. It boasts a collection of internationally acclaimed artisan restaurants, offering different cuisines from around the world. I have yet to go there, but it certainly looks interesting.

The Shangri-La is another luxury hotel with its own beach

The Shangri-La has an Arabic flavour about it. Traditional Arabic boats called abras meander through a winding waterway connecting different parts of the hotel. It even has its own traditional souk, where you can shop for traditional paintings, jewellery, clothes and other artefacts.

The Al Maqta Tower is 200 years old

The Al Maqta Tower, sits by Al Maqta Bridge, which links Abu Dhabi Island with the mainland. It originally served as a watch tower against invading bandits. Now, carefully restored, it is a cherished testament to the history of this Emirate. It is in stark contrast to the modern buildings and bridges that surround it.

Al Reem Island, Abu Dhabi

New buildings seem to be going up all the time in Abu Dhabi. Every time I pass Al Reem Island it seems as if there are more buildings. It is a world-class project of a self-contained waterfront development with residences, schools, hospitals and commercial enterprises. It is also the first freehold development in Abu Dhabi, where foreign nationals can buy property on a 99-year lease.

We were surprised to see this sand gazelle

After viewing the city from the water, we parked on one of the many islands so we could swim. As we docked, we were amazed to see a sand gazelle stroll across the sand in front of us. 

Billy’s pet shrimp

While we were enjoying ourselves immersed in the water, Billy noticed a shrimp swimming around him. He picked it up to look at it, and then tried to put it back in the water, but it kept coming back to him and trying to crawl up his arm. Perhaps that’s why the gazelle appeared. Billy is an animal whisperer. We’ll have to see what he conjures up next time.

Thanks again Billy and Lisa for a fun day out.

Elizabeth Coughlan


A Day Out on the Water in Abu Dhabi, UAE

Our boat for the day

Captain Billy.

We set off with our friends, Lisa and Billy, for a fun ride around the sea off Abu Dhabi.

We picked up our boat in the marina by the Presidential Palace.

The best thing for me was the unusual view of the city, and the opportunity to photograph the glorious palace as it fronts on to the sea.

The magnificent buildings of the Presidential Palace.

The new Presidential Palace in Abu Dhabi is the most beautiful and prestigious building in the UAE. The palace houses the offices of the President, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, together with the offices of the Vice President, and the Crown Prince.

The tall complex on the right is known as the Etihad Towers. To the left are
the Regent Emirates Pearl and the Millennium Bab al Qasr Hotel.

Our trip along the coast gave us a great view of some of the iconic architecture in Abu Dhabi. I find many of the modern skyscrapers quite fascinating, and I intend doing a project on it, showing the buildings both close-up, and from afar.

After circling the bay, Billy drove us to an area by a beach where we could swim. The water was a beautiful turquoise colour, but very salty, so we tended to float upwards, and it was difficult keeping our feet on the bottom. It was also unusually windy, so we were occasionally smacked by waves.

Enjoying the sea

Clare, floating in the water

We spent some time at the beach, and I decided to try my hand at some minimalist photography, which is becoming very popular at the moment.

 Just how minimalist can you get?

On the way back, we passed this magnificent sailing ship…

…and sailed closer to the Presidential Palace.

We had such a fun time with Billy and Lisa. When we returned, we repaired to the Sheraton Resort, where we had more swimming, lunch, and not a few drinks.  Great day out!

Elizabeth Coughlan


Gallipoli Exhibit: Te Papa Museum, Wellington, NZ


Te Papa Museum, Wellington, New Zealand

I was really pleased that I had reserved the large part of a day to visit the Te Papa Museum in Wellington. There is so much to see there, but the main attraction for me was the “Gallipoli: The Scale of Our War” exhibition. This is an incredibly moving depiction of New Zealand’s’ role in the disastrous Gallipoli campaign.

This exhibit is unlike any other in that it tells the story of the war through personal experiences at that time. Each of these people is depicted in an enormous (two and a half times life size) silicone figure; perfect to the last detail, giving an amazing sense of presence.

Lieutenant Spencer Westmacott was one of the first men 
to set foot on Gallipoli on 25th April 1915. 

Lieutenant Westmacott’s right arm was smashed by a bullet while holding off a Turkish attack. He was stretchered to the beach and evacuated. He said, "When war came, I must go... I had the chance to lead men. I could show what I was made of, in the greatest test of all.”

Lieutenant Colonel Percival Fenwick, a surgeon, 
despairing at being unable to save a man’s life.

He is leaning over the body of Jack Aitken, 
a fatally wounded Canterbury infantryman, on May 4th 1915.

Close up of the surgeon’s hands

Lieutenant Fenwick’s hands show the extraordinary attention to detail, - notice the fly on his bloodstained left hand, as he holds Jack Aitken’s identity tag!

John Robert Dunn, known as ‘Jack’, holding a can of corned beef.

Jack Dunn was one of the thousands of keen young men who rushed to enlist at the start of the war in August 1914. He is remembered today as one of the Wairarapa’s heroes of the ‘Great War’.

Colin Warden (lying dead) with Friday Hawkins firing the machine gun

Colin Warden was in charge of a 16-man Maori Contingent machine-gun team. They provided essential support to the infantry’s assault on the summit of Chunuk Bair. It was there they came under heavy fire and Warden was killed.  Friday Hawkins took over the gun when Colin Warden fell.

This is Rikihana Carkeek, from Otaki, feeding bullets into the machine gun. 

Carkeek was shot in the neck while manning a machine gun himself, but managed to drag himself to the beach and was evacuated. Eight weeks later, he returned to the fight, and after serving in France, he returned home in 1919.

Lottie (Charlotte) Le Gallais, weeping over news of her sweetheart’s death.

Charlotte Le Gallais was a nurse in Gallipoli. Her sweetheart, Leddie, was killed in action in July 1915, but she only heard about it in the November, when her unopened letters to him were returned with the stamp, ‘KILLED RETURN TO SENDER’.

Lieutenant Colonel William Malone isn’t depicted with a silicone figure, but by other interactive exhibits. He was the commander of the Wellington Battalion, and was known as a dedicated and serious leader. He expected the highest standards of behaviour and dress, and turned a frightened rabble of homesick young men, into a disciplined and ordered fighting force.

Sergeant Cecil Malthus standing among the poppies in a muddy shell hole.

This is the final figure, showing Sergeant Cecil Malthus. Visitors are invited to write a message on the poppies and throw them in the hole to cover the mud. Sergeant Malthus was one of those who went on to fight in the Somme after Gallipoli, which reminds us of the continuing hardship many of these soldiers went on to face.

Te Papa’s “Gallipoli: The Scale of Our War” is a very emotional experience, which for me, was even greater as I had been to Gallipoli and seen the insurmountable odds they were up against. 2,779 New Zealanders lost their lives in Gallipoli, and many others were scarred for life. War is a terrible thing.

Elizabeth Coughlan


Hop-on Hop-Off Bus, Wellington, NZ

The Basin Reserve, where David and Brian were watching
the South Africa and New Zealand test.

On a recent trip to Wellington New Zealand, I found myself free for a couple of days while David went to watch cricket at The Basin Reserve with our nephew, Brian. I decided to try Wellington’s Hop-on Hop-off Bus, as I have found these are the quickest way to explore any city.

Wellington’s Hop-on Hop-off bus is unlike those found in most areas of the world, in that it is a small 20 seater, rather than the usual double decker. It was easy to see why when we drove up some of the very steep and narrow country roads.

I booked my ticket at the i-Site Visitor Centre, and discovered that, luckily, I had the last ticket available for the next bus. As the seats are limited on each bus, you really need to book in advance to be sure of a seat, especially if you are travelling in a group.

We set off through Wellington’s entertainment hub to our first stop at the Mount Victoria Lookout. Here, the bus driver waited while we all scrambled to take photos, before getting back on the bus to continue our journey.

Wellington, as seen from Mount Victoria Lookout

The view of Mount Albert from Mount Victoria Lookout

Not much room for error on Wellington Airport’s runway!

The next destination was Wellington Zoo. As a rule, I don’t approve of zoos, but I hoped to take photos of some of New Zealand’s elusive native animals. I was disappointed. I did take one or two, but some of the exhibits I had hoped to see were under construction. I didn’t go to see any of the African animals, having recently been on safari in Africa – a much better option. I wasted time here that would have been better spent elsewhere.

These strange creatures are capybara, the largest rodent in the world.
However, they are not native to NZ, they are from Central and south America.

Another strange creature was this agouti, also from Central America.

I saw that there were seven more stops on the itinerary, and that I was going to run out of time to see everything. I made a bad decision to miss the next stop – the Great War exhibition, created by Sir Peter Jackson at the Dominium Museum Building - although I have promised myself to go back and see it next time I am in Wellington.

The Cable Car was next on the list, but as this can be ridden up from Wellington, I decided that would be put off for another day as well.

However, I did get off at Zealandia. This is Wellington’s eco-attraction, home to some of the world’s most extraordinary animals. Zealandia is a conservation project, aimed at preserving New Zealand’s rarest wildlife. Of course, at 225ha, you could walk all day and see very little, and as the last Hop-on Hop-off bus leaves at 3:30pm, you can’t take advantage of the night tour offered.

Zealandia also offers free introductory tours, and I was able to take advantage of one of these, although I had to duck out half way through so I could catch the next bus. This is another place I have on my list for my next visit to Wellington.

This is a Takahe, a flightless bird indigenous to New Zealand. It was once thought to be extinct, 
until it was rediscovered in 1948 in the Murchison Mountains of Fiordland, South Island.

This rare reptile, the tuatara, is only found in New Zealand. They are the last survivors 
of a type of reptile that thrived in the age of the dinosaurs.

The day was getting on, so I skipped the Botanic Garden – 24ha of beautiful gardens, native bush, exotic forests, and colourful floral displays – and got off at the next stop – New Zealand’s Parliament Buildings. I was rather frustrated to find that all cameras and phones have to be deposited with security before entering parliament. So, no photos - except of the exterior.

The Beehive: The Executive Wing of the New Zealand Parliament Buildings.

By now, it was getting late, and the next bus was the last one, so I had to miss the Wellington and Te Papa Museums, but they were within easy reach of our hotel, so I left Te Papa for the next day.

I would definitely recommend the Wellington Hop-on Hop-off bus, especially for the interesting commentaries from the very knowledgeable drivers, but with the following recommendations:

1. Book in advance to be sure of securing one of the 20 seats.
2. Make sure you catch the first bus at 9:30am to get the most out of the trip.
3. If you are going to be in Wellington for a few days, make Zealandia a separate trip by using the cable car up from the city, and then catching the free shuttle bus to Zealandia. This will give more time to explore this amazing eco-attraction.
4. Save Wellington and Te Papa for a separate day, so as not to be rushed.

Elizabeth Coughlan

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I couldn't resist this one!