Thursday, October 31, 2013

Nice to Meet You Abu Dhabi: Part Two

Alica, a friend I made through Facebook (thanks to Elizabeth from HRMS!) was kind enough to introduce me to some key places and one of her Emirati friends here. What an amazing day of exposure to local culture and people and getting to know a new friend (in person finally)!

 The Emirates Palace Hotel
This was just down the street from my hotel. I thought it looked like a nice place to run that morning that I ventured out into the blazing morning sun. When I approached the gate, the guards looked at me like I was a stray dog. They didn't exactly shoo me away, but I was told, "For guests only." 
Apparently there is a dress code here, and you can only drive in, not walk. They actually stop the car and look in to see what you are wearing. 

Inside The Emirates Palace
It is unbelievable on the inside! Gold leaf everywhere from pillars to walls to ornately decorated cathedral-like ceilings. There was even a gold ATM...yes you get gold out of it, not cash. It was like being in Midas's palace. Rooms run from about $550/night (not bad considering...) to over $8000/night.

Lunch with Sareea & Family
Alicia's friend, Sareea was kind enough to invite us to her house for lunch. She had prepared a beautiful (and tasty!) spread of her favorite foods for us. We began with tea and getting acquainted with Sareea and her oldest daughter Afra. Having spent a few years in Washington DC when Afra was elementary school age, they both speak very good English. We also got to meet Sareea's younger daughter Aisha who was a bit more shy, but also very sweet. Sareea and Afra were so welcoming, energetic, and comfortable to visit with, it felt like I'd known them for a lifetime.
Sareea has a warm heart and a big personality!

Three Beautiful Hostesses

 The Kitchen

 The Food
I have now discovered chicken briyani - yum! 
Wonderful salads on the other end too.

 Alicia - Me - Sareea - Afra - Aisha

(fresh fruit cup, chocolate mousse & date cake) - coffees - teas
Yes, of course I had all three desserts!

Sareea in her beautiful garden

 The family's party house - fashioned after the White House

 A photo of Sheik Zayed with his airplane pilot (Sareea's husband ) next to him!
Sayed was humble, but happy to pose for me next to his picture with the sheik.
 After the unique honor of meeting this wonderful family, we went to one more amazing spot.

The Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque
 But first, there is a dress code...don't worry, they have "loaner" abayas and shaylas! 
Luckily we had our own coverings that would get us by.
All covered? OK, now you may enter...enjoy the brilliant artwork and stunning architecture!
See the helicopter flying nearby? It's closer than it looks here.

Want to see some of that inlay work up close?

Cool floors eh? How about the pillars and walls...

No shoes allowed inside the temple…

Inside the really can't capture this place and it's grandeur.

Kids are allowed to be kids (running-laughing-playing), but there is a certain respect and tameness 
that emanates from all, even the youngest.
Men pray out in theopen or they can go to a men's prayer room. 
Women all go to the women's prayer room.

All carpets throughout the mosque are carefully hand woven, I hear. 
I found the carpet in the women's prayer room to be particularly magnificent, and
 I felt the unparalleled quality of its woven fibers hug my toes as if it were saying, "Welcome!"

The sun was setting as we finished our visit...

Beautiful end to a beautiful day.

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