Abu Dhabi - Wow!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

I got a full dollop of Abu Dhabi sites and life courtesy of a generous tour by Mohamad Trabusi of the Adu Dhabi Ports Company. The tour begins with a discussion of the late Sheikh Zayed, a larger than life figure who led Abu Dhabi and forged the United Arab Emirates. He is the father of the UAE -- their George Washington. His face name and mark is all over the city. Like Las Vegas or Phoenix, Abu Dhabi is carved out of desert land. New Yorkers proud of our PlaNYC MillionTreesNYC campaign, should know Sheik Zayed was a million trees ahead years ago.

Sheikh Zayad Mosque
Sheikh Zayad Mosque

Sheikh Zayad's name is everywhere, but the most prominent and in fact breathtaking monument built in his memory is the Sheikh Zayad Mosque, the third largest mosque in the world (second only to Medina and Mecca).  Mohamad not only walked me through this remarkable structure, but allowed me to join him in the Muslim ritual of ablution and midday prayers.  Few things are more beautiful than the call to prayer, which in Abu Dhabi is electronically synchronized to occur at exactly the same time in every mosque.

Ritual Washing
One of four ablution facilities:  ritual washing before the prayer

Emirates Palace
Emirates Palace Hotel

Spiritually strengthened, Mohamad and I moved onto a secular monument almost as awesome, the Emirates Palace Hotel. This five star plus hotel is a justified point of local pride and as opulent as you can imagine with marble, gold leaf, and elaborate wall hangings. I'm not sure who spends the night at the Emirates Palace, but the existence of a gold vending machine in the lobby gives a hint.

Gold vending machine

Emirates Palace Beach
Emirates Palace Beach, with Marina Mall in distance

The Empire Palace is on the Abu Dhabi waterfront. It is across an abayment with luxury yachts, the marina mall and a space needle. It also starts Abu Dhabi's park, beach and esplanade filled Corniche Road. It's their Riverside Drive/Hudson River Park. 

Shawarma in Abu Dhabi!

All this touring worked up quite an appetite which was more than sated with two shawarma sandwiches, lamb, and chicken. A long time shawarma freak, these sandwiches were the best I ever had. After that yumminess we had a few local sweets--chocolate covered dates and baklava.

Finally the drive home through undeveloped desert brought us past Mohamad's day job, the port of Abu Dhabi, where his Engineering Manager for ADPC's ports unit. Abu Dhabi is now constructing a new port facility north toward Dubai. Once that new larger facility is complete, the big question is what to do with the old waterfront. I am sure we will learn some tomorrow when we start to confer at the conference. Till then...

-- Roland Lewis

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