If you follow me on Instagram you may have seen some photos from my recent holiday in Abu Dhabi. I have to admit that having never visited the UAE before, I really didn’t know what to expect. Knowing how to dress appropriately was the biggest conundrum for me as I had read conflicting dress code guides on the internet. Luckily, as we were staying with friends I was able to ask for advice beforehand. Of course that still didn’t prevent me from over-packing! Old habits die hard.
Having done some research on what to do and see in Abu Dhabi, at the top of my list was the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. The mosque, which opened in 2007, is one of the world’s largest, with a capacity for 40,000 worshippers. It has 82 domes, over a 1,000 columns, and the world’s largest hand-knotted carpet. The design and construction of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is said to “unite the world” by using artisans and materials from many different countries. The seven imported chandeliers from Germany incorporate millions of Swarovski crystals….that’s a lot of bling!
All visitors are required to observe a strict dress code; women need to cover up from head to toe, including hair. Wearing a long sleeved top, full length trousers or maxi skirt is fine, but you are told at the entrance if you need to borrow an abaya (a full length loose robe) which is free of charge. The abayas at the mosque also have a hood, but they are not very flattering…Isobel said I looked like a dentist, so I used my pashmina to cover my hair.
The usually hot and dry weather seemed to be taking a holiday of its own when we arrived – it was actually raining when we touched down. The weather did improve as the week progressed, but for the first few days it was windy and a bit chilly at times. We used the cooler days to do most of the sightseeing, which gave me the opportunity to wear my gorgeous poncho from Hope.
The visit to the mosque was the first stop on the Big Bus Tour which allows you to hop on and off, stopping at all the main attractions. The ticket includes a cruise along the corniche on a traditional wooden Arabian Dhow that lasts about 40 minutes. It’s a lovely way to view the Abu Dhabi skyline.
Towards the end of the week the weather had improved so we spent the day at Yas Waterworld. I have to admit that I’m not really a fan of hurtling down water slides at breakneck speed but it was a really fun day. In fact I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. I was even brave enough to go on a rollercoaster…twice! It wasn’t a particularly scary rollercoaster (according to my husband who’s an afficionado when it comes to lunatic rides) but it was enough for me!
Yas Waterworld isn’t cheap (it was about £100 for the three of us) but it was definitely worth it. It wasn’t at all busy so there were no queues and lots of sunloungers free. I got to relax and surf the internet (there’s free wifi) while watching Isobel get soaked by the giant tipping bucket and whizz down the little slides.
We floated serenely around the lazy river, before going on a white knuckle ride down a water slide on a big inflatable for six people. I happened to be sitting backwards, which may have been a good thing as I couldn’t see what was coming. Halfway down Isobel decided that she didn’t like it…a bit late to bail out at that stage! Thankfully the arrival wasn’t as violent as the journey and I didn’t get dunked.
As well as fun at Yas Waterworld, we did spend some time at the beach where we were staying. The sea was a bit cold for me to do more than paddle but I thoroughly enjoyed basking in the sun looking out towards the Yas Marina F1 circuit.
Going to the mall is a day out in itself – Yas Mall is huge and spotlessly clean, with plenty of pristine public toilets ( a bonus when you’ve got kids). I made a beeline for Zara (as I always do) and bought a couple of pairs of culottes. I also bought a pretty bird print bag with a chain strap from another shop, which I’m sure will make an appearance on the blog soon.
The last day of our holiday was also the birthday party of our friend’s young daughter. I wore one of the many tops I’d packed but hadn’t worn, with some new culottes from Yumi.
During our holiday we took a trip to Dubai, which I’ll be posting about separately later in the week because otherwise there’d be far too many photos! Also, I think a trip to the world’s tallest building deserves a post all to itself 😉
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