My trip to Abu Dhabi seems like a long time ago, even though it was just earlier this month. I’m already looking for another holiday in October half term, and I would definitely consider going back to the UAE. Of course the weather is the main factor, but I do love to explore and go sightseeing, as well as lounge by the pool.
When we went to Abu Dhabi last year the weather wasn’t great for the first few days, so we used the time sightseeing. We spent a day in Dubai, took a hop-on-hop-off bus tour, and visited the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. I’d since read that it looks even more beautiful at sunset, so that was on my “to do” list this year. Plus, we discovered that the Louvre Abu Dhabi museum opened five months ago. Having visited the Paris Louvre we were keen to see its Arabian counterpart. So, after a few days of being lazy and soaking up the rays, we spent an afternoon and early evening visiting the Louvre Abu Dhabi and Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
Designed by architect Jean Nouvel, the roof of the Louvre is a floating dome of light and shade. Nouvel (whose work includes the Quai Branly in Paris, the Reina Sofía Museum in Madrid, and the extension to MoMA in New York) took his inspiration from the palm trees in Abu Dhabi. The “rain of light” mimics the dappled sunlight that shines through the palm leaves, while the buildings resemble the traditional low-lying homes of the region. Although the dome appears lightweight, it actually weighs 7,500 tonnes – the same as the Eiffel Tower!
The Louvre Abu Dhabi joins a branch of New York University (which has its own art gallery) on Saadiyat Island, on the periphery of the city. The plan is to transform it into a new cultural heart, with the addition of a National Museum and a new Guggenheim, creating an island of museums and galleries. During the 30 minute taxi journey from our hotel it was evident just how rapidly this part of the city is developing.
The Louvre seems never-ending inside. With 55 buildings – 23 of these galleries – you can easily spend a whole day here. It is certainly one of the best ways to escape the searing desert heat. However, with an eight-year old we had to be realistic and planned on spending 2-3 hours in the museum. If it hadn’t been for the Egyptian artefacts (Isobel is studying ancient Egypt at school) I’m not sure we’d have managed that long!
Luckily this magnificent statue of Ramses II was one of the first things we saw and Isobel’s curiosity was piqued! Seeing a real mummy bandage really fired her imagination!
I have to admit to knowing very little about art, but I instantly recognised this painting. Hang on though…this has to be a print, because we all know that Mr Bean ruined the original, right? 😉
I couldn’t resist writing “Style Splash” on the projector (cue eye rolls from my husband)…the kids’ section of the museum kept me amused as much as Isobel!
After a few hours at the Louvre we hopped in a taxi and headed over to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque to catch the sunset. I’d bought this dress (from Cocosa) with a visit to the mosque in mind, thinking it would cover up enough to avoid wearing an abaya. Alas, the “decency police” stopped me and sent me to the ladies changing room where the attendant said it wasn’t long enough (a gust of wind might expose an ankle!).
So there I was in two full layers, sweating profusely. Not only that, but the abaya I was given was about four inches too long and I almost tripped several times. The irony of it was that I had to walk around holding up the front of my abaya (exposing my ankles) to avoid falling flat on my face. So did quite a few other ladies. I’ve got to admit, I was a bit pissed off, but soon saw the funny side.
The mosque is such a beautiful place, with a picture-perfect scene at every turn. Against the backdrop of the changing evening light it’s even more stunning. While we were there we heard the call to prayer, which was rather haunting and almost magical (and I’m not even religious).
As breathtaking as the mosque is, I was glad to get outside the grounds and whip that abaya off. If I go again I’ll take an abaya with me (House of Fraser sell them in various colours if you ever need one). Having been to the mosque during the daytime and at sunset, I’d definitely recommend the latter. Just make sure your ankles are well-covered!
SHOP THE LOOK
Dress from Cocosa (no longer available) but I’ve picked out some lovely maxi dresses in the widget above
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