a vision of beauty …

a vision of beauty …

Day 42 • Tuesday • 16 Sept 14 (Part 2) • Today’s High 41º (Abu Dhabi)

… but enough about me, let’s talk about the equally stunning Sheikh Zayed Mosque. If the boys thought we were going all the way to Abu Dhabi just for Ferrari World, they were sadly mistaken. After an adrenalin filled morning fueling their passion, I arranged for a little detour en-route home to fuel their soul!

To be honest, I didn’t even know the name of this Mosque or anything about it. I just heard there was a beautiful one in Abu Dhabi. So I asked the driver if he could take us to “that famous Mosque” all the while thinking we’d only steal a look from the outside – we were, after all, dressed for a theme park. Little did I know our driver had other ideas.

There we were, driving around the Mosque perimeter, oohing & aahing away when our driver suddenly turns into it. I of course start freaking out because the last thing I want is to be disrespectfully dressed and worse yet, get arrested for indecent exposure! So I’m madly telling him to turn around as we don’t need to go in and he’s madly saying no problem. By now we’re in the underground car park – he stops the car and tells us to get out and make our way on foot to a door opening at the end of the car park. I’m still too apprehensive to even move, let alone get out of the car! Thankfully however, I remembered I had a big shawl stuffed in my bag, so I rolled down my cargos, wrapped the shawl from head to wrist and hoped I had gotten all my bits.

It turns out I needn’t have been so anxious because through that door opening was a changing room where they provide you with Abayas – all you need is a photo ID. Like he could have told me that in the first place right instead of giving me heart palpitations! Even though they do provide you with the appropriate dress, I would still suggest you wear loose & long clothing when you visit.

From the underground car park, you can take a lift up to the Mosque level. Standing in the grounds, you’re not only struck by the sheer size of the Mosque but also how breathtakingly beautiful it is. Pristine white, columns and floors inlaid with colourful precious stones, depicting fabulous flowers and vines that look like they’ve been painted on and that’s just outside.

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At the main door, there are shelves for you to leave your shoes – you don’t have to worry about them going walkabout, you just need to remember where you put them. The inside of the Mosque is even more amazing with more intricately inlaid tiles, huge Swarovski crystal chandeliers and a soft hand knotted carpet in tones of green & red that runs from wall to wall. Words and pictures really don’t do it justice. You need to see it for yourself to appreciate all the details.

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So if you’re ever in Abu Dhabi or are looking for a short road trip from Dubai, I would certainly recommend putting the Sheikh Zayed Mosque on your must-see list. It’s best to go on a weekday evening when it’s a little cooler and you don’t have to fight big crowds to take pictures. Just be sure to respectfully observe the rules and women should keep their head covered throughout the visit or you’ll have a guard on your tail in no time.

Having visited our fair share of churches during our European adventures over the years, one thing Poss and I were looking forward to in our Middle East adventure was exploring all the beautiful Mosques within the region. Perhaps we shouldn’t have started with this one then – I think it might be a little hard to beat!

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boys & their toys

boys & their toys

Day 42 • Tuesday • 16 Sept 14 • Today’s High 41º (Abu Dhabi)

While any Diva would love to have a mini me to fuss over, I wouldn’t give up my family of boys for anything because when you’re the only girl, you often get fussed over, as it should be! Inevitably however, having that much testosterone around means a LOT of car talk, so on this particular kids trip, it was very much “forget the shopping mum, we want to go to Ferrari world” – oh joy!

Don’t get me wrong, of course I love luxury cars, especially when they come wrapped in a big bow with my name on it, but that doesn’t mean I need to know everything about them. As long as they start, get me from A to B and make me look good, what’s there to know?! Thankfully, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi is also the world’s largest indoor theme park with other things to do besides ogle at cars all day long. So with that, Poss hired a car (not a Ferrari) and a driver and we set out on a road trip to Abu Dhabi.

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Now I don’t know which part of ‘largest indoor theme park’ I didn’t get, but I actually made the kids put sunblock of their faces before we even left the flat! We’ll just call it a reflex action. It takes about an hour to get to Abu Dhabi and the scenery along the way is basically desert and in case you miss it, more desert. As you can imagine, Ferrari World is massive with the infamous Ferrari red everywhere. How they keep the temperature in such a big space at a cool 24ºC is beyond me but it means you can visit all year round, regardless of how scorching the outside heat is.

There are 2 roller coasters in the park. While I rode on the more moderate Fiorano GT challenge which has you riding in a Ferrari F430 Spider competing with another coaster on twisting parallel tracks, I drew the line at Formula Rossa, the world’s fastest roller coaster. From a standstill,  you accelerate to 240km/h in under 5 seconds – I figured if I wanted a facelift that badly there are plenty of other ways to get one minus the whiplash! The boys loved it so much, they went on twice in a row because apparently being the fastest also equates to being the shortest ride.

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While you actually get on the coasters within the park, the tracks are outdoors – so you see, the sunblock wasn’t a complete loss! Besides the 2 coasters, the only other thrill ride they have are the racing simulators. And for an extra AED100, you can try out the advanced simulator which is like the ones used by the F1 drivers themselves. Mr teenager A who will be going for his driver’s license next year tried the advanced one, of course – all I can say is, I hope he drives a real car better than a simulator or we had all better TAKE COVER!

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The rest of the park’s attractions pretty much showcase Ferrari & their racing history so it’s great if you’re a Ferrari fan. Me, not so much which was made evident by the fact that I walked through the store without purchasing a single thing. This from a girl who can normally find something to buy anywhere –  even a little general store in the boondocks!

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All said, it’s a good day out, especially if you have young kids or car fanatics in your family. The park wasn’t very full when we went and we were done in about 3.5 hours. Oh and if you’re buying tickets online, I wouldn’t bother going for the Premium tickets (which we did) unless it’s really peak season – it lets you skip lines but doesn’t give you priority seating on the rides.

With my boy racers having satisfied their need for speed, it was time to slow things down a little. It was Mum’s turn now and I knew they were just gonna love what I had planned next!

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at the top

at the top

Day 41 • Monday • 15 Sept 14 • Today’s High 37

Ever since almost 13 year old K heard we were moving to Dubai, all he could talk about was the Burj Khalifa. He’s fascinated by buildings of all kinds and if his Minecraft is anything to go by, is becoming quite the budding architect. When we asked him once, what kind of architect he wanted to be, his simple answer was “A rich one”! Aahh … music to his father’s ears.

So you can imagine K’s excitement when we finally got tickets to ascend the 124 floors of his dream tower – his excitement only eclipsed by the mention of 2 little words, FREE WIFI! Because now he wasn’t only going up the Burj Khalifa but he could also tell the whole world about it in real time.

It it best to book your tickets online ahead of your visit for a specific time slot, especially if you want to go at sunset. Tickets are also cheaper if you book in advance (from AED125). Unfortunately, we decided to go at the last minute so we had to try our luck at the ticket booth at Dubai Mall and managed to get tickets for about 3pm. Because tickets are limited, you just have to take whatever time slot is available.

As I stood there buying the tickets however, I started to think that maybe K could become a rich Dentist instead because needless to say, the place was packed with tourists. Not that I have a problem with tourists, I am after all often one myself – I just hate being herded around. But herded we were, through snaking security lines and eventually, the lifts that would take us up to the observation deck, ‘At The Top’. There are a few multimedia displays on the journey to the lifts though to keep you somewhat occupied while you wait your turn.

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My advice for the lift ride is to try and create as much space around yourself as possible because a lift full of people can get rather claustrophobic. The fun really starts once the lift doors close because your 60 second journey is accompanied by a sound & light show, complete with blue flashing arrows of sorts and music that increases in intensity as you near the top. While lots of people think it’s all rather cool, I exited the lift feeling like I had just left a rave club and was tripping!

Once I steadied my dizzy head, I was greeted by the observation deck which offers 360º views, including an open air terrace you can venture out onto. While your lift times going up are specific, once you’re up there, you can stay as long as you’d like. Unfortunately, it was rather dusty the day we went so we didn’t stay for long. Once we had done a full circle of the observation deck inside & out, we headed straight for the souvenir shop – of course! We couldn’t leave without getting the mandatory been-there-done that memento.

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Overall, K thought the whole experience was great but teenager A felt a little underwhelmed by it all. To be honest, it was all a bit of an anti-climax for me too – the experience of ‘At The Top’ overshadowed by the whole rigmarole of actually getting up there. Perhaps too because this was my 2nd visit to the Burj Khalifa – the 1st being my rather plush birthday dinner at the restaurant At.mosphere on the 122nd floor. So while I’m glad to have taken the kids, I don’t see myself going up the observation deck again anytime soon.

Having said that, the Burj Khalifa should be a “must-do-once” on your list. But if you don’t have kids in tow, and you’re a little Diva like me who doesn’t fancy doing the whole tourist thing, you can opt to do High Tea (3-6pm) or Sunset Drinks (6-8pm) in the At.mosphere lounge instead. Yes, a bit of a splurge but it’s a much nicer, more relaxing way to spend an afternoon/evening. You still get the views plus you can say you’ve been to the highest restaurant in the world and that’s a little hard to top, for now anyway.
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