Wednesday, 23 September 2015

A truly beautiful mosque

I've just returned from a marvellous trip to Moscow - up the Volga - to St Petersburgh but am so overwhelmed with the photos I took that it will take me a while to sort them! So in the meantime I'll take you on a journey of my last port of call in Abu Dhabi.
The view across the water from my hotel
Now I go back a long way with Abu Dhabi. Way back in the early 70's I was sharing an apartment (I think they were called flats in those days!) with a friend who had worked with the Abu Dhabi Finance Minister and his co-horts in London. They had a very soft spot for Rosy and would often call to have a chat. There were no mobiles in those days. It was a flat with just one land-line and it was right outside my bedroom door. Rosy's friends may have been good at finance but they were hopeless on time-zones! I was regularly awoken by the phone in the early hours of the morning and the trill of Rosy laughing with them down the line! Much gnashing of teeth by me. Then Rosy announced that they were visiting Melbourne and her friends would like to meet me and take her 'long suffering flat-mate' out to dinner! Of course they chose upstairs at Florentinos. Having never met a muslim Finance Minister (well even a muslim) I was nervous that they would turn up in 'sheets and tea towels on their heads'. (Oh how ignorant was I?) It was before the days of Armani but I was relieved to be greeted by 3 of the most handsome, elegent and charming men I have ever met - wearing beautifully cut 'western' suits!  What a time we had!  (English Rosy still sees them when she visits with her husband once or twice a year - they are now very 'oldies')  So I have always had a soft spot for Abu Dhabi - albeit from a distance. And so I took the opportunity to stopover en route home from my Russian sojourn to see the newish mosque.
Arrival - just a small corner
And what a mosque! Completed in 2007 the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque (see link here) is one of the largest in the world (the Casablanca mosque claims to be larger - it was amazing when I visited a few years ago) With a capacity of 40,000 (half the capacity of the MCG!) and built at a cost of around US$540 million no expense has been spared. And yet I found its simplicity, and almost feminine appearance (fronds of wandering flowers throughout) stunning. The carpet alone weighs a mere 35 tons! And in compulsory bare feet it was beautiful to walk on (New Zealand wool not Australian I'm afraid) I could go on but I'll just take you on a wander though this truly beautiful building. So here we go - brace yourselves!
We're inside now - water, arches, domes, detail
Minaret, outside courtyard (ENORMOUS) with inlaid flowers on columns and on the mosaic floor
All the outer walls were covered in flowers - so pretty
Details of the raised inlaid flowers
We're inside now! The carved walls with backlighting - and top left just a touch of Swarkovski
Just a small corner of the vast area, beautiful carpet, inlaid walls, how small we humans look
I'll take 3 Swarkovski crystal chandeliers thanks
Dripping in sparkle arkles
Want more Swarkovski - then it's off to one of the outer 'rooms'
Eyes down now - detail of the floors - like walking on a carpet of flowers
Night is approaching and the blue lights are turned on - weepably (!) beautiful
There is something very serene about this entire building
We look like ants - the soft glow of evening and the blue lights - what a combination
By chance I was there for the cresent moon
Go in daylight and be there for nightfall - magic
Go and visit when you are next en route to Europe/Russia/Scandinavia etc (or even the Middle East!). And remember that from 2016 both the Guggenheim and the Louvre will be opening their doors in their new museums (and don't forget my favourite Islamic Art Museum in nearby Doha - see post here). And Abu Dhabi is only just over an hours drive from the Emirates/Qantas hub of over-the-top-glitzy Dubai.