Abu Dhabi is not too shabby

The rest of my family told me that this blog title was way to cheesy. I used it anyway.
Our second full day in UAE was as full as the first. This day, we went to see the sights of Abu Dhabi, the capital of UAE, a one hour drive from Dubai. Both of our flights in and out of UAE were in the Abu Dhabi airport, but it’s too bad that they were late at night and early in the morning, so we had to make a separate trip to see Abu Dhabi.
Our day started with a swim at the pool on the 30th floor of the building. It was cold because, for some reason, there was a lot of wind up there!

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Ok, now do you know what Tim Horton’s is? If you live in Canada, I can pretty much be sure that you do. For those of you that don’t know what it is, Tim Horton’s is a fast-food restaurant/cafe/bakery that is SUPER popular in Canada. In other words, USA has Starbucks and Canada has Tim Horton’s (a.k.a. Timmy’s). Our city of 80 000 people has 11 of them! There are a few in northern USA, and one at the Canadian military base in Afghanistan, but who knew… we found Tim Horton’s in Dubai! Apparently, the city has many of them. We decided that we just had to go have breakfast there.

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Written in English and Arabic. We were laughing at how they have to write "cafe and bake shop" so that people know what it is!

We had our favourite breakfast sandwiches (similar to an egg McMuffin) for breakfast. So good! It really reminded us of home!

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Wow… I never would have guessed to find Timmy’s in Dubai. It is pretty much exactly the same as back home.
Next, Sunil drove us to Abu Dhabi, one hour away. Along the way, we saw these signs:

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Clearly, the UAE has huge plans for theme parks and tourism. The money is just pouring in!
In Abu Dhabi, our first stop was the Masdar City.

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Masdar City is an innovative sustainable neighbourhood and grad school for MIT in Boston. What makes it unique is that it combines primary research, prototype making, mass production and marketing, all in one place! It isn’t finished yet, but when it is, it will also be a neighbourhood for academics and others to live using 100% renewable energy and some cool transportation.

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Here is a model of what the city will look like.

Okay, “cool transportation” is an understatement. It’s so awesome! It is a network of small, driverless, (renewable) electric cars that use magnets in the ground to navigate around. They’re Personal Rapid Transit (PRT). In the original plan for Masdar city, the PRTs would service the entire city, but they ran short of money and changed the plan, so the PRTs only will service a small area.

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In the model as well

So we decided to take a ride in a PRT!

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It felt very futuristic! It drove itself around and parked itself, all without a driver!
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This is what the PRT looks like from the outside.

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They say that the PRT is a way to combine the advantages of a personal car with those of public transit. For example, you get your own private space like a personal car, but with so few emissions, like public transport! If this was in a city, you would not need to own a car, but you would call up a PRT on your mobile phone, and it would show up.
After our ride in the PRTs, we took a tour of Masdar with a guide. It was short though, and unfortunately we didn’t learn as much s we would have liked to.

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The guide showing us the prototype for the city
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The residencies are made to look like sand dunes. Notice the solar panels on the roof.
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This is a display about an airplane (the Solar Impulse) that is currently flying around the world using only the energy it generates from solar panels on its wings.
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This is a wind cooling tower in the central courtyard. UAE is a very hot place, and this is designed to encourage people to spend more time outside. It works by creating by creating mist at the top of the tower. The mist evaporates and cools the air as it drops through the tower.

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During our two days in UAE, we were struck by the huge environmental inconsistency. When we were there, there were two sustainability conferences happening, there is Masdar city, and Dubai just announced plans to invest 3 billion dollars in solar electricity to reach a capacity of 3 gigawatts. This will help UAE to reach its energy goal of 24% renewable by 2021. On the other hand, today it makes almost all of its energy from oil. It is built in a desert, and can’t support the water needs of the fast growing population, so it has to desalinate.

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One of UAE's main oil powered electricity stations.

After the slightly underwhelming tour of Masdar city, we went to the Yas Mall for some yummy Lebanese food. Then, Sunil drove us to the Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque. It was built between 1998 and 2007, paid for by Sheik Zayed (king of Abu Dhabi). It is the third biggest one in the world, fitting more than 40 000 people inside! They probably would have built a bigger one, but you can’t build one bigger than Mecca, the head Mosque, because Mecca has to stay the biggest. The Sheik Zayed Mosque is built with materials from all over the world, with the purpose of uniting the Islamic world. It’s a beautiful thing to see.

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To enter the Mosque, you need to be dressed in the right way, so my mom, dad and I rented the traditional clothing for our visit (it isn’t necessary for young boys). For my mom and me, we got the Abaya. It’s a long black dress and headscarf. It was sooo hot, and I don’t understand why they chose black, the colour that absorbs the most heat! My Abaya looked quite nice, but my mom looked too much like the grim reaper. Instead of a headscarf, she had a hood, and her dress was so short that her pants stuck out at the bottom!

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That's the grim reaper on the left

For my dad, he wore a long white robe. I think that’s a lot more practical than what we wore!

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We were all dressed appropriately, so we entered the Mosque. There are way too many photos, so scroll through quickly if you want.

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The chandelier from underneath

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Wow… I don’t like to use these words but I have to say that it was spectacular and exquisite! It’s a beautiful Mosque, and worth the drive from Dubai. It’s hard to believe that two days earlier we were looking at beautiful Buddhist temples in Nepal!
On the way back to Dubai, we saw some interesting things:

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Building the new terminal to the Abu Dhabi airport
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This is a coin-shaped building!
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The coin building from the side
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Twisted tower!
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This is the Burj Al Arab, the only 7 star hotel in the world! It is built to look like a ship's sail, and there is a helipad at the top! You could go for high tea, but it costs $70.

When we got back to Dubai, Sunil drove us straight to Downtown Dubai (Burj Khalifa, Dubai Mall and surroundings). We had heard that the fountain show they put on every evening was not to be missed. While waiting for it, we found another Tim Horton’s!

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Then, the show started. It only lasted about five minutes, but it was definitely the best fountain show I’ve ever seen!

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That's Burj Khalifa in the background.

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The Burj Khalifa gets nicely lit up at night.
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The moon looked pretty cool above the fountain show!

We were all pretty tired afterwards, and we used public transport to get back to the apartment. In Dubai, there is a raised train that runs along the main road. Why is it raised? We never figured that out.

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Here's a picture we took earlier in the day of the raised train.
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It was really packed!
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They are driverless trains!

The next morning, Sunil picked us up at the apartment at 5 AM, and we drove to the Abu Dhabi airport for our 8 AM flight to Frankfurt. Having a driver and a very nice apartment sure helped us fit as much as we could into our two day stay in UAE! Thanks, Daniel!
UAE is a very interesting country. I have to say, though, that I wouldn’t want to live there. It’s very barren, dry and sterile. For a girl like me who loves being outdoors, it isn’t exactly paradise! The extreme heat forces you to be in an air conditioned room, and there isn’t much wild nature (except maybe sand dunes).
Having said that, I’m glad that we went there. There is lots to see and do in the area, and we could have easily spent a week! It really is a fascinating place, and two days wasn’t enough.
As our driver Sunil said, “My home country of India has natural beauty. Here, it’s artificial beauty.”
Off to Germany!
Kaia

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