the third stamp

After a crazy week, it was time to begin the journey home.

When we started looking at return flights, we noticed that the cheapest flight actually came with a day layover in Abu Dhabi and a day layover in Dublin. After researching hotel costs in both, we decided to spring for the extended layovers. Neither of us had been to the UAE, and while I had been to Ireland I was more than happy to go back.

We woke up around 3 AM to catch our 8:45 AM flight out of Bangkok. Naturally, our taxi was late. Thankfully our flight was delayed so we still had plenty of time to grab some breakfast and eat it before boarding our flight.

Once we arrived in Abu Dhabi we headed for the hotel. Since Kara's leg was hurting, we stayed in the hotel to rest for a little bit before going out. A little while later, we went to Yas Island Mall. Malls are huge in Abu Dhabi, which makes sense. Not only is Abu Dhabi rather wealthy, with temperatures well over 100 degrees, indoor activities are ideal. Yas Island Mall is located right next to the famous Ferrari World theme park and across from the Yas Marina Grande Prix track.

I can definitely say that Abu Dhabi was the fanciest place we visited on our mini-world tour haha.

After wandering around the mall, we stopped in a candy store for some airplane snacks and then made a quick trip back to the room to drop off our purchases.  From there, it was off to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

If you're ever in Abu Dhabi, do not miss this mosque. It is stunningly beautiful.  There are some things to know before you go, though. Like with most active religious sites, there's a dress code. It is one of the strictest dress codes, especially for women. But never fear: they rent out abayas to women for free so you can go regardless of what you packed.

An abaya is a robe like dress worn by Muslim women that covers everything but your face, hands, and feet. Well at least in theory it covers everything but your feet: since Kara and I are on the shorter side, our feet were covered. One of the volunteers even helped Kara hitch hers up and position it so that she wouldn't trip over the hem.

You do have to cover your hair completely while in the mosque. The abaya has a hood that you can wear and tie around your neck. My hair kept poking escaping though so I had to frequently push it back in place haha.

Oh and if you bring a camera, they'll ask you to take a picture as you go through security and show it to them.

You also want to make sure to behave respectfully while you're in the mosque. Don't take too many selfies. Don't talk to loudly. Just generally be respectful. Even though it's not your religion, you want to treat the site with the respect you would want your own house of worship treated. And these rules apply to both men and women.

While there are free tours, they're only offered at certain times and we missed the tour time so we were on our own to wander around the mosque. Since it was low season for tourists, the mosque was near empty when we were there.

The marble is amazingly beautiful! Since it's mostly white, plan on wearing sunglasses if you go during the day because it is bright.

After wandering around the outside, we headed into the mosque itself. You can't walk across most of the floral mosaic in the center of the mosque. Instead, there's a path up the middle to the main entrance of the building. And like many of the other religious sites we visited, we had to take our shoes off before entering. Thankfully the marble from the shoe racks to the door was shaded so it was nice and cool on our bare feet.

The inside is opulent and awe-inspiring, something I think is missing from a lot of Christian churches. And if we're being honest, I prefer the majesty of sites like the mosque and St Peter's Basilica in Rome. Kara made a good point while we were inside: the beauty is inspiring. If we made something this beautiful and we're only humans, how much more beautiful is God? That sort of overwhelming beauty fills you with praise and wonder and isn't that exactly how you're supposed to feel in a place of worship?

The interior is also covered in the largest handwoven rug in the world. Despite the probably endless number of feet that have tramped over it, the rug is still soft underfoot. The entire site is obviously very well maintained and cared for.

Once we left the mosque we went back to the same mall. Since we were low on funds, we decided to go to the food court and get something to take back to our room. First though we wandered into the grocery store in the basement of the mall. a strange concept for us as Americans. We picked up liter water bottles (it is in the middle of the desert) and some breakfast foods before heading upstairs.

I was surprised at how Westernized Abu Dhabi was. On the way in I was worried that I wouldn't be covered enough to wander around, even though I was wearing short sleeves and a maxi shirt. But once we got to the mall we saw plenty of Westerners in tank tops and shorts. The local men wear a kandura along with a ghutrah and agal:


Local women commonly wear abayas with a niqab, or face covering:


Even though we only wore our abayas at the mosque, I felt perfectly comfortable the entire time I was there in a t-shirt and maxi skirt.

Majority of the restaurants at the mall were American restaurants. There was even a Which Wich in addition to the usual McDonald's and KFC. We grabbed sandwiches before heading back to the room. Our original plan included a walk along the beach, but it was so hot outside that by the time we got done with the mosque we scrapped that plan in favor of something air conditioned.

I definitely recommend visiting Abu Dhabi if you have the chance! I'd love to have had more time to explore but I'm still glad we had the limited time that we did. The mosque alone was worth the detour. There's a reason it's on so many lists of places you need to visit around the world.

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