Sunday, December 2, 2012

United Arab Emirates Part IV - Architecture, Abu Dhabi

Now, we musn't forget that Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE, has some pretty impressive architecture of its own. 

If Dubai is the New York City (slash-Las Vegas) of the UAE, then Abu Dhabi is most certainly the DC. It's notably the more family-oriented of the two Emirates, and also the more conservative. While tourists are welcomed in both cities, Dubai seems a bit more carefree while Abu Dhabi is a bit more "elbows off the table, no short skirts, and mind your manners please."

Abu Dhabi has an equally beautiful skyline that is a little more centralized than Dubai's, and it's ringed on one side by the beautiful Corniche (boardwalk) along the Gulf which is dotted with little parks and beaches. But, I found, that in Abu Dhabi there is incredible beauty in the details. If Dubai is dressing trendily to impress, Abu Dhabi trends towards a more sophisticated statement.
Jumeirah Towers, rear view

Under construction. But check out the twist of the left building and the iconic Islamic keyhole arch on the one to the right. Totes gorgeous.

The hockey puck building. You know, just because. 

Jumeirah Towers from the front

Pool bar behind Jumeirah Towers. I guess it's kind of pretty or whatever.

Jumeirah Towers pool bar. I really love these art deco benches, but they are mighty not comfortable to sit on for long periods of time.
So, here's the thing about the palace in Abu Dhabi. You know, where the royalty live? Yeah, that one. It's also a hotel. Which means - yes - it's open to the public. There are incredible restaurants and lounges there as well. It's pretty sweet, no lie.

The bar inside the incredible Hakkasan restaurant in the  Emirates Palace.

Ceiling arch inside front foyer of Emirates Palace.

Floor inlay, Emirates Palace.
 One thing you're gonna need to know before visiting the UAE is the concept of a souq. A souq is technically a marketplace, but it's also used to refer to commercial areas of cities where a group of like stores are clustered. You have your fish souq, spice souq, textile souq, gold souq (it's staggeringly beautiful), and then your less-common but still important computer and tech supplies souq, small electronics souq, wig souq, and a plethora of other necessary life items. You might have one whole block of tiny bodegas all selling only one type of product. You walk in, ask for something, and they don't have it? It's entirely likely they'll send a sales person down the block to buy the item from another store, then run back and sell it to you at a discounted rate. 

Seriously, there's a souq for everything. The Gentleman jokes that he'll go to the pony-and-mini-horse souq for my Christmas present. IF THAT EXISTS, I AM SO GOING THERE.

Abu Dhabi has a big gorgeous building called the Souk Central Market that sells...everything. It's like a big, indoor bazaar full of tiny shops that sell a staggering array of goods. Don't confuse this with a mall (which I'll get to in another post - the malls in the UAE are epic and deserving of their own post). It's small, mostly independently-owned stores. You can find your regulatory touristy goods here, stuffed camels and UAE flags and the like, but you can also find dizzying collections of spices, Yemeni honey (it's incredible), teas, coffees, other dry goods, cosmetics, produce, gorgeous textiles, local art, and pretty much anything else you can think of. 

Souks are so awesome.
The Souk(q) Central Market with some pretty tight latticework.

Reflection pond inside front entrance of Jumeirah Towers, overlooking Gulf and back patio.

Inside the lobby of Jumeirah Towers. I WANT THOSE CHANDELIERS.
So here's another funny thing that happened:

See that traffic? Like, jam-packed, completely halted traffic? Yeah, you know why that is? Because we got stuck on a two-lane highway with no exit points RIGHT WHEN THE EVENING ADHAN OCCURRED. The Adhan is the five-times daily call to prayer for Muslims  that is projected over loudspeakers at mosques across every Islamic city. The call is given by the muezzin who recites statements of faith and invites Muslims and non-Muslims alike to contemplate spirituality, particularly in the Islamic sense. I can only describe the sound of it in cliches: it's hauntingly beautiful, it's startlingly unique. There's a beautiful rendition of it here, but this doesn't accurately capture the echoing sound of multiple muezzins across a city reciting the Adhan at the same time. 

The Adhan is also a time when all Muslims cease what they are doing, face Mecca, and pray. It's a beautiful and brief meditation that many Muslims actually do five times a day. Which means, as in the traffic above, they will sometimes stop their cars, get out, face Mecca, and pray. Their faith is admirable. One must keep this respectfully in mind when cars stop to heed the call to prayer.

Especially if one is hungry and grumpy and just wants to get home and order delivery sushi.

Abu Dhabi is an incredibly lush and beautiful city, watered by purified water from the Gulf (they figured out means of removing the salt a long time ago, thus providing the country with pretty substantial access to water which is far more expensive than oil out here). It's also the home of the Grand Mosque:

But that, too, deserves it's own post. 

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