After a full two days trekking around Dubai, we set off for our next big excursion--Abu Dhabi. During our one day in the nation's capital city, we visited a few key sites. First, we stopped by the Masdar Institute, which is a recently built university specializing in advanced energy and sustainable technologies. The engineering and science talk may have gone over my head a bit, but the gist is that the Institute is working to find cleaner, more sustainable energy sources to reduce the world's dependence on oil. When we first arrived at Masdar, we were shuttled upstairs in Jetson-like cars run electronically and on magnetic tracks--probably my favorite part of the visit.
We also stopped by the American Embassy, and sat down to chat with two American officials. One of the US officials was actually a Delaware alumnae three times over--he had received his bachelors, masters and PhD from UD before pursuing his career in the foreign services, which eventually led him to the embassy in Abu Dhabi.
Finally, our last stop was the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Visiting this mosque was one of the highlights of this trip for me. I've never visited such a grand and elaborate mosque before, and was completely blown away of what laid before me. The mosque features 82 domes,1,000 columns and more than 20,000 marble panels inlaid with semi-precious stones. The architecture and design reflects mostly Moroccan styles, while maintaining typical Islamic art attributes like geometric and floral designs. I adore Islamic art and can get lost in the seemingly endless arabesques draped around every doorway. As words can only do so much, please see the pictures of this unbelievably beautiful place of worship below.
Sarra, Ameena and I inside the shuttle
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
The mosque required all women to wear abayas (the black robes) and shaylas (headscarves) upon entering, so all the American girls had to robe up! Wearing the traditional Emirati robe and scarf was definitely an experience for me. The Emirati girls do it everyday, it's just a few more pieces of clothing for them, but I felt hidden and alienated under so much black material. Walking around, I blended into the crowd around me, becoming one of the fish in the sea of black. At times it felt liberating--the anonymity the abaya and shayla provided--but other times I felt trapped. I think it was the concept of not being allowed to wear what I wanted that bothered me the most. Especially with the blaring sun reflecting off the white facade of the mosque, my body longed to be free of the the extra clothing which only worked to absorb the dry, desert heat. I imagined the wind cooling down my arms, my legs, covered only in shorts and a t-shirt underneath my abaya. Not to mention the maintenance--I had to constantly re-wrap my shayla to prevent it from sliding down my hair. I honestly don't know how the Emirati girls do it and look so put together all the time. After touring the mosque, I shook off the abaya with a sigh of relief and waited for any breeze to brush past my burning skin. But stepping out into the entraceway of the mosque, how did I now feel? Without the "restricting" abaya and shayla covering up my whole body? Naked. Strange, isn't it?
Maha helping me into my shayla