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Persian Gulf UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman

Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates.

It has some of the world's most awe-inspiring architecture, futuristic skyscrapers and magnificent mosques, whilst many of the cultures of an older society still remain. Before Abu Dhabi struck (black) gold with its rich oil reserves, it was at the centre of the pearl industry - you can see the traditional dhows used for both pearl diving and fishing along the harbour.

Qasr Al Watan

(Palace of the Nation)

Qasr Al Watan is the Palace of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (and his six wives). A Palace of opulent Royal Arabian architecture it contains the country’s largest central dome. The massive chandeliers have over 300,000 crystal pieces. We explored the Room of Gifts, the House of Knowledge, the library (with a vast array of authentic publications on the region’s culture, history, archaeology, and constitution) and the extravagant Presidential Banquet area. We took a walk in the lush landscape surrounding the palace which gives the best views of the palace and its elegant arches.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

With its onion-shaped domes and glowing white marble, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is a masterpiece of neo-Islamic architecture and one of the largest mosques in the world. The Mosque has 800 domes with the outer areas graced by around 1,000 columns, all covered with more than 20,000 marble panels that are inlaid with semi-precious stones, including lapis lazuli, red agate, amethyst, abalone shell and mother of pearl. The handwoven carpet in the main prayer room measures a record-breaking 60,500 sq ft and it took 1200 female weavers in Iran 2 years to complete. Looking up to the ceiling you can see 7 giant Swarovski chandaliers in rich colours. You are required to dress respectably to visit the mosque – this means long, loose fitting, ankle length trousers or skirts for both men and women and a headscarf for the ladies. For women – Abaya’s are available for hire free of charge and you will be directed to wear one if your outfit is not deemed appropriate. You will need an ID card or driver’s license which will be held as a security deposit. I covered up in trousers and a walking fleece with the neck turned up and my sleeves over my hands and socks and shoes which was considered acceptable.

Louvre Abu Dhabi

Over on Saadiyat Island, the Louvre Abu Dhabi, is the largest art museum on the Arabian peninsula. Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel, the building is as much of a draw as the 600 artworks on display. The glistening outer shell appears to ‘float’ on water, but in reality the latticed metal roof weighs 7,500 tonnes (about the same as the Eifel Tower). The 7850 stars that form the latticework let in a ‘rain of light’ to the 23 galleries that are filled with over 600 work of art, half of which are on loan from the Louvre in Paris. The Abu Dhabi Louvre aims to bring Western and Eastern art closer together. It is an essential stop for art and architecture enthusiasts.

Yas Marina Island

Yas island is about 30 minutes drive from Abu Dhabi. It is home to the state of the art Yas Marina Circuit. At the centrepiece is the iconic Yas Island Hotel, the only hotel to straddle a race circuit. On the island is a 227 berth marina , 7 licensed restaurants, Ferrari World theme park and Yas Waterworld. Abu Dhabi hosts the final F1 of the season, the only day to night race of the season finishing with a spectacular firework display. We took a ‘behind-the-scenes’ tour and had a view from the key spots of the circuit, visited the pit garages and race control to see the high-tech facilities. We had a priviliged visit into the on site lodge of the Royal Shiekh Khalifa. We enjoyed a wonderful lunch at the Aquarium Restaurant. There are courtesy shuttle buses on the island.