Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque 1

We had a long weekend last week for the Islamic holiday, Isra wal miraj and we chose to spend it in more laid back Abu Dhabi.

What is a visit to Abu Dhabi without checking out the grand mosque? We’ve visited so many times, taking friends and family visiting us in the UAE. I wrote 13 facts about the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque after we first visited it in 2008. We visited a few times years and years after but what makes it different this time? It will be Benjamin’s first time! I want to see his reaction.


The grand mosque, one of the few in the world open to non-Muslims is about an hour drive from Dubai.

So many things has changed since we last visited a couple of years back when a friend from Japan visited and we played tourist guides, and included Abu Dhabi and of course the never to be missed grand mosque in the itinerary (see that post for pics!). First – there’s already a cafe and an Etihad Modern Art Gallery souvenir shop. We loved hanging out at the cafe, with lots of natural light coming in and great view outside.

But one thing never changed and never will – that if you go visit this religious site with arms and legs exposed (we were in shorts and shirts), you will have to wear the abaya for women and khandura for men. Before it was just a black robe though but now, there’s brown and blue abayas for ladies with attached covering for the head, like a hood. I prefer it this way than the separate cloth for head scarf as it keeps falling off.


Some other change is that people can’t freely roam anywhere they want now. The main square is off limits to visitors when it wasn’t restricted area way back in 2008, 2010.

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Processed with VSCO with s2 preset

There’s security guy who sits at the square and wards off people trying to enter the area. Since so many people want to take pics of the beautiful view behind him, he must be in thousands of photos! He is so chill and would just do some sign language to tell people not to proceed further.

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There’s a specific cordoned route for visitors to follow. The place is more crowded on, unsurprisingly, weekends, especially on Fridays that it’s impossible to take photos without someone’s uncle or auntie in the background. Hold your children and never leave them out of your sight, it’s going to be tough finding them through the crowd!

b happy
p and b

So what was Benjamin’s reaction after visiting the grand structure? He said, it’s beautiful and can’t take his eyes off the massive chandeliers inside the mosque. And then? He asked why we were in robes and he wasn’t!

Have you visited the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi? If not, maybe plan it in the near future. It’s definitely a very popular tourist spot with what else but throngs of tourists you can’t avoid but I still believe your trip will be worth it.

Day 3, Part 2: Dubai creek at night and a migraine that won’t go away

After going through every shop in the textile souk (in Day 3 Part 1), checking the colorful shawls, textiles and shoes, we took an Abra back to the hotel. By the time we reached the other side of the creek, I had terrible headache. It’s pretty warm (hot!) today at temperatures nearing 30C. It’s supposed to be winter!

I had to go home to get my meds and spent an adequate time at the toilet throwing up. The headache was that bad. I have noticed lately that when I go out for more than two hours, my migraine attempts to kill me. Tonight, we have a scheduled Dhow Cruise that I couldn’t miss (for my friend) so my mom, my lifesaver, massaged my neck, shoulders and head and gave me meds and a hot tea. In less than an hour, I was half ok.

A Dhow Dinner Cruise is a two-hour cruise of Dubai creek with buffet dinner (a mixture of Arabic, Indian, English and American cuisine) and live entertainment. It is also a great way to see the vibrant city at night.

A view of the dhows at night:

Dhows on parade

The dhow cruise includes live music and singing and Pristine really, really like these kind of things. I made an additional reservation for one child earlier that day because I thought she will really like my surprise. We had been in a dhow cruise before and she loved the singer, even requested her to sing “Dancing queen”. You could just imagine how happy she was when she heard that song being sung to her, live.

Pristine and I got on a taxi and I asked her if I could close my eyes until we get to the hotel because I am sick. She told me, “just close your eyes mom, I’ll tell you when the taxi stops.” I really love my travel partner.

The driver seemed to not know the way (not a big surprise here in Dubai, really) so I whispered to Pristine to tell the driver to take us to Baniyas Road, Riviera Hotel, Dubai creek in Deira. She repeated that same sentence to the driver but in a bigger, affirmative voice. We arrived safe and sound.

The driver picked the three of us (me, Pristine and my friend) up (pickup and dropoff is included in the cost) and took us to the harbor. When the boat departed at 8:30 pm, Pristine started looking for the singer. My friend was also excited with the whole thing but there was no singer, only music was played in the background. What happened? I asked the owner/operator of the tour and she said, it’s the Islamic Holiday (Dec. 28, for year 2008 – the date moves 10 days earlier every year) so, live music is prohibited.

WHAT!!?? I felt a headache coming back.

From the look of my daughter’s clearly disappointed face, I could’ve taken the microphone and sang for her but I had to spare the other tourists from bringing back home bad memories so I didn’t. She was really sad there’s no singing tonight and what a bad timing for my friend and for the tourists!

So after having dinner, we went to the upper open deck and watched the lights of Dubai at night instead. The air was cold but the sights were worth it.

This is the Bur Dubai side of the creek with enchanting lights. These building are part of what remains of the old Dubai, before the skyscrapers came into picture.

Bur Dubai at night

Another dhow carrying tourists and diners.


A mosque along the creek at night:

After a while, Pristine’s mood lightened up. She was amazed to see the lights and even posed for me.


We were back to the hotel at 10 pm. My mother was expecting me to return Pristine home but I wasn’t able to do so. I can’t sleep without my daughter. Talk about adult separation anxiety and the wonders of being a mom – when I looked forward to the day I’ll be able to have the freedom to sleep as long as I can, to have a nice bed all to myself, here I am bringing my daughter to the hotel room. This was the night I found out how sleeping is almost impossible if you’re sharing a single bed with a five year old. I must have had kick marks all over my body the morning after.

Day 4 takes us to the newly opened Dubai Mall and my friend’s neck hurt when looking up the now 780 meters tall Burj Dubai.