Journey – 2 – Abu Dhabi
The first impression was of warmth. We stepped off the plane into a pleasant sunshine. The grey cloud, cold and drizzle had been replaced with blue sky and warmth.
We had arranged a day’s stop over so we could see what it was about. We wanted to see the sights. That meant we spent a good part of the day in an open-top bus, jumping off to have a look at places, get a bite to eat and see the people and wild-life. You can’t see everything in a day or experience the full spectrum of possibilities. You get a flavour, an impression and an insight. Most people were in Western garb but there were a good number in robes with some women in the full works. I still find that uncomfortable. In that heat to be smothered from head to toe in black while the men wear more practical white?
Talking to the locals they assured me that women had rights. They were permitted to drive and the burqa was optional. I do not agree. There is a cultural expectation if nothing else. The burqa looks like a costume of slavery to me, a product of a misogynist society. But it was evident that the majority of women did not succumb to its dubious benefits.
We went out to the cultural village, obviously newly constructed for tourists to walk round, and looked across the water to the city. It was beautiful. The palm trees and sand. A group of school-kids came down to play in the water – all dressed up in their headscarves and long clothes. It looked a bit absurd but they were kids and enjoyed the paddle, shrieking with delight.
There were many pretty birds around, as well as the ubiquitous crows, mynahs and pigeons, and a striped squirrel ran along the wall.
The Etihad skyscrapers, and other architectural delights, were interesting, reaching up into the blue with their glass and concrete canyons, fingers of a giant hand clutching at infinity.
The Grand Mosque was beautiful with its white marble and inlay.
Millions had been spent on its white marble, precious stone inlays, huge chandeliers and stain glass. It was built to impress and that is what it did. Who could doubt the basis of the religion when so very much was put into something like this – one of the ICBMs of Islam, designed to put people in awe and gain converts.
We donned our gowns and walked around greatly appreciating the wonder of it, the beauty of it, it’s mosaic designs, colours, architectural delights, minarets, lavish patterns carpets and reflections. Despite its massive size and splendour we were not converted! It takes more than that.
Our day was shot. We’d seen enough. It was interesting but not enough to go back to. Back to the hotel and an early flight. We were up almost before we’d gone to bed.
Then on to Oz and Pete and Trudie!