Tuesday, March 13
Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi, 14:43
Last night we made sure we went to bed early because we had booked a car for 9:00 this morning. My alarm went off at 7:45 and we leaped up.
We met our driver in the lobby and he led us downstairs to the car park where we found the largest SUV we had ever seen: a Chevrolet of some sort. We headed out of town.
Heading out of town took almost an hour since Dubai turns out to cover an awful lot of ground. We saw most of the stations on the red metro line, and understood how the stops actually fit together. Everywhere has cranes and diggers in view as everywhere seems about to double in size: vertically if not horizontally. The main roads through the city have four and sometimes five lanes in each direction.
We then crossed some desert, which felt more like the space between cities than “desert”, before reaching the outskirts of Abu Dhabi.
We stopped first at the Louvre where we spent three hours. Huge in size and maze-like in design it offers a shining example of what a visionary architect can do with an unlimited budget. It offers extraordinary views to the extent that the building itself seems like its own main exhibit.
We began trying to take photographs but so many people roamed through the place that clear lines of sight proved almost impossible. I started instead to photograph people taking photographs: of the art, each other, and (overwhelmingly) themselves.
We eventually found the secret passage through the maze that led to the terrace café and stepped outide under a gigantic lattice dome. For once the cliché “the view took my breath away” seemed completely appropriate.
When we reached our second stop – the Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque – we saw our second architectural marvel of the day. We had to exchange clothes to get in. We had to cover our legs and shoulders.
Inside, once we have dressed correctly, we find the rest of the world’s amateur photographers, and I happily start photographing them again. I take several photos of some of the more photogenic photographers and catch this young American woman taking a picture in a brief instant when nobody else blocks her view. She certainly does not block mine.
Back in the huge car we will decide we have done enough, and we will spend another two hours returning to Dubai.