DAY 21 - Abu Dhabi Part II
01 February 2023
Queen Mary 2 World Centenary Voyage
102 days, 31 ports, 18 countries.
CURRENT POSITION: 01 February DUBAI (Overnight)
Ellen Frazer-Jameson reporting live from Queen Mary 2
GRAND MOSQUE – Abu Dhabi
A visit to the Grand Mosque, the largest in this country, comes with a list of Do’s and Don’ts. Ladies must dress respectfully, not display their bodies: not wear clothing that is see-through, white or animal print; must not reveal shoulders, ankles, wrists or knees. Hair and head must be covered with a scarf. Men must not wear short trousers or short sleeved shirts: they are not required to cover hair.
The rules are strictly enforced and cruise ship passengers who do not conform are offered the loan of appropriate full-length dresses and headscarves. My floor skimming, black and gold long-sleeve high-neck buttoned dress seemed perfectly appropriate. I had not realised, that, when I walked, the skirt parted and showed off a tanned leg.
Desperate not to be denied entry, I gathered up the skirt, tied a belt around the waist and closed the offending opening, all the time apologising profusely to the unsmiling young female guard. Reluctantly she agreed, “It’s ok,”.
If my fashion mistake meant I was turned away at the entrance to the Grand Mosque, I would have paid for my vanity by missing one of the greatest experiences of my entire lifetime.
Only being barred admission to the gates of heaven could, I imagine, compare to such a devastating punishment.
The Grand Mosque is the most breath-taking, beautiful, awe inspiring and monumental monument I have visited in my travels all the world. Cathedrals, churches, memorials and places of worship have in the past induced profound spiritual feelings and memories that fill my mind and heart. However, the Grand Mosque is on a scale that makes celebrated houses of worship such as the Vatican in Rome , Alhambra Palace in Granada and natural phenomena such as Arizona’s Grand Canyon, cry out for expansion into a hundred more rooms with white marble floors, dozens of gigantic crystal chandeliers, light reflecting windows, white and gold pillars, sparkling blue pools, dazzling white towers, elaborate embellished minarets and golden, white and blue domes.
Thousands upon thousand of worshippers and sight-seers make a pilgrimage to the Mosque every single day in a residential area Abu Dhabi. Ostentatiously visible from miles away, the date palm landscaped grounds and multiple complexes are more a small town than regular temple, church or synagogue. There is a lot of walking inside but escalators and vehicles for people with walking difficulties are available.
The Vision was that of Sheik Zayed Bin Sultan, First President of the United Arab Emirates and continued by the son who succeeded him but passed away in 2020. As the structure reached completion, the first prayer was said in the Grand Mosque in 2008. The Mosque is reputed to have cost 600 million US dollars while additional private contributions have totaled more than two billion.
The traditional and ancient Arabesque design reflects timeless motifs of beauty, reverence, harmony, the colour of flowers, the purity of water, the gift of happiness. The most expensive and finest materials, many of them being of local origin, the craftsmanship of the thousands of artisans and creatives and the designers and builders who contributed to the making of the complex, all share in the glory of the Grand Mosque.
In the Prayer Hall, (the Men’s – there is also a Ladies’ Prayer Hall) alongside the outdoor courtyard, the exquisite handmade carpet is the size of a football pitch. On the painted domed ceiling, a row of coloured Swarovski crystal chandeliers, claimed to be the largest chandeliers in the world, illuminate the gigantic room showering shards of light and heavenly brilliance.
The mega-watt power of the chandeliers, with rainbows of sunlight magnifying the sparkling sights and the murmured sound of distant prayer fill the over-crowded room as tourists and believers move in reverential near silence.
Overcome by the exquisite atmosphere of the Prayer Hall, a soulful sob escaped my lips and my eyes filled with tears. Even though not of the faith the Grand Mosque honours, I am certainly of a faith and my heart filled with love, joy and belief in the goodness of humanity.
I cannot imagine what can possibly compete with the experience but I am prepared to accept that the trip to the Grand Mosque of Abu Dhabi, may be the most fulfilling and enduring adventure of this World Voyage. If it is not, I can’t wait to see what comes next.
The Grand Mosque of Abu Dhabi - Photo's from my spellbinding visit...
(Click on an image to enlarge)
STAY TUNED FOR THE REVIEW OF AN OVERNIGHT IN DUBAI !
Current position of Queen Mary 2: Dubai/United Arab Emirates
Time since arrival 13 hrs 13 min from Abu Dhabi/United Arab Emirates
Time until departure 1 d 3 hrs 47 min to Muscat/Oman (at 23:00 h local time)
Traveled distance since Southampton: 6,618.57 nm (12,257.60 km)
Happy Sailing ... The Journey continues... Ellen
NEXT REPORT - DUBAI
IN PORT: 01/02 February
Photo of the day (from the archives of JD Schwartz)
Further updates will be posted as soon as we get them from Ellen onboard Queen Mary 2.