In my last post I told you about my whirlwind trip to the United Arab Emirates. I stayed in Dubai for four nights, courtesy of Qualcomm, and spent a few days exploring the area without a smartphone to support the #WorldWithoutSnapdragon/#WorldWithoutSmartphones campaign. (Read more about the campaign here.)
We spent half a day in Abu Dhabi, which is the capital of the United Arab Emirates. We mainly went to Abu Dhabi to see the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the largest mosque in the UAE, but we had a couple of other adventures along the way.
Our voyage to Abu Dhabi, which is roughly similar to a voyage between Johannesburg and Pretoria, posed the greatest challenge in our WorldWithoutSmartphones. We had initially planned to take the metro to Dubai’s bus station, catch a bus from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, then catch a local taxi to the mosque. But we weren’t able to check the train and bus schedules (no Google, obvi) and we wound up missing the bus to Abu Dhabi while we waited in line to buy our tickets. We were short on time so rather than waiting for the next bus, we hired a cab straight to the mosque and kept the same cab driver for the whole day. This didn’t cost us too much more than the bus journey would have anyway.
Our handsome cab driver, Aminuallah, whose name I wrote down in the trusty notebook supplied to me by Qualcomm.
Gareth drew a picture of Aminuallah to pass the time in the taxi. We were bored without our phones.
Off we went to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, completed just a few years ago in 2007. I’ve seen a couple of other spectacular mosques lately — the Nizamiye Mosque in Joburg and the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. I don’t want to pick which is the most beautiful, as they’re all stunning, but the Sheikh Zyed Grand Mosque is a contender.
I only managed to get one shot of the front of the mosque, through the taxi window as we drove around looking for the public parking lot.
One of the coolest things about visiting the mosque, in addition to the mosque itself, was the outfit I got to wear.
Women visiting the mosque must completely cover their heads, arms, and legs. Men must also cover their legs but are allowed have bare arms and heads. If you aren’t wearing the right clothes (I had a scarf but no long sleeves), you can go to the basement below the mosque and borrow an abaya. I think I look pretty cool but geez, it was hot inside that thing. (Photo: Gareth Pon)
Gareth, despite being male, had to wear a robe — or “thobe” in Arabic — to cover up his tattoos. He rocked it. I tried to google and figure out why men get to wear white and women suffer in stifling black, but couldn’t find a clear answer. Apparently it’s a tradition dating back to Bedouin times.
Mosque selfie with my new friend Putri.
This mosque is a photographer’s dream.
Seriously, Mosque, could you be any more beautiful?
I love the giant flowers.
Check my friends on the left, madly shooting pictures.
That’s quite a carpet.
The neon-colored chandelier was a bit much for me but otherwise I loved it all.
After the mosque we asked Aminuallah for advice on a locals-only-type restaurant in Abu Dhabi where we could go for lunch. He took us to the Abu Dhabi Oasis, tucked into a strip mall next to the highway.
Putri outside of Abu Dhabi Oasis.
This lunch turned out to be my favorite experience of the trip. We walked through the tiny ground-floor takeaway area and climbed the stairs to the traditional restaurant, which was a small room with a carpet and a scattering of cushions. There were three men sitting on the cushions: Ali, Mohammed, and Ahmed.
Ahmed (left), Mohammed (middle), and Ali (right).
This trio, we later learned, are the owners of the Abu Dhabi Oasis. I hung back at first, not sure how a foreign woman is supposed to greet a group of Emirati men. But then I pulled out my Instax camera — my favorite item in the repertoire of tools we received to “replace” the Qualcomm Snapdragon chip set — and offered to take portraits. Suddenly these serious Emirati men were all smiles.
My favorite #2SummersInstaxPortrait to date.
And then we ate some delicious chicken and rice, with our hands, and Mohammed refused to let us pay our bill.
I was starving and this tasted so good.
Then Aminuallah took us back to Dubai.
I’ve got one or two more UAE posts to come, but this is the end of the #WorldWithoutSnapdragon/#WorldWithoutSmartPhones part of the story. Thanks again to Qualcomm for hosting me in Dubai for such an interesting campaign. And thanks for my new Snapdragon-powered phone.
Don’t hate, iPhone peeps. I’m not abandoning you; I’m just going to take this shiny little lady for a test-drive and let you know how it goes. (Photo: Ray)
This post was sponsored by Qualcomm. Opinions expressed are my own.