This past Thanksgiving weekend I took the opportunity to get out of Riyadh for a few days and re-revisit Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. I was there in 2013 but did not get a chance to get a tour of the Sheikh Zayed Mosque. Abu Dhabi is the capital of United Arab Emirates, located on the Arabian Gulf and situated among over 200 other islands. The UAE is more conservative than Western countries but far more progressive than Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Wearing an abaya is not enforced, women can drive and there are movie theaters, night clubs and one can partake in a little libation!
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is the Abu Dhabi’s grand mosque which was envisioned by the late president of the UAE; Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan whose final resting place is located next to the mosque. Containing four 350-foot minarets, 82 white marble domes, and possibly the world's largest hand-knotted carpet, the mosque can accommodate over 40,000 worshipers; 10,000 in the internal areas and 30,000 in the external areas.
It took over 3,000 workers and 38 contractors to complete this magnificent structure that is assembled from materials such as marble, gold, semi-precious stones, crystals and ceramics. In the main prayer hall, the carpet, made in Iran, weighs over 30 tons was hand knotted and is probably the largest in the world! Also in the main hall are 96 marble columns that are inlaid with Italian glass and mother-of-pearl. There are seven chandeliers that were imported from Germany that encompass Swarovski crystals!
Over 41,000 "hits" on GMarie's Page and over 100 blog posts later, my adventures in Saudi Arabia, has come to an end. I have been in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for four years. The years have been adventurous yet challenging but the cultural differences, language barriers and the extreme climate, I believe, have not been as much of an obstacle as I originally thought it would be. .
I have thoroughly experienced the Saudi culture and all that it had to offer. As a Westerner, I had several pre-conceived notions that were cultivated by what is reported by the media about the Arab people, their religion and customs. But I have grown to realize, observe and have a better understanding and respect for their way of life. The day to day interaction with my Arab co-workers assisted in my understanding and perceptions. The close interactions torn down the barriers (i.e. religion, prejudices).
I wrote in my first blog post that I would learn a lot about the Arab culture and about myself. Well, I have. I am now equipped with forbearance for others’ differences (i.e. religion, language barriers, culture), patience for the pace that others have and will always move to and regardless of where I am in this small world “People are the same wherever you go, there is good and bad in everyone. If only we could live together in perfect harmony, learn to give each other what we need to survive together alive.” (Ebony & Ivory by Steve Wonder and Paul McCartney).
This experience has been invaluable, one of which I will never forget and enjoyed sharing every moment of it. “Catch me” on my next assignment and adventure through GMarie’s Page!
As-salaam Alaeikum (Peace be on to you) and thanks for reading!
All the best,