In the first Dubai post, I thought I had some pretty cool photos. That was until I gathered up the batch of images for this post... so many goodies! Part of the reason is because we took a helicopter and part of it is because we visited Abu Dhabi and caught sunset at the Grand Mosque. Both were incredible days and insane experiences which were at the top of my list of things to do when I came back to the United Arab Emirates and neither disappointed.
I never heard of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque until a couple of years ago when I took the drive from Dubai to Abu Dhabi and saw this MASSIVE place from the highway. Not visiting was probably my only regret the first time around and I wasn't going to make that mistake again.
Like everything else in the U.A.E., this place is above and beyond. We spent a couple of hours there and still didn't get to explore the whole place. There is enough room here to accommodate 40,000 worshippers and is home to the worlds largest carpet...yes you heard right, the worlds largest carpet that took about 1,300 people to knit.
Even though this mosque looks all old and ancient, it was actually completed in 2007! The apartment I live in now was made in the 1930s...... I think it's time for an update.
I've been to many photogenic places but I think this one takes the cake. It would literally take us 15 minutes to move 10 feet becuase every angle you look theres another amazing piece of architecture to capture.
One of the unique features of this Mosque are the lights. The best time to capture these was the 10-15 minutes where the lights were on but the sun wasn't fully down yet. Oddly enough, this was when it was least busy and easiest to photograph this part of the mosque.
My second regret from my first visit to Abu Dhabi was not going to the infamous grand prix track. This place is epic and of course, I wanted the opportunity to race around for a bit. I wasn't going to pass on that opportunity again so the second night in Abu Dhabi we all went. We started off with the go karts which was the best racing experience I've ever had. I've done gas and electric go karts a bunch of times that went up to 50mph but this was on another level. Afterwords, I wanted to go to the actual F1 track only to find that we happen to show up on ladies night and they wouldn't let me in due to their religious separation between genders. I guess I'm destined not to race around this track :(
We stayed at an EPIC AriBNB for a night in Abu Dhabi and when I mean epic, I really mean it. It was an apartment at the Sun Tower and we were on the 39th floor. I wish I had more photos to show for it but take my word, I couldn't imagine a hotel being much better.
However, in the U.A.E., there is no shortage of 7 star hotels though so of course, we had to visit one. After skating around for the day, we shot over to the Emirates Palace where the guards greeted us saying we weren't allowed to even carry our skates in. After stashing them in a bush around the corner, we headed in.
We spent the last couple of days back in Dubai. One of my favorite things to do out there is the desert safari. It's an easy way to occupy a whole day. It involves everything from death defying racing around the sand dunes in a Land Cruiser, super fun quad bike rides, sand boarding, camel rides and it all ends off with a dinner/ show which seems really authentic to the Arabian culture.
I didn't get to photograph most of it but I was able to take the camera out for a few sunset shots.
I was NOT leaving Dubai without going up in a helicopter. The whole first week of the trip, I kept calling for reservations and they told me they were canceling flights due to the immense haze that was covering the city for a few days. On our second to last day though, the skies opened up and we went for it.
We flew with Heli Dubai, which takes off at Atlantis on Palm Jumeirah. Prices were reasonable for Dubai and the doors are on (unfortunately) but if done correctly, you could still get some great photos through the glass.
The first thing you see when you take off its this insane view of Palm Jumeirah. This was one of the main things I wanted to see from the air and it DID NOT disappoint1
The Second stop on the tour was the Burj Al Arab and Jumeirah Beach. It's so cool how it stands out so well due to the fact that there's nothing even close to as big or impactful around it. It's also a view of the infamous 7 star hotel that you don't usually see, so from the air you can get a look at the pool in the back.
Next on the list was a close up of Downtown Dubai. Maybe it's because I'm used to flying over cities and buildings but this didn't excite me or seem as visually appealing as the shores and islands. I think flying directly OVER the buildings are where its at.
I think the main reason to take a helicopter ride through Dubai is that you get to see so much that you can't see any other way. Most of these islands are private or still under construction so you would never have access to them anyway. Even if you did have access, you don't appreciate them for what they when you're walking on the ground. I remember the first time I was on the Palm Island, it felt cool to be there but the island was so large that you can't really tell you're on the world's largest man-made island. When youre in the air, you can actually see and appreciate these structures for what they are.
I recently found out something interesting about this image below after it was posted on my Instagram. I took this photo of the seahorse-shaped island off the coast of Dubai and there happened to be a boat perfectly in frame. It turns out that this is no ordinary yacht, it's a super yacht. It is owned by Russian billionaire, Andrey Meinchenk , and this yacht cost over $300 million to build. The yacht is named "A", and I didn't even realize the size of this boat until I read the spec and found out that it was 400 ft. long. This thing has 3 pools, a helipad and 3 garage with 3 other boats inside. If you look closely on the rear of the yacht, there is a mini version of it hanging off the side which is the size of a "normal" sized sail boat. It looks like a spec compared to the rest of the ship.
The World Islands are 100% something I really badly wanted to see. They're a vast group of 300 islands meant to resemble the world map. Each island represents a country or region on the globe. Even though about 60% of the islands have been sold, Lebanon is the only island that is in use for events and parties.
For reasons that I mentioned before, you wouldn't be able to see these islands any other way since they're all still either being developed or privately owned. A regular person or tourist would never have access to this part of Dubai.
When you head back to Palm Jumeirah, you actually get to fly over it and get close ups like this.
Between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, there is SO much to do and see. That's why I made it a point to return for round 2. The helicopter ride is a must in my opinion and you obviously have to go to the top of the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa. Desert safaris are a great way to experience the open sand dunes and Arabian dinner and culture. Don't make the same mistake I did the first time around and pass up on the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque!
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