Middle East or Bust!

Having made the decision to leave my home in Australia, my blog now comes from the golden sands and white domed mosque of the United Arab Emirates. The pages of Laurence of Arabia were right on the money when it came to describing the mysteries and secrets that are so often misrepresented in the middle east. I admit that my time here has only been brief, but I can already say that I feel safe, excited and completely welcome. 

For those interested, the United Arab Emirates often abbreviated as UAE, or shortened to The Emirates, is a federation situated in the southeast of the Arabian Peninsula on the Persian Gulf, bordering Oman and Saudi Arabia and sharing sea borders with Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Iran. The UAE consists of 7 Emirates with a total population sitting at just over 8 million people. The principal religion is Muslim and the capital is Abu Dhabi. The primary income for the UAE is oil and is it also the considered to be one of the richest countries in the world per capita.    

Having never been to the middle east, I was unsure of what to expect. As always I tried to keep my mind open and roll with the punches. Within five minutes of my departure from the airport I was presented with an amazing feat of human architecture, craftsmanship and faith. The Grande Mosque.

The Grande Mosque

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, or Grande Mosque, is the first dominant feature on the way back from the airport and is an impressive way to give the outside world a sensational first impression. It currently sits on top of  my to-do list.

Having dropped off my stuff I was eager to get out and explore. I'm a firm believer in getting out there while the place is fresh and allowing your senses to take in as much as possible. Its also a great way to get your bearings. With the temperature hitting over 45C I decided to go somewhere where I knew I could combine ice cold air conditioning with history and beauty. Does a place like this exist I hear you say? Trust me it does and I can tell you first hand that it is amazing. What is the name of this dream like place of awesomeness? The Emirates Palace.

Emirates Palace
Located in the capital of the United Arab Emirates, the magnificent Emirates Palace is a national landmark and one of the most impressive hotels and conference venues ever built. With private beaches and more gold than you can poke a stick at, its a great national icon to visit. With rooms starting at $1200 and going up to $15000 a night, you could be forgiven for thinking that it would not be accessible to everyone, but you would be wrong as entry is free. Appropriate clothing is required and shorts and sleeveless shirts are unacceptable

The entrance into the lobby is sleek and opens up to a truly spectacular cathedral. The quality of the workmanship starts off at the floor level with bold strong designs spreading over the polished floor, like a giant henna tattoo. As your eyes climb upwards, you notice the large chandeliers hanging on every level until you reach the amazing mosaic at the apex of the cathedral.

Floor in central lobby

Mosaic at the top of the lobby
Walking around the palace you notice that everything is of the utmost highest standard. The attire and presentation of the staff is clean and sharp yet traditional and warm. The lighting is cooling and subtle and the interior design is simple and balanced. I couldn't help but notice the attention to detail that was evident through out the many corridors and seating areas. Cupboard doors were covered in gorgeous mosaics and hall areas had their own palm trees. It all oozes a real 'middle eastern' feel to it, but it is done very tactfully.

Cupboard door mosaic

Simple beauty

Lower lobby
Although many of us may not be able to afford to stay in the palace, it doesn't mean you can't still enjoy what it has to offer. A large bar area allows you to sit and enjoy fine food and drinks whilst soaking up the ambiance and grandeur of the palace. With the many options available on the menu, I decided to splurge and get the Emirates Palace Cappuccino. At 50 dirhams (approx $15) I was expecting a lot and I wasn't disappointed. Once again attention to detail was paramount and the gold leaf topping was icing on the cake. If your not a coffee drinker than I can also highly recommend the iced teas which are welcome on these very hot days. The seating is very comfortable and allow you to view the giant tapestries present on the Palace walls. 

Tea station

Emirate Palace cappuccino with iced tea
Clean, simple and strikingly beautiful
With my caffeine need abated and my core body temperature down to a reasonable level once again, I headed back out. As I left I moved slowly and took in the grandeur one last time. The Palace, basically a hotel, is warm and homely and allows visitors to gain a snap shot into the lifestyle of the royal family in Abu Dhabi. The simple beauty is something I really enjoyed and I look forward to coming back in the cooler months so that I can walk around the vast gardens and explore every corner of the palace grounds.

Garden view

Just remember this about the Emirates Palace; its cultural, its beautiful, its air conditioned and it free. What a combination!

Rob Gubiani