Friday, January 01, 2010

OUT : Day 1 – Riyadh - Abu Dhabi – Al Ain

25 Nov 2009 : Day 1
After weeks of planning, the actual day finally came.  Oman...here we come!!!  At about 9:10 pm, we start moving from home.  Everyone was excited with the journey as this is the first time we will be travelling thousands of kilometres, crossing borders and countries.  We've packed our clothes, gadgets, snacks, first aid and some print outs to assist our journey.

Our first target is to reach UAE border by fajr.  We drove straight via Dammam highway to get to Hofuf.  Hofuf was about 260 km from Riyadh.  We were supposed to take an exit to Hofuf earlier but got confuse at one exit where the signboard and GPS instruction conflicted. (We later found out that our GPS proposed us to use the Al-Khurais road which are considered old and quiet, especially during the night.)
**Lesson learn :  Though technology is helpful, still map is useful.  Have map ready in your hand as well.

Cut story short, we decided to go straight using Dammam highway and get into Hofuf.  After exit to Hofuf, we reached 2nd checkpoint at 343 km in Hofuf. The time was already midnight. To find the road leading to UAE border was another adventure.  We kept going round and round Hofuf city as again the signboard and GPS conflicted when the road change or closed.  I think we have went around the same road again and again for 4 times and waste one hour just to find the right way to UAE border. That was the additional challenge when you’re driving during the night..

Finally, we were able to get to the right junction heading for UAE border.  The junction was at 563 km from Riyadh (well after adding up the 4 rounds).  The overall drive to UAE border was dark with one or two cars passing by.  At 4:20 am, we reach UAE immigration building.  Going through Saudi immigration for exit merely takes us 15 minutes.  Entering UAE somehow is quite troublesome. This includes the eye scanning requirements for the adult.  The procedure and steps to enter UAE from Saudi can be found in tips and trick post.

After two hours of waiting, at 6:20 am we finally step into UAE!  It's already sunrise and time for us to savour view of UAE.  Along the road was full of electricity poles.  It is more greenery here.  At 7:30 am, it was too tiring to continue the journey.  Time to take a short nap, so we make a short stop by the highway to Abu Dhabi.  After one hour 10 minutes of nap, we then continue again.  At 10:12 am, we stop at Adnoc rest area to fresh up ourself.  The toilets is nothing like in Saudi rest area.  Long time we haven't seen clean public toilet.

signboard after border

After the UAE birder, so glad to see sign board to Abu Dhabi after the long dark journey.

stop at adnocStopped at the Adnoc petrol station to refreshes ourself.

We then continue our journey to Abu Dhabi.  Abu Dhabi has a wonderful view to freshen your eyes.  When we saw a signboard showing direction to public park, we say "Why not?"...we do need a break after sitting in the car for hours.  It's 12 pm and we stay there for half an hour before deciding to go to the Grand Mosque of Al Zayed for our Dzuhr prayer.

park1

Nice and clean park by the lake.

 park2Playground at the park.

We headed to Sheikh Zayed mosque for Dzuhr prayer while looking at the magnificent architecture of the mosque which is said to be the 6th largest mosque in the world. The interior design was really magnificent.  The mosque is initiated by  the late president HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who is fondly thought of as the father of UAE.

syeikh Zayed masjid

  In the masjid open area.

masjid

The masjid features 80 domes all decorated with white marbles

 inside masjid

Interior of the Masjid.

 larget hand woven carpet

The main prayer hall features the world’s largest hand-woven Persian carpet (7,119 square metres).

masjid column

The Masjid has 1,096 columns in its exterior and 96 columns in the main prayer hall which are embedded with more than 20,000 handmade marble panels encrusted with semi-precious stones

 masjid lagi2

The Masjid said to be the 6th or 8th largest in the world.

 masjid lagi We wished we could have a better camera to capture the magnificent architecture of the Masjid ;-)

In front of the Masjid there was the grave of Sheikh Zayed. We’re not allowed to take a picture of the grave, we think it was to protect from any khurafat activities. There was also non-stop Qur’an recitation near the grave.


About  Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque (source from http://www.visitabudhabi.ae/en/ and Wikipedia) 

The Mosque’s initial architectural design was Moroccan, but it evolved to include many global features, including exterior walls that are of traditional Turkish design. Natural materials were chosen for its design and construction, which include marble, stone, gold, semi-precious stones, crystals and ceramics.

The Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Mosque features 80 domes all decorated with white marble. The main dome’s outer shell measures 32.7 meters in diameter and stands 70 meters high from the inside and 85 meters from the outside - the largest of its kind, according to the Turkey Research Centre for Islamic History and Culture.

The Mosque has 1,096 columns in its exterior and 96 columns in the main prayer hall which are embedded with more than 20,000 handmade marble panels encrusted with semi-precious stones, including lapis lazuli, red agate, amethyst, abalone shell and mother of pearl. Furthermore, beautiful minarets standing 107 meters are built on the four corners of the Mosque.

Artificial lakes, totaling 7,874 square meters and laden with dark tiles, surround the Mosque, whilst colored floral marble and mosaics pave the 17,000 square meter courtyard. The pools reflect the Mosque’s spectacular image, which becomes even more resplendent at night.

The Sheikh Zayed Mosque made some world records:

  • The carpet laid out on the vast expanse is the “World's Largest Carpet” made by Iran's Carpet Company and designed by Iranian artist Ali Khaliqi.[5] This carpet measures 5,627 m2 (60,570 sq ft), and was made by around 1,200 weavers, 20 technicians, and 30 workers. The weight of this carpet is 47 tons – 35 tons of wool, and 12 tons of cotton. There are 2,268,000,000 knots within the carpet.
  • This mosque also holds the largest chandelier. There are seven imported chandeliers from Germany and are copper and gold-plated. The largest chandelier has a 10 m (33 ft) diameter and a 15 m (49 ft) height.[6]

Both of these records were previously held by the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Oman. (which one of our target place to visit in Oman)

Its almost Asr prayer time when we realized that we need to move to our 1st ‘pit stop’ of the day, Al-Ain. Al-Ain is the second largest town after Abu Dhabi for Abu Dhabi Emirate, located about 160km from Abu Dhabi, almost 2 hours drive in moderate speed ;-)

We reached there at late afternoon, and start looking for the hotel to stay. Later at around 5:30pm, we were able to get one bedroom chalet at Al-Ain Faydah Rest House which is quite spacious for us to spend the night before continuing our next day longer journey. From the rest house we could see the Jabel Hafeet with the well lit road all the way up to the top which seems as calling us to go up there. But we were too tired after more than 20 hours of journey. Its time to get a proper rest, lets see you tomorrow mate! –tw/eth

More pictures of our OUT day 1 here.

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