Header Image

In the Land of the Gazelle – December 2017

Post Date: February 3, 2018 by josiemounsey

Abu Dhabi. The name conjures images of horsemen charging across the desert … camel trains loping toward an oasis shimmering on the horizon. No more, for Abu Dhabi (named after a species of gazelle once common in the Arabian region), ruled by His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, is now a buzzing modern metropolis and seat of the United Arab Emirates government.


Our hotel, The Emirates Palace, is as opulent as you would expect in this land where anything seems possible. Belonging to the Sheikh and situated next to his palace, the hotel fronts over a kilometre of private beach, whose pristine white sand contrasts with the azure waters of the Persian Gulf. Moored across the bay is the Sheikh’s yacht, Azzam, the largest private motor yacht in the world and which carries a submarine and missile defence system.


































Religious tolerance is part of the fabric of the UAE, with mosques, Catholic and Anglican churches, and a Coptic Orthodox Cathedral existing harmoniously alongside each other.


On this early December evening, school choirs and crowds of Emirati, ex-pats, and tourists gather in the lofty hall of the Emirates Palace Hotel, for the lighting of the towering Christmas tree. The ornaments are solid gold!













An hour-and-a-half’s drive from the city, along modern roads flanked by palm trees and sand dunes, lies Al Ain (The Spring). The city, on the border with Oman, has been inhabited for 4,000 years and is the birthplace of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founder of the UAE, and has the highest proportion of Emirati Nationals (30.8%).



We go first to the Sheikh Zayed Palace Museum, where the Sheikh was born in 1918 and lived for the first 18 years of his life. Built of traditional clay, adobe, and plaster stones, the complex of courtyards are a peaceful oasis away from the mayhem of the traffic-clogged city streets. Palm tree elements are used for roofing, ceilings, doors, and windows.















































A short drive away, the Al Ain National Museum provides a cool respite from the heat and blinding sunlight, and contains an interesting collection of pottery, coins, jewellery (especially Cornelian), guns, swords, and the like.


























Next, we head to the camel market, where hundreds of these valuable animals are corralled in wire enclosures. We don’t linger in the pungent atmosphere, and bat flies away as we pick our way back to the bus, trying to avoid the small deposits of dung littering the path.















At a nearby modern hotel, the buffet lunch is somewhat better than expected. Refreshed, we set out in the bus toward the mountains on the border with Oman.











At 6:30 the next morning, we somewhat reluctantly bid farewell to the amazing Emirates Palace Hotel, as our luggage is loaded into our chauffeur-driven car for the journey to Dubai for our flight to Mauritius. The sun is already bright and the city of Abu Dhabi is stirring awake as we drive through the early-morning streets, looking around with a sense of awe at what has been achieved in what not long ago was desert and swamp, to make it arguably the richest city in the world.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *