Having read quite a few articles on the Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque, it has always been on my “must visit” places. I have been privileged to visit the two largest mosques in the world – Mecca and Madina and with this, the third largest.
The grandeur and beauty can be seen from the outside just a few km away from the entrance rising 11m above sea level. Glistening pools surround the mosque amplifying the stunning architecture.
With over 1000 columns and 80 domes, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan’s dream was brought to life by skilful calligraphers from the UAE, Jordan and Syria. The wandering tourist sees beautiful verses from the Quran embedded in arabic.
The largest dome (The main dome) is 85 meters high with a diameter of 32.8 meters. With lavish open spaces, the mosque is open for prayers to both muslims and non muslims. Despite the large crowds, you feel a sense of serenity and absolute peace. You feel the presence of power and kindness.
First opened for prayers in 2007, the mosque can host over 40,000 worshippers in the main prayer hall that show cases a hand knotted carpet of 5,600 square meters that tok over 1,300 craftsmen to complete.
Another astonishing feature of the mosque is the 5,625 m2 large carpet in the main prayer hall. It has been hand-knotted by about 1,300 Iranian craftsmen.
A prayer for Dad and one hour later, well worth the visit and as long as I return to Abu Dhabi, this will always be my place of serenity.
The (true) servants of (God) the most gracious are those who walk the earth in humility, and when the ignorant address them, reply with (words of) peace – Quran 25:63.
A resilient country, recovering from a dark past, Cambodia has now become a tourist destination for both luxury travellers and backpackers alike. With stunning landscapes and exotic temples, ten days in Cambodia gives you ample time to cover Siem Reap, the charming gateway to Angkor temples, Phnom Penh ; the scenic riverside city and Battambang ; known for its bamboo train rides.
Our abode for the night and the next few days was the Golden Temple Retreat. There was no particular reason for choosing this but the reviews were great so we thought – why not?
We were greeted at the airport by “May” the Guest relations officer with cold towels and king coconut water, and in addition a few traditional sweets like milk rice and jak fruit wrapped in betel leaves.
The hotel is small, snug and the staff extremely friendly. Genuinely friendly. They go out of their way and are very obliging.
We tried a few dishes like the Khmer chicken curry and beef along with lime pickle rice and washed it down with Angkor beer. It tastes quite good actually! The food – a mix of Thai and Sri Lanka so far. Mild spices and lots of coconut milk.
The pool at the Golden temple is quite big and despite the high occupancy, you still feel at home.
We hopped into one of the local Tuks and headed over to the Phare, Cambodian circus. If it’s your first time in Cambodia like myself, this is certainly a must watch. Pre book your tickets via get your guide or Viator to avoid the queues and disappointment. It was packed with around 350 people and the circus was unique and entertaining.
Mostly street kids passionate about arts, theatre and the circus performing their hearts out. They have some serious talent! It’s around one hour and well worth the money. If you are unable to follow the story, you do have giant tv screens with English and French translations but I bet you really wouldn’t care when you’re fixating on the well built boys summersaulting and juggling ten oranges all at once !
Our temple hopping adventures take place during day 2, 3 and 4 and we can’t wait to check out what’s in store!
Golden Temple Retreat gives you easy access to wherever you want to go.
There’s a free airport pick up and drop off included
The rooms are spacious with large balconies. (Bathrooms have no doors so if you are traveling with a friend ; this might be .. Well!)
The staff : Icing on the cake. Helpful, always with a smile and absolutely amazing
The Spa is excellent, clean and quite affordable
Cocktails : generous
They even have an Apsara show with dinner and a cooking class in the morning with a certificate for participation
Ooooh and a farewell t shirt as a souvenir ! Book direct via: http://retreat.goldentempleretreat.com
Alphonse De Lamartine – The famous writer and poet once said that “If one had but a single glance to give the world, one should gaze on Istanbul”. How very true. Istanbul modestly boasts beauty everywhere. Istanbul boasts some of the best food in the world. Istanbul boasts majestic palaces overlooking the vast Bosphorus and Istanbul boasts mesmerising history, culture and heritage. Needless to say, wandering in Istanbul was just amazing!
We started our morning by visiting the “Holy Wisdom” – Hagia Sophia. Previously a Church constructed in 537 , an Orthodox Basilica which was then a mosque somewhere in 1453.
An architectural landmark in the heart of the city and now a museum, the Hagia Sophia is the perfect place to observe both the Byzantium and Ottoman effects all under one roof. The Christian mosaics and the black and gold calligraphy discs honours both religions in the most beautiful way.
During the period where this was a mosque, they not only ensured all the Christian paintings were in tact by plastering carefully over it, but when it was finally converted to a museum, the unearthing of these paintings resulted in both religions standing side by side – a depiction of harmony (something we sadly lack in this day and age).
Covered in multi coloured marble, the walls and ceiling are spectacular as you try to take this all in (while frantically clicking and capturing every single angle from your Phone or camera), the 100+ columns that lead you to the first floor shares decorative creations of the Byzantine Empire.
Listen to the stories unfolding around you as various tour guides share the mysteries and secrets housed within these walls. A peek over the wooden framed windows also give you a glimpse of the blue domes.
Needless to say, if ever you are in Istanbul, you really must spend a solid hour or more at the Hagia Sophia.
A ticket is priced at 40 TL (10 USD)
Your attire doesn’t really matter since it’s a museum and not a religious place of worship
A guided tour gives you all the information you need to know. If you cannot afford a guided tour – eavesdropping on other tour groups also works well!
Once you reach the first floor, don’t forget to take a picture right towards the middle which gives you panoramic views.
A few repairs are currently underway but you are certainly not marred by this.