Abu Dhabi – Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque

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.

The Venice of Holland – Giethoorn

Netherlands surprised me in many ways. My perception of Holland has always been one of parties, craziness and of course parties. My favourite place however was the car-free (AND care free) village of Giethoorn. Somewhat a subdued topic of conversation with Amsterdam constantly stealing the limelight. With my fatigued liver needing a well deserved rest, Giethoorn was a healthy visit!

Cottage homes of Giethoorn

Imagine a place with no roads but with canals, canoes and beautiful flowers.. It really is a breathtaking city. With sunshine to boost our Sunday morning, this is the ideal place to immerse yourself in some peaceful thoughts, aimless wandering and relaxed boat rides. Boat hires are ample here and a 1.5 cruise gives you to time to absorb this gorgeous place and you sometimes wonder if it’s real..

Quaintest thatched roof cottages

With just 2500+ residents occupying Giethoorn, this beautiful village is located in the northwestern province Overijssel, in the central part of the Netherlands. A two hour drive from Amsterdam and spending an entire day here is absolutely worth it. The residents use canoes to get around or motor boats.

The narrow and peaceful canals

We opted for the 1.5 boat cruise that takes you along the quiet canals with an occasional chirp or quack. Many of the quaint yet beautiful houses cannot be reached by road and along the waters you catch a glimpse of the residents sun bathing or just relaxing with a beer.

Just couldn’t get enough of this view

Imagine a city with boats and punters to get around. A village free of pollution boasting four miles of canals. It’s something out of a story book and the opportunity to actually be there- worth it.

Once the boat ride reluctantly came to an end, we discovered a small cafe by the picturesque and tranquil waters that served up some lovely salads and fresh fish.

The people are laid back, polite and extremely hospitable. If ever you’re in the Netherlands, Giethoorn is a must visit and you will certainly not regret it!

From Amsterdam : Driving is a good option and we did drive via Schokland which was an interesting visit as well. You can also hop a train that will get you to Giethoorn in 1.5-1.45 minutes for around 20 Euros.

Rent a boat – Drink some beer – Enjoy some fresh fish and just chill out.