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Abu Dhabi

sheikh zayed grand mosque abu dhabi Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque: The largest mosque in the U.A.E., accommodating 40,000 people, opened in 2007 and is named for the late president and founder of the U.A.E. Sheikh Zayed incorporated his vision of global unity into its design. Only the doors were made in the U.A.E.; all other materials are from locations around the world, including the planet's largest hand-woven carpet, made in Iran of wool from New Zealand. Weighing 47 tons, it was divided into nine pieces and flown here in two separate planes. Chandeliers are made of Swarovski crystal and Murano glass, marble columns are inlaid with semiprecious stones and mother of pearl with gold tips. The mosque's four, 328-foot minarets look down on 57 white marble domes and a courtyard inlaid with a floral mosaic design.

The mosque is located between the three bridges connecting Abu Dhabi city to the mainland and is open to non-Muslims for free guided tours on select days of the week. You also can visit on your own without a tour at other times depending on the call to prayer schedule. Men may not enter in shorts. Women are given a robe (abaya) and a scarf (sheyla) to put on over their clothing. Shoes are removed prior to entering the prayer hall.

Emirates Palace: Often mistaken for a royal palace, this grand structure is a five-story hotel owned by the government and managed by Kempinski. When it opened in 2005 at a cost of $3 billion, it was the most expensive hotel ever built. Travelers often come here for lunch or tea or just to walk around and gawk at marble from 13 countries, Persian carpets, 114 domes (including a central dome soaring more than 238 feet), 1,002 chandeliers and a private beach. Off the lobby, the Gold to Go ATM vends gold jewelry priced at the international daily rate for gold. Emirates Palace sprawls at the end of West Corniche Road in the central city.

Al Ain: Leave modern Abu Dhabi city behind and travel about 90 minutes to Al Ain, a city built around an oasis on an old caravan route between Abu Dhabi and Oman. One of the oldest permanently inhabited settlements on the Arabian peninsula, it is the historic home of Abu Dhabi's ruling family. Among the sights is Al Jahili Fort, erected in 1891 and birthplace of U.A.E. founding father Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was both a fort and summer residence of the royal family. It houses a permanent exhibit of the impressive black-and-white photographs taken by British adventurer Wilfred Thesiger on his crossings of the Empty Quarter desert in the 1940s. You'll find it in the southeastern section of the city near the Public Garden and center of town.

You'll find another UNESCO World Heritage Site nearby. The Al Ain Palace Museum was built in 1937 and was once the home of Sheikh Zayed. It has a large collection of objects related to the ruling family. It's on Al Ain Street. The nearby Al Ain National Museum is divided into two sections, ethnography and archaeology; it has artifacts of people living in the region going back 7,500 years, including household items, costumes and jewelry, agricultural tools, funerary artifacts, weaponry, musical instruments and traditional wedding boxes containing jewelry called mandoos.

Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital: Take a guided tour of the specialty hospital treating the royal bird. See the luxurious wards where the birds are kept; visit the museum to learn more about the sport of falconry and a free-flying area to see falcons soar; and try your hand at the sport in the garden. The hospital is in the Al Raha district near Abu Dhabi International Airport.

Corniche: The city's manicured front yard stretches for five miles along the coast with the skyscrapers rising behind it. Corniche Beach Park features lifeguards, an ATM, cafes and children's play areas. The main entrance is Gate 3 at Al Khaleej Al Arabi Street.

Ferrari World Abu Dhabi: This theme park is like no other, and it's not just for kids. Everyone can enjoy the Italian restaurants, the interactive display of cars from 1947 to the present, the Ferrari store, and 20 rides and attractions. Formula Rossa, the world's fastest roller coaster, accelerates faster than a Formula One car to reach 150 mph. Ferrari World is located on Yas Island, 30 minutes from the city center.

Golfing: Several courses are located within a half-hour of the central city. Among them are the nine-hole Abu Dhabi City Golf Club on 19th Street in the Al Mushrif district; Abu Dhabi Golf Club, home to a 27-hole championship course on Umm Al Nar Street in the Umm Al Nar district; Saadiyat Beach Golf Club, an 18-hole ocean course designed by Gary Player with several beachfront holes, on Saadiyat Island; and Yas Links Abu Dhabi, an 18-hole links course and nine-hole academy course on the western shore of Yas Island.
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