Today almost seems like a sea day, since the ship isn’t scheduled to arrive in Abu Dhabi until 4:00. We eat at our regular time and bounce around the ship looking for the perfect place to read or write. Finally, around 3:00, we start getting ready for our excursion this evening to the Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque, followed by dinner at the Emirates Hotel. For Judy, getting dressed to visit a mosque creates more questions than answers. All skin must be covered, except the face. Women are not allowed in without a headscarf. It’s been a hot day, so what can she wear that covers everything that won’t be stifling?
Another interesting thing about this cruise has been the immigration process. When we boarded in Rome, Celebrity kept our passports. Last night, we had to collect our passports in assigned places. This afternoon, when we arrive in Abu Dhabi, everyone on the ship has to get off and go through a face-to-face immigration check. The Abu Dhabi officials kept our passports. Tomorrow morning, we have assigned areas where we pick up our passports again, this time with visa stamps from Abu Dhabi. For the ship, handling all the varied disembarkations would be a nightmare. There are people leaving the ship permanently beginning this afternoon, all the way until Monday morning.
Since we’re part of a Celebrity excursion this evening, we have our own immigration line to pass through quickly. We board our bus and start the drive to the Grand Mosque. As we drive up, it’s an impressive sight. The complex is huge, with roads and parking to handle the 50,000 worshipers they say they can accommodate at any given time. When we get off the bus, the women are reminded about their headscarves (no shorts or sleeveless shirts for men). As we near an entry gate, there are security personnel checking the dress code. One woman in our group didn’t have sleeves that covered her wrist, and was held back until the guides were able to provide a pullover to meet the requirements. They had told us very clearly – no ankles or wrists showing.
The Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque was beyond impressive. I don’t have enough adjectives to describe the beauty and impressive size and opulence. Under the lights, it’s even more so. I think I’ll let the pictures do the talking.
After the mosque, we drove to the Emirates Hotel. It’s the official hotel used by the UAE to house visiting royalty. With the Formula One World Championships in town, there special visitors in town. The hotel drive-up is jammed with lots of upscale vehicles. We get off the bus and make our way to the restaurant. The hotel is huge as we walk thru. The Arabic food is great, even though there are several items we’re not sure of their origin. That’s part of the fun!
Back at the ship later, we work on our plans for tomorrow, and how, and if we want to go into the city. With an Abu Dhabi tour on Monday, we we’ve about decided to “low key” the day, while we get ready for the next two weeks in Dubai and India.