From above, the whole city felt like it was ripped from the desert; a jewel shining at night surrounded by miles of silent nothingness.

November 2015, on my way to New Delhi, India.

Upon booking, the schedule allowed for an extended 15 hours layover in Abu Dhabi. While it was not a topper on my bucket list I knew I'd have very little chance to come back that side of the world anytime soon...

I remember that the night was dark, that there was nothing outside. No clouds to reflect the lights, nothing on the ground to grasp the attention.

Then the city. Buildings, rows of trees and bushes, roads, lightposts... Everything perfectly sctructured and organized around the main highways, quickly fading to dust and darkness as one get away from the central lines.


The plane lands, first contact with a group of young emirati customs officers, playing and laughing. At the tourist information, several "tours" are proposed ranging from a 3hrs trip downtown to a 9hrs excursion to the nearby Dubai; 15 hours should be plenty of time...

That was without accounting for the insanely long (by western's standard) delay to get into the city by bus (including waiting time, misinformation and the sheer distance to cover).

Two hours later we reach downtown, the heat is real. We rush to the nearest shopping mall and grab a meal...

Let the exploration begin!


Ripped from the desert, the city widly spreads in a precise urban grid. As we're going through, I can't help but feel like all this is a decor put together to impress us, yet it oddly fits here as the luxurious scenery quickly turns to dust as you get away from the main roads.

The architecture is a fascinating mix of ultramodern western style and the vernacular arabic's. Brand new buildings juxtaposed with tumbledown's. Glorious main roads with grubby alleys.

Local emiratis live along the working Indians and Pakistanis in what appears to be a very structured society.

Sadly without a car to get by, the day goes pretty fast and as the departure time gets closer we have to head back to the airport.

As a first experience outside the western world, "fascinating" is the word that sticks in mind


sheikh zayed grand mosque

We're dropped by the bus right in front of the mosque. Even from here, this all white building looks incredible, reflecting the light of the now dimming sun.

Completed in 2007, most of the landscaping surrounding the premices is yet to be done.

Finding the entrance prouved to be quite a challenge as the two main access, for cars, are located on the far east and west side of the site, a 15min walk from the bus stop without anyone nor any signs to guide you there.

Once inside, you're taken by the magnificience and the religious atmosphere of the place. For anyone into architecture, it is a geomotrical feast for the eyes. Pristine white, every stone is carved, layed out in subtle patterns that connects the visitor to the massive scale of the mosque. 

Worthy of any world wonder, it is a successfull blend of traditionalal culture and modern reality (if only for the lighting integration and the photo contest on display)