What’s Lou­vre got to do with it?

Balonne Beacon - - ESCAPE - AMANDA WOODS The writer trav­elled as a guest of the De­part­ment of Cul­ture and Tourism, Abu Dhabi and Eti­had Air­ways

AS SOME­ONE who be­lieves in the hori­zon-broad­en­ing pow­ers of travel I’m now em­bar­rassed to ad­mit that I never had any in­ter­est in go­ing to Abu Dhabi.

It just didn’t ap­peal to me, and if it hadn’t been for the open­ing of the Lou­vre Abu Dhabi I’d still be one of those peo­ple who have only ever seen the in­side of the air­port.

But it’s a funny thing; af­ter get­ting lost in the in­cred­i­ble ar­chi­tec­ture and art of the new Lou­vre, I dis­cov­ered the high­lights of the trip were far from over when we left the mu­seum’s is­land.

A bet­ter-known at­trac­tion, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, has beauty and power that can be felt from a dis­tance, but once you go in­side, it re­veals just how ex­tra­or­di­nary it is.

As I stood on the sur­pris­ingly cool mar­ble in the hot sun, I was torn be­tween tak­ing in the awe­some sight of the domes and mas­sive flo­ral mo­saics on the 18,000sq m main court­yard, and star­ing at the del­i­cate flo­ral shapes made from semi-pre­cious stones on the mar­ble col­umns be­side me.

The best way to visit is to join one of the mosque’s free cul­tural tours (szgmc.gov.ae/en/cul­tur­al­tours), which not only pro­vide in­ter­est­ing cul­tural in­sights and facts about the build­ing, they also al­low you to en­ter parts of the mosque that are off lim­its to other vis­i­tors.

Fol­low­ing our guide al­lowed us to walk across the world’s largest car­pet, a mind-bog­gling feat in­volv­ing about 2.2 bil­lion in­di­vid­ual, hand-tied knots to cover 5625sq m.

Know­ing we could feel what seemed to be car­pet joins be­neath our bare feet, our guide ex­plained that they were in­stead lines that had been shaved into the car­pet to help guide wor­ship­pers into rows dur­ing prayer. And I spared a thought for the peo­ple given that re­spon­si­bil­ity when this 12-tonne car­pet was com­plete.

In the main prayer hall we were also able to stand di­rectly un­der one of the world’s big­gest chan­de­liers. Cov­ered in Swarovski crys­tals and Mu­rano glass, this 12-tonne chan­de­lier is 10m across, 15m high, and has a small stair­case in­side that clean­ers use to get into those hard-to-reach places.

For more ex­cel­lent chan­de­lier spot­ting, Emi­rates Palace Ho­tel has more than 1000 Swarovski crys­tal chan­de­liers, the largest weigh­ing 2.5 tonnes.

POWER AND BEAUTY: The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is the third largest mosque in the world. Photo: iS­tock

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