Next to all the glitz and glamour of Dubai, the capital of the United Arab Emirates is often cast in the shadow of its sibling. Only 75 minutes from Dubai, Abu Dhabi is definitely well worth a day visit; even if it's just to see the main attraction, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
Designed based on the Taj Mahal and laying claim to being the largest mosque in the UAE, it certainly doesn't disappoint. Visible for miles around, the 82 white marble domes and 4 minarets glimmer in the sunshine and capture the imagination of even non-believers.
Up close, you appreciate the attention to detail and the amount of work gone into creating this building. The white marble floor is intricately designed with a floral mosaic made out of precious stones. This design continues on the 1,000 columns which surround the enormous courtyard. Other details include 24 caret gold tips on the 82 domes, chandeliers laden in jewels, and air conditioning units in the prayer hall.
Like most places in the UAE, the Grand Mosque can lay claim to holding the largest in the world of something. It might not be what you expect, though, as it's actually a carpet weighing 35 tonnes! Despite its beautiful floral design and excellent workmanship, the carpet is overshadowed by the tall domed ceilings, extravagant chandeliers, white gold walls and marble pillars. Almost as an afterthought you look down, which feels unjust to this enormous feat of craftsmanship.
The other noteworthy place we visited in Abu Dhabi was the Emirates Palace Hotel, which is a lavish palace with a regal exterior, which makes you feel like a king (or queen) when going down the palm tree lined drive. The extravagance continues inside with welcoming entrance halls and showy bar areas. There are even palm trees planted in the floor.
Abu Dhabi is definitely worth a visit and the best part is that every attraction we visited was free.