Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Day On the Bosphorus

This afternoon I went over to Ortakoy for a little last minute shopping, (Yes I know it's Christmas Day, but Mel doesn't come till tomorrow!) These pictures are looking back over the Bosphorus towards my neighborhood, Sultanahmet, or the Old City. Isn't that sky gorgeously dramatic? One of the many reasons why I love this city.

In the first and second pictures you'll see the dome and minarets of Haghia Sophia, my apartment is just 3 blocks from there.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hanging Out at Sheikh Zayed Mosque

Sheikh Zayed Mosque from the Shangri-la Hotel.

Last year Mel and I walked around this mosque on the first day it opened, (Christmas Day), taking photos from the grounds. At the time we were unsure if foreigners were allowed in, (in the Emirates, almost all mosques prohibit non-muslims from entering). We had even heard a rumor that women weren't allowed inside.

This year, the authorities made it clear that infidels and women are indeed allowed in. But just this one mosque. So we headed out with Mel's friend Jamaal to finally see what's up with this mosque.

Just a few facts from wikipedia...

 - This is the 3rd largest mosque in the world. It's designed to hold 40,000 worshipers. I believe it. It's huge.  

 - The carpet inside is the worlds largest and measures 5,627 square meters. It was made by 1,200 weavers, 20 technicians, and 30 workers. The weight of this carpet is 47 tons — 35 tons of wool, and 12 tons of cotton. There are 2,268,000 knots within the carpet.

 - This mosque also holds the largest chandelier. There are seven imported chandeliers from Germany and are copper and gold plated. The largest chandelier has a 10 meter diameter and a 15 meter height.

I can also add that the flowers in the walls and columns are all inlaid precious stones a la Taj Mahal.

Check out these two snap-happy sheikhas!

The place is decorated from floor.....

... to ceiling.

The carpet in the above picture is not the largest in the world(more on that later), but the carpet in the "women's room". The ceiling is also from the "women's room". Although it's a smaller room away from the main prayer hall, this was my favorite part of the inside of he mosque. 

Mel rockin' the abaya!

Without a doubt, Mel looks great in an abaya. All the flowers, leaves and vines you see around her are all precious stones inlaid into marble. 

Guest workers from India and Pakistan laying the floor in the inner courtyard. 
This mosque is still very much under construction.

I much prefer the outside of this mosque to the inside. It's so large that you can see shadows of clouds pass over the domes. I was also lucky enough to visit this mosque on days when there were actual clouds in the sky. In fact, later this day the sky would turn black and actually pour rain!

This is me reclining on the biggest carpet in the world. I don't mind the abaya so much, it's not much different from wearing long PJ's, but the sheila (pronounced SHAY-la) - the head scarf is really annoying. It slips and slides all over. I remember the constant re wrapping of sheilas in my class at ADU last year, and now I understand why. I was glad to get the whole thing off. 

Honestly, the place is impressive, but a bit over the top. Check out this chandelier...

... a perfect example that bigger is not always better.
(This is the biggest one in the mosque, therefore, the world.)

And one more, smaller, but less gaudy.

Overall, it was a nice afternoon. Well worth circling the mosque twice looking for the entrance, donning the abaya and fidgeting with the sheila while trying to take photos. Mel's friend Jamaal was very patient with Mel and I and our slow progression through the mosque. One more thing crossed off my Abu Dhabi "to do" list!