Abu Dhabi UAE

Visiting Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Abu Dhabi is full of many great things to do and see. One thing that you must absolutely do when visiting is go to the beautiful Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. This Mosque is one of the few that allow non-Muslims inside. It is exactly as it’s name suggests, Grand!
Visiting the Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque
Driving towards the Mosque you can’t help but notice it. It is huge and it’s beauty exudes itself. We took a taxi there. It is also very easy to get a taxi when you are ready to go. The Mosque is free to enter and walk around. The Grand Mosque as it is affectionately called, is open daily from 9am – 10pm. Friday’s mornings, tourist aren’t allowed in till 4:30pm. It is also closed on the first day of Eid Al Fitr and Eid Al Adha.

Dress Code from the Sheikh Grand Mosque © 2015 HollyDayz
Dress Code from the Sheikh Grand Mosque © 2015 HollyDayz

Upon entering past the ropes I noticed a couple attempting to take a picture. The guard immediately stopped them. He told the man he had to take his arm from around his wife. I soon found out there is no hugging, kissing, or even a simple arm around the shoulder allowed there.
We then headed down an escalator and across a parking lot to get an abaya. Men can also get a kandourah, but it isn’t necessary. We had to have some form of ID in order to obtain these. They do not take passports, it can be a driver license or school ID. Your ID is slid into a book and they hand you a number. To obtain the abaya a woman looked me up and down and told me which rack to go to. I put on the abaya, which was very big. The hood to cover my hair, flopped over my head.
©2015 HollyDayz
©2015 HollyDayz

We headed back across the parking lot and up the escalator so we can begin walking around the beautiful architecture. There was so much beautiful to take in. There are walking guided tours that last 45-60 minutes, but we just walked around on our own.
Intricate Beauty ©2015 HollyDayz
Intricate Beauty ©2015 HollyDayz

Shelves for shoes outside prayer hall ©2015 HollyDayz
Shelves for shoes outside prayer hall ©2015 HollyDayz

We walked around taking in all the beauty. As we walked towards the main prayer hall people were sitting on benches. They were taking a break from walking, putting on, and taking off their shoes. In order to enter the main prayer hall shoes must be taken off and put on a shelf. The marble felt so cool under my feet, but we put on socks to walk around.
Beautiful carpet ©2015 HollyDayz
Beautiful carpet ©2015 HollyDayz

Inside the main prayer hall ©2015 HollyDayz
Inside the main prayer hall ©2015 HollyDayz

Walking inside the main prayer hall it is massive and can hold 7,000 of the 40,000 worshipers the Mosque can hold. The carpet is beautiful and is said to be the world’s largest carpet. There are also a handful of gorgeous colorful chandeliers. The chandeliers have millions of Swarovski Crystals. One of them is the second largest in a mosque and third largest in the world.
Chandelier ©2015 HollyDayz
Chandelier and 99 qualities ©2015 HollyDayz

There are marble columns all around that have mother of pearl inlaid in them. The 99 qualities of God (Allah) are on one wall written in Kufic. After walking around we decided to head back out to walk around some more. Putting our shoes on we continued to walk around. We saw some beautiful pools of water. Gorgeous next to the columns. There was also an area to wash your feet.
Beautiful columns and pool of water ©2015 HollyDayz
Beautiful columns and pool of water ©2015 HollyDayz

After walking around a bit longer we gave the abaya back and headed out. It was hard to walk away from The Grand Mosque. The intricate detail is amazing. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque truly is gorgeous and a must see when in Abu Dhabi!
Have you been to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque?

Abu Dhabi Dubai Tips of the Trade Travel UAE

What To Wear In Dubai and Abu Dhabi

Before heading over to the United Arab Emirates many people wonder what they should pack. Not only do you have to keep in mind the weather, but more importantly the cultural and religious aspect, as it is a Muslim country. The last thing you want to do is offend the locals. So here is some insight on what to wear in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
What To Wear In UAE  © 2015 HollyDayz
Dubai in particular, is the most lax of the seven emirates that form the United Arab Emirates. Still it is important to remain respectful. While I was there I saw many people who either weren’t aware or simply didn’t care what they wore. Your clothing could warrant unwanted attention or something being said to you by a local. This doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy an entire new wardrobe or dress like the locals.
Malls, Marina, and Souks
While walking around at The Dubai Marina I saw many tourists from all over wearing many different types of clothing. Some were covered up and others not so much at all. I wore a capped short sleeve shirt and capris that almost looked like pants. I also had a light jacket I kept wrapped around my waist in case it got a little too chilly.
At The Dubai Mall I wore jeans, a t-shirt, and a light jacket. Walking around with a tank top, short shorts, and tight clothing is frowned upon. Shorts should be at least down to the knee. Shoulders should also be covered. The same goes for men, who are better off wearing t-shirts rather than tanks.
In the winter months, taking light jackets or a long sleeve button up would do well. It also helps in the summer time when you are inside and the AC is blasting. I am not really a fan of short sleeves. I had both a light jacket and a button down shirt I used to cover up, as most of my shirts are tank tops.
One time I did take off my button down shirt at the gold souks. The area is bit more rundown and old. I didn’t get a bunch of stares, but I did get unwanted attention from one gentleman. As humid as it became, I put my button down right back on!
Pool, Beach, and Hotel
If you are headed to the pool, beach, or hanging out at your hotel your clothing choices are a bit more lax. Swimming trunks, one piece, and bikinis are allowed. They are however not allowed on the way to the pool or beach. You must be covered up at those times and not with a towel! Bring a coverup or some actual clothes. There are many locals walking around many hotels so keep that in mind.
Nightlight and Restaurants
Heading out to explore the nightlife allows for you to wear what you would normally wear out. Again just keep in mind where exactly it is your going and how your getting there. Restaurants will typically alert you to their dress codes. Most are casual or as they call it “smart casual.” You will see many Emiratis in their national dress, which is welcome everywhere.
Many mosques don’t allow non-Muslims, but there are a couple that do, including the very beautiful Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. As a woman, your arms, legs, and hair must be covered. I was completely covered and I still had to wear an abaya. I believe it was because my hair is long and was hanging down. My mom was also completely covered, only had to cover her hair with a shayla (headscarf) rather than wear an abaya. Abayas go over the clothes, and will be lent to you at the mosque.

Dress Code from the Sheikh Grand Mosque © 2015 HollyDayz
Dress Code from the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque © 2015 HollyDayz

Men are to wear pants. No shorts! When entering the mosque shoes must come off. Clothing for both men and women must be conservative. If you aren’t comfortable walking around barefoot you can keep your socks on. There is also no intimacy allowed on the grounds. That includes kissing, hand holding, or even putting your arm around the opposite sex. I wouldn’t be too surprised if during Ramadan wearing anything to tight or short would be even more highly offensive.
Desert Safari
On a desert safari you can wear shorts and tank tops if you wish. Once the sun goes down it can get cold. When I went it was very cold! I had on long capris, sneakers, 2 shirts, and a fleece. I was still cold with all of that on! People wearing shorts weren’t too happy at that point. The summer months I’m sure are much warmer at night than in the winter. It is still good to bring at least a light jacket with you.
Ultimately it is your choice what you wear, but if you are going to travel to other countries with a conservative culture, then you should respect it.
How do you feel about the “dress code?”

4 The Foodie Abu Dhabi Restaurants Reviews

Review: Afternoon Tea at The Chocolate Gallery in Abu Dhabi

Afternoon tea is becoming very popular in the United Arab Emirates. Everywhere you turn a restaurant is hosting an afternoon tea. So much so, that it starts to get overwhelming on where is the best place to go. I wanted to do afternoon tea while visiting, as it was very high on my list of things to do. I looked at several options, and happened on a place called The Chocolate Gallery in Abu Dhabi. I love chocolate, and The Chocolate Gallery just sounded fabulous.

View from The Chocolate Gallery  ©2015 Holly Dayz
View of the Grand Mosque ©2015 Holly Dayz

The location for The Chocolate Gallery couldn’t be any more perfect! It is located inside the beautiful Fairmont Bab Al Bahr hotel. The hotel is about 5 minutes away from the Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque. While seated inside we had the most amazing view of not only the Grand Mosque, but the immaculate beachfront overlooking the Abu Dhabi Creek. Depending where you sit depends how good of view you will have. For those who prefer to sit outside when the weather is cooler, there is a very nice terrace overlooking a large lawn. We sat out there for a few minutes to take it all in and it was very relaxing.
The Chocolate Gallery
Seating area with a glimpse of the terrace  ©2015 Holly Dayz
Seating area with a glimpse of the terrace ©2015 Holly Dayz

Coffee. Hot Chocolate, & Yummy incased Pastries ©2015 Holly Dayz
Coffee. Hot Chocolate, & Yummy incased Pastries ©2015 Holly Dayz

As soon as you walk into The Chocolate Gallery there is so much to take in. The gold alcove seating areas, beautiful chandeliers, a huge incased wedding cake, and minions. Yes, the minions from the movie Despicable Me! They were handmade from chocolate! I also saw a large table that had cocoa beans, and chocolate incased in glass. As we walked further in I spotted all kinds of delectable looking items.
Minions from Despicable Me  ©2015 Holly Dayz
Minions from Despicable Me ©2015 Holly Dayz

Chocolate & Cocoa Bean Table  ©2015 Holly Dayz
Chocolate & Cocoa Bean Table ©2015 Holly Dayz

Walking towards the golden alcove, I noticed to my left a gentleman making chocolate. I was able to stand there and watch him begin to create something. As I looked into the area he was seated, I saw other characters made from chocolate including Superman, Cupid, and the Hulk. I wasn’t quite sure what the gentleman was making, but I would soon find out.
Chocolate Studio  ©2015 Holly Dayz
Chocolate Studio ©2015 Holly Dayz

Afternoon Tea
The waiter brought over a couple of tea menus. There were a huge number of teas to choose from, over 80! I chose the Lemonade Strawberry Tea, while my mom choose the Indian Masala Chai Tea. The Afternoon Tea has 3 options, with differences being in sandwiches and desserts. If you were to go 3 consecutive days in a row, you would be able to delight your taste buds with something different each time. The day we were there was Afternoon Tea 3.
Afternoon Tea Menu  ©2015 Holly Dayz
Afternoon Tea Menu ©2015 Holly Dayz

Afternoon Tea Menu  ©2015 Holly Dayz
Afternoon Tea Menu ©2015 Holly Dayz

Afternoon Tea Menu  ©2015 Holly Dayz
Afternoon Tea Menu ©2015 Holly Dayz

The waiter brought out these beautiful tea pots and a flame. He placed the teapot on top of the flame, and said to give it a few minutes. After letting the small time pass by I went to pour my first cup of tea, only to find the tea pot was heavy. I loved it though! I tried both teas and although my Lemonade Strawberry Tea was really good, the Indian Masala Chai Tea was even better! I am now on the hunt to buy some!
Tea  ©2015 Holly Dayz
Tea ©2015 Holly Dayz

While sipping my tea and taking in the beautiful view, mini sandwiches were brought over on a beautiful serving plate. The serving plate was shaped in the form of a painters palette. The sandwiches were good. A couple of them had some spice to it that I wasn’t expecting. Regardless of the spice they were still good. I loved the attention to detail on the sandwiches.
Sandwiches  ©2015 Holly Dayz
Sandwiches ©2015 Holly Dayz

A plate of fluffy raisin scones were brought over along with passion fruit spread, clotted cream, and strawberry jam. My favorite was the strawberry jam. I went to heaven eating those scones. I wish I had taken some to go with me! I have been craving those scones since I stepped foot out The Chocolate Gallery door. I am not too sure I will find scones elsewhere that will match the ones they served.
Scone with spreads ©2015 Holly Dayz
Scone with spreads ©2015 Holly Dayz

Shortly after, a plate of beautifully decorated desserts were sat down on the table. I partly wish they had used a tier stand, at least for the sandwiches, because the table became crowded. The desserts were so good! Surprisingly one of my favorites was the macaroon! I have had macaroons in Paris and wasn’t that impressed. This macaroon tasted amazing and gave me a new found love for them.
Desserts ©2015 Holly Dayz
Desserts ©2015 Holly Dayz

The Head Chef/Chocolatier
Chocolate Studio ©2015 Holly Dayz
Chocolate Studio ©2015 Holly Dayz

As I was finishing up my afternoon tea, I headed back over to the chocolate studio. I felt like a kid as I pressed my face close to the glass to see what was being made. As I got closer I saw he had created a camel. He then came out to speak with us. I soon found out that the gentleman behind the glass, Abe, was the head chef/chocolatier. He said he was also planning to make palm trees, a sheik, and other characters.
Abe has a very uplifting personality that allows for an enjoyable conversation. He is extremely passionate about everything he makes and wants nothing but perfection for his customers. Abe takes much pride in his work and is very knowledgeable. He was such a pleasure to talk to.
Abe the Head Chef & Choclatier ©2015 Holly Dayz
Abe the Head Chef & Chocolatier ©2015 Holly Dayz

He then began to tell us about the hot chocolate they serve, which I was told many say is the best in Abu Dhabi. I love hot chocolate, so this was something I was more than happy to try. This too was something Abe was extremely passionate about. Abe informed me that he arrives early to taste the hot chocolate to make sure it was created properly, if not it has to be made all over again.
I tried a cup of the hot chocolate. I think I was a bit too anxious because it was still very hot. I attempted to be patient and wait for it to cool off a bit. I finally got to try the hot chocolate, and I can honestly say I have never tasted anything like it. It was delicious! If they don’t already, they need to box that up and sell it! I highly recommend getting some hot chocolate while there, you will not be disappointed.
Everyone was very kind and knowledgeable at The Chocolate Gallery. In 2012 Time Out Abu Dhabi awarded The Chocolate Gallery with The Best Afternoon Tea. After my experience I can see why, and hope they achieve this award for 2015! The presentation for their afternoon tea was awesome. I keep thinking about all the great food I ate, and tea I drank and wish I had it at this very moment.
The Chocolate Gallery award from Time Out Abu Dhabi ©2015 Holly Dayz
The Chocolate Gallery award from Time Out Abu Dhabi ©2015 Holly Dayz

Not only is their afternoon tea great, but well priced! Make sure you make a reservation! I also hear they have a 24 Carat afternoon tea. Upon visiting Abu Dhabi again I will make sure to make my way to The Chocolate Gallery. So if you are interested in afternoon tea, I highly suggest The Chocolate Gallery in Abu Dhabi!
Afternoon tea set including choice of tea and scones
95 Dhs standard set
125 Dhs ( standard set with 6 truffles)
195 Dhs (standard set, 6 truffles plus a glass of Prosecco)

Have you every been to afternoon tea? Ever visited The Chocolate Gallery in Abu Dhabi? How was your experience?
Disclaimer: Whilst receiving an invitation to The Chocolate Gallery for their Afternoon Tea, all opinions are my own and have not been influenced.