We really wanted to visit The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. I was looking for a tour operator to take us to Abu Dhabi, but the more I read about it the more it seemed that the mosque is the only place really worth visiting in Abu Dhabi and everything else was little more than just a filler. There were things like Emirates Palace Hotel and date market, but none of that really seemed as interesting. I spent some time researching tour companies online, but it seemed that the Abu Dhabi tours are quite expensive for what you get (375 dirhams/96€) or are cheap (105 dirhams/27€), but the company has really crappy reviews online. Finally I thought that I found the perfect solution with Arabian Adventures, which seemed to have good reviews and a decent price (227 dirhams/58€).
So I happily clicked book and selected Thursday as the tour date, then clicked forward and filled in my contact and payment details. I wanted to review the booking, but there wasn’t any review page, just Confirm-button. So I pressed it and only when I got the confirmation I realized that I had booked the tour for 30th of November instead of for 24th of November! I’m still not sure how that happened… I think that a) when you’re on holiday, you’re not following that well what day it is and b) the week in Dubai doesn’t start on Monday, so while I thought I was selecting the correct weekday, I must’ve selected the wrong one. So I kind of freaked out because while losing 116€ (tour for two people) isn’t the end of the world, I could use that money for something else.
So I tried calling them, but nobody answered, so I wrote them an email asking either whether they could reschedule the tour for another date or to refund the money. They actually called me later the same day and unfortunately the tour couldn’t be rescheduled, so they promised to refund me the money because the tour I had mistakenly booked was still a week away. I followed up with an email when I got back to Finland and they confirmed me in writing that they will refund me the money, but it would take 3-4 weeks, so I’m waiting. So this is again something that I could’ve researched in advance and I wouldn’t be in this situation, so this is a nice future reference how things get overly complicated even thought they don’t need to be.
Once again we were in a situation where we didn’t have any tour to Abu Dhabi, so we decided to just take a bus there, visit the mosque, and come back. The mosque was our main sightseeing goal anyway. So we started the day with an excellent breakfast at a restaurant called Pascal Tepper.
After breakfast my friend dropped us off at a bus station near Ibn Battuta Metro Bus Stop. We had actually managed to do some research about buses to Abu Dhabi the day before, but we thought we would start from Al Ghubaiba Bus Station. So screwed again by not planning in advance… Anyway, we decided to look around and actually found a bus E101 going to Abu Dhabi. We had some confusion about how to buy tickets, but it turned out that there is a booth where you could top up your Nol card and show it to the reader in the bus. The driver doesn’t accept cash as payment. The cost for the bus trip was 25 dirhams (6,40€) per person one way. The journey took about 1 hour and 40 minutes. The bus has air conditioning and seemed to function well overall, but the seats were ripped and old. On our way back the seat in front of us was broken, so the guy had to sit the entire trip in a reclining position. 😀 I also recommend some entertainment for the road as there isn’t much in terms of scenery.
When we finally got to Abu Dhabi bus station, we took a cab to the mosque. The cab cost 30 dirhams (7,70€) and it got us right to the entrance.
When entering, there is a security check and separate doors for men and women. Women also need to get abayas from the renting room downstairs. You need to pass through underground parking lot. Abaya doesn’t cost anything, but they keep you ID in order to make sure that you return it. So after getting abayas and taking off our shoes, we finally were ready to enter the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and it was truly beautiful. Really really peaceful despite the visitors and just full of details.
There are guided tours of the mosque (approx. 45 min), but they are arranged only at the specific times. Schedule can be found here. We visited on Wednesday, so the guided tours took place at 10 am, 11 am and 5 pm. We missed the morning tours and the 5 pm tour was a bit too late, so it’s a shame that we couldn’t learn more about the mosque. I think that would’ve been interesting. So yeah, in the future plan plan plan… 🙂
Also there were a lot of staff monitoring that the visitors behave appropriately. There are guidelines before entering the mosque, but it’s unbelievable how many women still tried to go with uncovered hair and couple trying to take photos while hugging. Not that I’m pro modesty policing, but it’s really not asking too much to be respectful.
So the mosque was really impressive and it was totally worth going to Abu Dhabi by bus just to see it. 🙂
After our visit we took the cab back to Al Wahda Mall, which was located right next to the Abu Dhabi bus station. We got some water and a smoothie and headed back to the bus station. While there we kind of decided to take the first bus to Dubai, which was somewhat a mistake as we took the bus E100 to Al Ghubaiba Bus Station. At some point I decided to check where that station was located on a map and yeah, we should’ve waited for the bus E101. We were staying at Al Barsha area and Ibn Battuta Bus Station was much closer to us. The distance between the two bus stations is about 35km and let me tell you it was super painful to know that we will pass our destination by about 30km in congested traffic! This truly was the day to remind myself that I need to plan the trips unless I plan just to lie on the beach. 😀
Luckily after sitting in traffic for an hour the bus suddenly made a mid-way stop at a metro station (World Trade Center if I’m not completely mistaken. I was just so happy to see a metro station that I couldn’t really care which one it was. :D) and we got out as fast as we could! We took the metro back to the Mall of Emirates and walked home from there. The bus trip back took over 2 hours and we didn’t even reach the bus station. So I recommend you check carefully where you are staying and plan the buses accordingly. They go pretty frequently. In hindsight I would rather sit for 30 min at Abu Dhabi bus station than spend the same time in traffic going to the bus station much further away.
At the end of the day we were so tired that we spent the evening chatting, watching stand up on YouTube, and ordering takeaway from a restaurant called Arz Lebanon. The food was really good by the way! No pictures unfortunately, we were just too quick to dig in. 🙂
EDIT 7th of December: I got money back from the Arabian Adventures today, so it went quicker than the initial 3-4 weeks they promised. It’s unfortunate that we couldn’t take the trip to Abu Dhabi with them, but very professional customer service.