Abu Dhabi

In all of my travels, I somehow managed to avoid going so far east that I never needed to stop in the United Arab Emirates. (Which is probably the opposite of what every Australian traveler has ever experienced, ever.) So, understandably, I was both intrigued and a bit nervous when I booked my flight for ICANN60, set in Abu Dhabi.

First of all, the flight from Brazil was roughly fourteen hours. FOURTEEN HOURS. I love to travel, and flying is part and parcel of the process, but I was a little terrified when I saw the total flight time. Also, I remain surprised that I can get a direct flight from Rio de Janeiro to Dubai, but I can’t get a direct flight from Rio to Newark. Why do you fail me, airways?

I arrived in Dubai pretty late at night. It gets very hot in the city during the day, which makes it difficult for planes to land or take off, so the airport is most active in the early, early morning or very late at night. Even so, it was very quiet, clean, and nearly empty at my 10pm landing.

In the morning, we set off from Dubai to Abu Dhabi in a taxi. It’s only about an hour and a half drive, and a pretty straight shot at that. While we didn’t do any sightseeing in Dubai itself, it was a good opportunity to get a quick view of the city. The buildings are, indeed, very tall and Burj Khalifa was impressive, even all the way from the highway.

On our last day in Abu Dhabi, we made our way to Sheikh Zayed Mosque. We’d passed it a few times on the way to dinner – it’s impossible to miss! – but I was completely unprepared for what we found inside. The mosque was breathtaking. Everything was white, made of marble, with intricate floral designs, and a pristine surrounding. We visited at sunset, too, which meant the colors of the buildings were highlighted by the gorgeous orange hue.

It was also my first time visiting a mosque. On the website, they specify the appropriate dress code, but they also have abayas available for visitors to wear if they don’t meet the standards. Also, it’s required to take your shoes off before entering, so in hindsight, wearing socks would have been a good idea.

Around dusk, the muezzin began the adhan. I cannot express the beauty of the moment. Listening to the prayer, barefoot, halfway across the world, watching the sunset over the white marble of the building and the full moon rising. I felt so much gratitude.

The flight back was long and hard. I couldn’t sleep. I was so hungry when I arrived and in desperate need of a shower. But I felt accomplished in some capacity. I experienced a place I never, in a thousand years, would have expected to visit, and made it back to Brazil, another place I never expected to be. And I’m so happy for both of those things.

Categorized as Travel

By Erica V.

Always seriously joking and rambunctiously soft-spoken.


  1. Wow, this sounds like an amazing trip! Love the way you described things, especially your visit to the mosque and the calls to prayer.

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