It was a full moon when we visited this magical Sunni Muslim mosque in Abu Dhabi. Earlier in the day, we had been told by a hostess in the Etihad that the best time of day to visit was in the evening. I love photography and I was skeptical – would I be able to get good shots at night?
I shouldn’t have doubted. It was like stumbling into Arabian Nights, albeit designed by Steve Wynn. There were acres of gleaming white marble, shimmering gold leaf columns, and chandeliers illuminated by millions of Swarovski crystals.
The mosque is named after Abu Dhabi’s late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, whose goal was to build a venue representative of the cultural diversity of the Islamic world. He is buried on the grounds of the mosque.
Built between 1996 and 2007, it is the largest mosque in the United Arab Emirates and the eighth largest mosque in the world – covering more than 30 acres.
Notice how small the Imam’s minbar (pulpit) is compared to the rest of the room.
The mosque features the world’s largest carpet made by Iran’s Carpet Company, and designed by Iranian artists Ali Khaliqi. It is 60,570 square feet and took 1300 knotters two years to complete.
Sheikh Zayed Mosque is inspired by Mughal, Moorish and Persian mosque architecture – particularly the Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, Pakistan and the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, Morocco.
During Ramadan, more than 35,000 people visit a day. A sign board for the daily prayer times is mounted on the wall.
We were blown away by the level of detail and artistry everywhere.
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque has seven imported chandeliers made by Faustig in Munich, Germany. Each contains millions of Swarovski crystals.
Women are required to cover their hair, arms and legs when visiting. The mosque provides covering if you didn’t bring your own.
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is situated between the three main bridges connecting Abu Dhabi City to the main land (Maqta, Mussafah and Sheikh Zayed bridges). It is a quick 30 minute drive from the Abu Dhabi International Airport.
Visiting Hours: Sun – Thurs 9am-10pm Friday 4:30-11pm
If you’re a fan of global design, you’re probably familiar with My Marrakesh, the blog about Moroccan living by designer, hotelier and humanitarian Maryam Montague. She’s become quite the phenomenon over the last few years. Not only the writer of a drool worthy design blog set in North Africa, she’s the author of the recently published “Marrakesh by Design” – a guide to fabulous Moroccan design.
Oh, and there was the article in Elle Decor… So when my husband and I decided to travel to Morocco for our 10 year wedding anniversary, a stay at Peacock Pavilions was a must.
Designed by Montague and her architect husband Chris Redecke, Peacock Pavilions consists of a main house and two stand alone villas. We stayed for 3 nights and were lucky to have the Atlas Villa all to ourselves.
Peacock Pavilions is filled to the brim with Montague’s objets trouvés. Everywhere you look there are tassels, sequins, pottery, embroidery, feathers, carved wood, intricate tile work, and elaborate stencil designs. It is a veritable trove of Aladdin’s treasures. I was lucky enough to peak behind the doors, camera in hand…
Below is the gorgeous Golden Gazelles room we stayed in. J’adore the French poster and the luxurious stenciling behind the bed (based on a screen Maryam saw in a Christie’s catalog). Moroccan embroidered pillows and a vintage Kantha blanket make the bed pop while the African mud cloth fabric on the wood chairs are a nice contemporary accent. By keeping with the black and gold color theme, the different cultures and styles blend beautifully.
This is the view from the bed. What a marvelous fireplace! I could imagine cuddling up in this bed on a cold winter night. So romantic.This is the view from the rooftop patio above our bedroom. Throughout the day you can hear the call to prayer from the local mosque. Olive orchards surround the property and we enjoyed the delicious olive oil they produce from the trees each year.Here are some pictures from the main building. You enter Peacock Pavilions through these amazing rooms. I could spend hours looking at all the lovely and eclectic pieces (Egyptian driving glasses and Coptic crosses) in this collection.Maryam sells her treasures through the website Red Thread Souk. Here are some of the gorgeous Moroccan rugs on offer…If I had room in my suitcase I would have snapped a couple up. Morocco is frustrating in that way – too many beautiful pieces and not enough weight allowance in your luggage. But Maryam does ship internationally, so I may still buy one yet…And here are more lovely room shots…Drooling yet? Peacock Pavilions is all about the details. Inlaid antique door furniture, old Moroccan posters and French newspapers, jewelry hung as art… How about this tasseled saddle, old djellaba cape or hanging tasseled hoods? Have you noticed there are a lot of tassels at Peacock Pavilions?Don’t you love the beautiful stenciled stairs and tile work on the floors of this kitchen?The color and pattern mix at Peacock Pavilions is never overdone or too matchy-matchy which makes the decor feel fresh and not theatrical. The combined effect is totally inspiring. I came home and immediately started re-organizing my own travel collections. Isn’t that what travel does? Open your eyes to new possibilities?We hope you enjoyed our virtual Moroccan postcard and are inspired to new heights in global design chic. And if you get a chance, you really should visit…
In June we had the opportunity to attend the Indian wedding of Piyush and Shweta in Jodhpur. It was 5 days long with 3000 guests, amazing food, music and performances. The Maharajah of Jodhpur was in attendance. It was an experience we’ll never forget. Here is the story in pictures.
We travel to China four times a year, and it’s always fun to watch the changing skyline. It has changed dramatically from our first visit in 2006, and I was curious to see what it looked like 20+ years ago. A friend recently sent me a photo, and I was blown away…Here’s a shot of Shanghai in 1987. Wow! The skyline today is really beginning to rival Hong Kong. And from what I hear, that’s exactly what the government intends to achieve.
Shanghai is the world’s fastest growing city – growing at a rate of 10% a year. The current population is 23.5 – nearly double what it was in 1987.
This is the newest tower going up – Shanghai Tower. It will be China’s tallest building and the world’s second tallest skyscraper, at 2,073 ft high. It is scheduled to finish by the end of 2014.It goes up into the clouds… One of our favorite Shanghainese restaurants overlooks the Bund – Shanghai Min (in Mandarin it’s Xiao Nan Guo). After indulging in amazing hong shao rou (red-cooked pork) our tradition is to take an evening stroll and check out the ever-changing river skyline. The ghosts/buildings of Shanghai’s past, still line the Puxi side of the Huangpu River. These stately historical Bund buildings once housed numerous banks and trading houses from the around the world.Today they are home to high end restaurants, nightclubs, boutiques and museums. It’s fun to see the old and new in close juxtaposition. Shanghai continues to be one of the most dynamic, interesting cities in the world.
On a buying trip to India in March, we finally got to Goa. (Sorry – the puns are hard to resist.) Long a stopover on the hippie trail of the ’70s, Goa continues to be a hot spot for jet set travelers, Bollywood stars and honeymooning couples.
I’ve long been under the misconception that Goa was a city. It is actually India’s smallest state, but with over 75 miles of coastline, there’s a lot to see and do.
The toughest part is picking your beach…
We flew into Dabolim Airport and drove an hour and half to Ashvem Beach in North Goa. Ashvem and Morjim beaches are both relatively quiet and draw a hip, artistic crowd.
We decided to go “glamping” – opting for tented luxury over a large resort environment. Amarya Shamiyana has four beach tents which are air-conditioned, complete with sitting room, two sinks and a shower.
Breakfast is served upon request, and you’re a mere 100 feet away from the Arabian Sea. I definitely was living out my Arabian Nights fantasies at this lovely hotel.We spent the third night at Paros, Amarya’s property down the beach.
The tents weren’t as large or glam, but the eating area has gorgeous ocean views. The food is delicious and we had access to a totally deserted beach. If I had to pick, it would be difficult to choose a favorite.
I also spent one of the days browsing the funky boho-chic boutiques on Ashvem Beach. Full of eclectic Goa-wear, there are a lot fun things to shop. Jade Jagger has a hot pink shop here and I couldn’t resist picking up a dress and ruby ring. I also got a sneak peak of her super cool compound (located nearby) when the credit card machine didn’t work. She has it decorated with Tibetan god/goddess pictures, rattan and a lot of hot pink. Very chic.
Another good stop down the beach is the chic French beach cafe – La Plage. It’s the heart of the Ashvem beach scene and serves up some yummy French and international cuisine. We had a lovely time in our brief Goa sojourn and are plotting a way back to sink our toes into the beach sand. If you get a chance, you must Goa too!
Amarya Shamiyana – Ashvem Beach, (Next to La Plage Restaurant), Mandrem, Goa-403527, INDIA
Paros by Amarya – Turtle Beach, Temba Vaddo, Morjim, Goa – 403527, INDIA
In honor of Sibella Court’s new book “Gypsy: A World of Colors and Interiors” which came out on the 15th, I’m finally posting the pictures from my visit to The Society, Inc. - stylist and designer, Sibella Court’s adorable shop in the Paddington neighborhood of Sydney. Sibella is well known for her series of design books and her work with clothing retailer Anthropologie. She has an eclectic, global design aesthetic that’s followed closely by avid devotees such as myself.
Sibella re-designs her shop about four times a year, with different themes, colors and collections. An eclectic mix of accessories, home goods, hardwares and whimsical art pieces, Sibella’s magic is how she arranges objects in interesting and unusual ways. While in Sydney, I was super excited to get an autographed copy of “The Life of a Bowerbird: Creating Beautiful Interiors with the Things You Collect”. I was hoping to meet the author, but unfortunately she wasn’t in the shop that day.
Sibella also designs a line of paints for Murobond, which she often features in the store’s themes.In her latest book “Gypsy” she travels to the Galápagos, Ecuador, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Turkey, Scotland, and Romania—featuring local trends, architecture, color schemes and crafts. If you happen to be in Sydney, enjoy a leisurely afternoon browsing the curiosities and collections Sibella’s collected from home and abroad. You won’t be able to resist buying a piece or two…
Indian weddings are always intriguing to the Western imagination – they supposedly last for days, include elephants, loads of jewelry and music and a riot of colors. An exaggeration, right? I am happy to report that the wedding my husband and I attended in November lived up to our imagination and then some…
We’ve known the groom Lalit for 5 years or more. We buy furniture from his family in Jodhpur. When he informed us it was his turn to get married, we jumped at the chance to celebrate it.
His bride Shipra was introduced to him about 3 months before the wedding. She hails from the lovely city of Udaipur. 90% of all weddings in India are arranged. These arrangements are based on the couples religion, caste, profession and appearance.
The day we arrived in Jaipur we joined the family at their home and participated in traditional henna painting. Usually the women of the family get their hands painted, as well as the bride and groom. Traditionally the initials of the bride are painted into the groom’s hands and the bride must find them (or risk bad luck). Local village women chanted outside the groom’s room as he was treated with a face masque. They chanted all night long.The painting itself took about half an hour, and about 5 hours to dry. By the end of the evening we were impatient and started picking the dried henna off rather than wait until the morning. Fortunately the henna dye took.
The next evening we joined the family for a huge song and dance performance. There were about a 1000 (yes!) guests. Professional singers alternated with family Bollywood performances. And the family was good! They had been practicing for weeks. It was fun to see how much they got into it.Less fun was when we were asked to get up on the stage and dance (I quickly demurred – not being up on the latest Bollywood dance moves). Let’s just say it’s been a while since I’ve seen Slumdog Millionaire.Pyrotechnics lit up the stage (this guys was wiring together the electricity below the stage). We didn’t stand too close…Long rows of tables were loaded with local vegetarian delicacies and we eagerly filled up our plates with these delicious dishes.Fresh baked rotis and chapati were baked in clay ovens and over coals, while warm spiced Masala chai was served in clay cups. We were introduced to a new drink – Kashmiri tea – which is flavored with slivered almonds and spices – a real treat on a cool fall evening.
And finally… the actual wedding night! We were running late because my sari top (called a “choli”) wasn’t finished on time and we had to fight Jaipur traffic back to our hotel. We quickly located the wedding planner who expertly wrapped and pinned me into my sari – no small task!We arrived at the wedding venue at 7:30 only to find we were among the first to arrive. Indian time tends to be a little on the delayed side, so we assumed we were early. Fine, except for the fact we didn’t recognize anyone. Concerned we had been dropped at the wrong wedding, we asked around and confirmed the venue was indeed correct. But where was the groom’s family? Suddenly out of the unfamiliar crowd a man appeared with a cell phone. We were told by the groom’s brother we needed to join the groom’s entourage – quick! We got into the stranger’s car and were driven a few blocks to a huge wedding procession…
We saw Lalit riding on a decorated white horse (with pony tails!) wearing $2 million dollars in nugget sized green emeralds and dressed in a glittering white wedding suit. Now this is how to enter a wedding!Accompanying Lalit were hundreds of women in colorful saris loaded with serious jewelry, men wearing saffron turbans pushing beaded white lamps on wheels, men dancing on stilts, and a live band with professional dancers. What a scene!
We followed this colorful, joyous crowd back into the wedding venue, passing a painted elephant along the way….When we arrived at the wedding venue, we were serenaded by a red turbaned Punjabi bagpipe band whose set included throwing drums into the air and clicking their heels. And soon the bride arrived on a palanquin carried by eight men, proceeded by dancing women…Her family procession followed behind. Shipra wore a beautiful red sari embroidered with $50,000 in diamonds and a quarter of a million dollars in wedding jewelry – mostly necklaces. (!!!)
The wedding venue was huge – over two football fields long – and held approximately 3500 guests. I’d never seen so many colorful, bejeweled saris.And then there was the food… There were about twice as many tables as the night before. All sorts of amazing Indian delights.
There were spicy curries, rich dals, warm rotis dripping with ghee, barbecued vegetables and tandoori cheese, Italian pizza, kulfi, ice cream, traditional Indian desserts including gulab jamun, and wedding cakes covered with candied silver and pomegranates. Divine…
The bride and groom participated in several choreographed performances (more dancing!) and then spent a good portion of the evening patiently posing for pictures with wedding guests. Their stamina was admirable!We finally left at 1am but party hearty guests, family and the wedding couple stayed until 7am the next morning performing Saptapadi (Hindu fire rituals) which sanctified the marriage union.
We left the wedding with full stomachs, warm hearts and memories for a lifetime.
In November I attended an Indian wedding in Jaipur, India. And of course I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to wear a sari! A friend in Jaipur recommended the store Zari, so I headed over there to check out their selection. I’m always out of my element in India because black isn’t a color choice. Bright pinks, fluorescent greens and yellows – all fight for attention – and none look so fabulous on a blond with pale skin. I had to dig deep to find some colors that would work for me.When I made my selections, the salesmen unfurled the saris so I could get a better look. My first choice was a deep red sari with beautiful gold beading.It was lovely but I also spotted a beautiful green sari I tried next. I asked one of the salesman to demonstrate how a sari is folded.
I can guarantee this takes some expertise! I thought it was interesting that the sales people were men rather than women. In such a conservative society it was a surprise to be dressed by a man.
At the end of the sari there is extra beaded fabric that is used to make the cropped top you see below. The top was tailored to fit.The lady shown in the picture was called in last minute to help me get dressed before the wedding. She expertly pinned and draped the sari – saving me from certain sari disaster!
Earlier in the day I shopped for some lac bangle bling to go with my sari. On the recommendation of my “Love Jaipur” guidebook I went to the old Tripolia Bazaar, and visited a lac bangle shop called Naaz Bangles. It’s been in the same family for many years. The sizes were a bit small for my hands, but they stretched them on the spot. There were so many gorgeous bracelets to choose from! Prices start at about $1 per bangle. The more you buy, the better the deal! On my way out of the bazaar, I ran into a cow and a holy man. Just another day shopping in Jaipur… So here’s the final look – I have to say I felt like an Indian princess. It’s not often you get to wear something so lovely…To buy your own sari go to:
ZARI 10/11, Narayan Singh Cicle, Opposite City Pulse Mall, Jaipur, Rajasthan 302004, India
PH: +91 141 511 2276