Saturday, January 13, 2018

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Introduction to the monument




We landed in Dubai via Oman Air pretty early into the morning. If you wish to read about that experience, you can click here. Most of the next morning was taking rest due to a lengthy and unnecessary air travel which I will explain in another blog post.
The Sheikh Zayed Mosque is about a 45 minutes drive from the Dubai International Airport, it is located at Abu Dhabi which is the capital city of United Arab Emirates.



We went on an afternoon drive with a private vehicle to the mosque. At the time of arrival there were not many people there and we could get parking pretty easily but the fact remains that too in the evening hours getting parking could be a bit troublesome.



There are a lot of people who visit the mosque in the evening and the place gets pretty crowded there. Still there is ample space around the mosque and it never feels very congested.

Features of the mosque



This Mosque can sometimes hold up to more than 41000 people for prayers at any given point of time. This Mosque is well known for its minarets and the architectural beauty it encompasses through its construction.

Built between 1996 and 2007 this mosque was designed by a Syrian architect, and employed about 3000 people and 38 companies to complete the construction.

World's largest carpet



The carpet in the main prayer hall is supposedly over 60000 square feet in dimension. The carpet itself took around two years to complete and was done by more than 1000 workers.

The world's third largest chandelier



This Mosque has seven imported chandeliers from Germany including the world's largest that incorporates millions of Swarovski crystals.



The chandeliers are awe inspiring and people usually slow down to spend some time staring at the beauty of the architecture. At one point in the hall all the three chandeliers can be seen one behind the other.

Highlights about the mosque


The minarets of the mask and the central courtyard make the mask and astounding beauty to look from far away. No matter whichever angle you are looking at it from, you can never seem to get enough of seeing the mosque.

There are wide walkways with small lights on both sides which illuminate the pathway during the night. There is also an area where there are small fountains which make it very nice to see and spend some time around, specifically for kids.


As you enter the main hall there are cupboards and shelves where you can leave your footwear before going inside (socks are permitted). In general most people maintain silence and are busy with photography since photos are allowed within the mosque as an exception.


There are toilets around the mosque and specifically facilities for women are better.

Photographic opportunities



This monument presents a lot of photographic opportunities for the photo enthusiast. The gardens & the fountains lighting the monument with the sky behind, the afternoon and night views of this mosque and a view of the mosque from the highway are some excellent photographic opportunities. 

You don’t really need an SLR for enjoying all of this even a mobile camera would suffice. All photos of this mosque in this blog post are taken with the Samsung Galaxy S7, the best in the camera department (until the Google Pixel trumped it)


One can easily spend up to two hours in this environment enjoying the beauty of the place.

Do's and don'ts while visiting this mosque



It is important to bear in mind some of the regulations before entering his mask so that you are not surprised when you arrive there. This part of the blog post will try to explain as much as possible how to be prepared while going to see this place.
  • [ ] security: since this is a monument of national importance there is a layer of security around the mosque and at the mosque entrance which you need to clear before entering inside. The security will do a baggage scan and also offer the traditional burqahs so that people can cover themselves completely.
  • [ ] it is essential that women are covered from head to toe and as long as you are wearing a dress which is like that it should be okay. Even for Men shorts are NOT permitted and it is preferable that you wear full pants and shirts. It's not really clear when the people at the security might ask you questions about your dressing but generally if you are fully covered it should be fine.
  • [ ] Women do get all sizes of burqah at security entry point so it is not a big deal to be worried about.
  • [ ] as far as I understood food is not allowed into the mosque so it's OK to just carry a water bottle or so with yourself and keep the rest of the food in your car for later.
  • [ ] Since the whole visit is going to take less than two hours you are not going to be so tired that you need food very often.
  • [ ] there are no entry fees for getting into this mosque it's free for everybody.
  • [ ] try to follow the queue system as much as possible where applicable and try to remain silent while going about taking photographs. This whole place is very elegant when it is silent and you should enjoy the beauty in such a situation rather than making noise.
  • [ ] stop by the lawns or the fountains and take some rest by sitting down whereever you feel like nearby.
  • [ ] don't forget to see the carpet and the Chandeliers, these are most important parts of the inside of the Mosque.
  • [ ] you can leave between 2 and 3 p.m from Dubai so that it's a good one hour drive to reach the mosque
  • [ ] sometimes the mosque may be crowded so be patient
  • [ ] you will not be allowed to go into the central area of the Courtyard so stay away from there and just follow the pathways. There are plenty of photo Ops even there among the pathways
  • [ ] as far as possible do not touch any part of the monument but just enjoy the beauty while walking past.
  • [ ] inside the main prayer hall it is extremely important for women to keep their head covered and hence they should ensure that the clothing does not fall of the head to avoid reminders from the staff. It is against the religion for women to show the head within the prayer hall so please take care of this and stay clear of this controversy.
  • [ ] it is essential that you keep moving forward from the entrances as there are enough places to stand and take photos from rather than crowd the entrance itself.
  • [ ] finally when you exit the mosque it is likely that lot of people have come in so you need to remember where you put your car in order to find it more easily.
  • [ ] when you exit you are supposed to give back the clothing given by the staff upon entry.
  • [ ] in general when questioned by the staff be courteous and be specific with your answers.
  • [ ] the big bus abu dhabi has a stop here in case you are opting to come by bus so they have you covered for this destination. 


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Thursday, January 4, 2018

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Introduction



In this post I want to share with you my experience of booking tickets via Oman Air to go to Dubai. I'll try and cover the options that I had and the final choices that led me to make this decision of choosing Oman air and the overall experience of having to deal with them while on the flight.

Booking tickets online


I'm a faithful customer of the Cleartrip app and I always use the app for booking flight tickets where ever I fly. The reason I like that app is because of the clear user interface and using minimal clicks to get my things done. However most of these apps are based on dynamic pricing and whether you are browsing using your phone or depending on the country you are doing it from etc.

The prices change based on where you are accessing the app from and how many times you have accessed it before on the same day. Somehow I felt all the prices for Dubai were peaking a lot using these apps due to the holiday season. Also most of these ticket charges did not offer me enough luggage capacity or seating choices. I had to pay over and above the stated amount for choosing my seating and or meals.

Oman Air was the only airline which offered me sufficient luggage capacity meal choices and sitting choices as well. So I directly went to Oman Air website and wanted to book the tickets to Dubai. The route was via Muscat and there was quite a lot of waiting time at Muscat. The sweet part of this whole booking experience was the cost. I could get to and fro tickets for 4 of us to Dubai for 65000 rupees. This included 30kg baggage per person (one of the highest) plus 7kg hand carry, meal and seat selection included as well. Hats off to Oman Air for offering so much during booking.

The problem with layover time

Sometimes due to the tickets being cheap or the rush during the hour of booking you can get tickets which have a lot of transit time at the intermediate airports. This is what happened to me while flying to Dubai and I had to wait in Muscat airport for nearly 6 hours before my next flight to Dubai.

Issues with modifications to tickets

The problem with the fare being offered on most of these routes is that these conditions are non negotiable. Like for example you cannot change the meals or change the seats.

Modifying the flights will cost you quite a lot and if you do decide to cancel the flight sometimes you will lose all the money. Depending on the package taken if you cancel the flight you may also get some money back but that is normally about 50% of the booking cost.

Approaching Oman Air office in Muscat

The situation that I had was that I had my next flight from Muscat to Dubai 6 hours after I landed.

As a last minute effort I tried to get a seat for the four of us on to other alternative flights 3 hours apart and earlier. The effort was to minimise waiting time at Muscat airport.

When I reached the Oman Air office and ask them whether I could change the booking even if it was at a cost they simply ask me to go to the same source from where I book the ticket and try to change it from there.

They did not have a clue on how to handle customer request and they didn't even care about what I was actually trying to communicate or seek a clarification on. I went online to Oman Air website using Oman airport free WiFi since my roaming connection was not available and I noticed that it would not allow me to even load the ticket leave alone modify it or change it.

The reason for this is when you undertake a journey with Oman Air or for that matter any other airline they will mark against a ticket that this journey has been undertaken. My last journey from Bangalore to Muscat was not yet recorded since I just landed in Muscat. Due to this I was not able to load the ticket and make any other changes.

Contacting Oman Air office in Dubai

So upon reaching Dubai in my schedule flight late in the night the next day I decided to call up Oman Air office in Dubai and try to alter the return journey. The person on the other end who answered the call had no clue how to get this done for me and gave me an email id that I should send a mail to ask for a refund.

Reaching out to Oman Air on Twitter

I sent him an email and for nearly one whole day I did not get any response. So I took to my usual route of contacting Oman Air via Twitter and after another one day of wait and two days of turnaround time they responded to me saying that they will reply to my email regarding the refund.

After another day or two they replied to my email stating that I would lose two thirds of my money if I decided to modify or cancel the flight.

Testing other options such as upgrading to business class

When I entered my PNR number and requested for Oman Air has to upgrade my ticket to business class the whole ticket immediately popped up and started showing me fares for the upgrade.

All this while when I tried to enter the same PNR and try to retrieve my ticket it did not allow me to do so just because the current location was not updated. Only for the upgrade process everything seem to work which was a bit disappointing.

Lessons learnt from this booking experience

I will go ahead and share a few things that you need to know in order that you do not do the same mistakes that I did while planning a trip.

  • [ ] take a look at the transit times before finalising the tickets
  • [ ] understand whether your airline has an active customer support policy
  • [ ] talk to people who have been to the intermediate airport and ask them about the customer support facilities available there
  • [ ] if the direct flight is about 10000 to 20000 costlier you may decide to book that instead of the one that has a transit time
  • [ ] if you have kids Who need to board a flight beyond 12 P.M then it is better not to up for that kind of schedule because it will be very difficult to wake them up and make them board the flight since they often tend to get cranky.
  • [ ] do a trial run on Twitter by approaching the airline to see how the response would be.
  • [ ] understand the refund policies and cancellation policies for cancellation of tickets
  • [ ] charges apply even if you want to modify the ticket so you may need to be aware of what you would be losing in terms of cost.
  • [ ] it is not worth while trying to reach out to airport staff at the transit airport in case you are already about to sleep. This is likely to lead to lot of frustration and improper responses can only make things worse.
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About Me
Srikanth Eswaran
Bengloor Huduga

Srikanth is a blogger, reader, photographer, butter dosa eater, an urban car racer & an apple fanboy. He loves music, playing table tennis and traveling. Most times he would like to be solitary to introspect on what life has thrown to him and the bigger purpose of life.