This Week I Loved…

Reliving our visit to the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.Istanbul611 A new bedside reading nook for my husband. (PS. This is an awesome, low budget, small space solution for a bedside table!)booknook Dinner and drinks with the girls at The York on York in Highland Park.york A delicious blueberry pie and dinner with friends.pie A visit with my ASID chapter to the Sirtaj boutique hotel in Beverly Hills.sirtajThe chandelier tree in Silverlake. (Yes, literally a tree full of chandeliers!)
chandelier tree This monster zucchini from our garden!

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And these adorable stray kittens in Istanbul.Istanbul291

Hagia Sophia: A Treasure in Istanbul

It took us a couple days before finally getting to the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, but oh! what an amazing place! In a way, I guess I’m glad we did this on our last full day in the city, because if we had seen it first it might have made everything that came after it seem less exciting. The Hagia Sophia as it stands now was built in the year 537, but it’s the third structure to stand in that location. (The first two were burned to the ground in riots.) Built as a Greek Orthodox church, it was converted into a mosque during Ottoman rule in 1453. Now it is officially a museum. A slew of restoration projects over many years have once again revealed some of the Christian imagery that was painted or plastered over when it became a mosque, but living in the same space still are the names of prophets written in Arabic calligraphy. (It strikes me as an important message in today’s world for evidence of these two faiths to live side-by-side like this under one roof.) The sanctuary inside is enormous, beautifully constructed of marble and stone, with seemingly no surface untouched by decorative details like painted patterns or incredible mosaic frescos made with gold tiles. Certainly pictures could not fully do this place justice!

Istanbul510 Upon entering, we were greeted by a set of these rather imposing looking doors. They actually predate the current structure, and are too tall for the doorway they are in so they are built into the floor and cannot be closed.Istanbul512 Immediately, the pattern and detail begins in the first hallway.Istanbul515 At the end of this entrance hallway we saw our first mocaic, a scene of Emporer Justinian gifting the Hagia Sophia to the Christ Child. Istanbul517On the interior dorrs, you can still see markings where the cross was removed and replaced instead with this arrow-like symbol often seen in the Muslim faith.
Istanbul520 Sometimes it was difficult to discern which details were painted and which were mosaic, because of the attention paid to detail in the design.Istanbul522The first time you step into the sanctuary, it’s admittedly a little overwhelming! The space is several stories tall, the dome gilt with gold leaf. The flowers in the four corners around the dome were revealed in a recent restoration project to be covering images of angels from the days when it was a church. You can see the face of one that was recovered in the lower left-hand flower. (In the Muslim religion, no pictorial depictions are allowed, which is why the preferred decoration in mosques has more to do with pattern and calligraphy. All images in the sanctuary were covered over with paint and/or plaster when it was converted to a mosque.)
Istanbul523Incredible amounts of beautiful marble can be found all over, on walls, floors, columns, you name it. Much of it had been imported from Egypt at the time the Hagia Sophia was built, and some marble types were rare even then.
Istanbul530 Each column is topped with some of the finest carvings I’ve ever seen. It all seems so finely detailed, and perfectly executed. Istanbul531 Istanbul536 This tile mosaic of the Madonna and Christ Child had been covered with plaster before the restoration projects began. Istanbul546 All of the corridors have high ceilings and low-hanging chandeliers, which used to be candle-lit and needed to be close to the ground so they could be reached easily. And while the more modern lighting throughout the entire building was certainly helpful, there was plenty of natural lighting flooding in through large windows and skylights.Istanbul550 Istanbul551 In order to get up t the second level of the sanctuary, we used a dark, undecorated corridor and system of ramps, which were apparently used during construction for pushing, dragging, or rolling materials to the upper levels.Istanbul554 Istanbul590 The sheer size of the space was even more apparent from above, where we could see how small the people below seemed. Istanbul561 Sadly in the years before the Hagia Sophia had proper protection as a museum, people would take the little tiles that made up the mosaics as souvenirs, so many of the frescos are missing the tiles that could be easily reached. Now of course there are security personnel to make sure no one gets too close to these. Istanbul562 But look at the incredible detail! Rosey cheeks, the shading of the beard, the folds in the clothing. Unbelievable! This is as detailed as any painting by one of the masters, but  this is made of tiles. We took our time browsing and taking in all of the mosaics on the second level. Istanbul564 Istanbul574 Istanbul578On the second level, we found this pattern, which we didn’t seem to come across on the ground level. It’s much darker than a lot of what we saw elsewhere.Istanbul570 Also, it was a treat being so much closer to the details on the ceiling of the sanctuary. (And there’s that previously hidden angel again!)Istanbul572 Istanbul589 We even found this little corridor of Iznik tiles, a signature of Turkey.Istanbul591 Back down on the ground level we snapped a few more pictures of this incredible space. Istanbul600 Towering marble columns were on all sides.Istanbul601 Istanbul606 Istanbul616

After one last look up in the sanctuary…Istanbul611…and one last look at the beautiful ceiling patterns in the corridors…Istanbul602 Istanbul603 …we got a glimpse at the few remaining artifacts from the previous structure that this Hagia Sophia had replaced. This was all that was left after it burned down, but it is so important to acknowledge this as part of the history of this place. Istanbul619What do you think of all the detail in this nearly millenium-old place?

Mosques of Istanbul

As soon as we had arrived in Istanbul, it was apparent just how many mosques there are all over the city. Hundreds, probably thousands, line the skyline in any given direction. And what’s more, they all seem to carry an incredible amount of history with them. A stark contrast to the very new, glamorous mosque we had seen in Abu Dhabi just the week before.

On our first day in Istanbul, we spent most of the day wandering and ended up at one of the more well known mosques there, the Suleymaniye Mosque. It sits on top of a hill, where it can be seem from all different points around the city.
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It was a huge structure, surrounded by a beautiful green that somehow reminded me of a university campus.Istanbul108

Once we stepped inside the courtyard, we were surrounded by arches.
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And inside, the domes created a cloudlike cover of color and pattern.

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Because images are not allowed in Islamic places of worship, instead of painting murals or frescos, verses from the Koran and the names of the prophets are written in beautiful Arabic calligraphy inside and out.

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Lanterns (now retrofitted with CFL bulbs) hang from long cables attached to the very high ceilings. This allowed the candles to be lit easily from the ground (before electricity was available).Istanbul138

And as we left, we were treated to this incredible view!Istanbul158

The next day we went to visit an even more famous mosque, the Blue Mosque, or the Sultan Ahmed Mosque. Located right across the park from the Hagia Sophia (which will get its own post very soon!), it is most easily distinguishable from a distance because of it’s 6 minarets. Mosques here usually have only four minarets, but legend has it that there was a misunderstanding and instead of the gold capped minarets the Sultan asked for (the work for gold is “altin”), the architect built him six (“alti”) minarets. Oops! Lucky for him the Sultan liked them.Istanbul301

Inside the courtyard, the scene was very similar to the Suleymaniye Mosque’s courtyard, but boasting taller, wider arches with a more airy feel to them.Istanbul309

Admittedly I expected the inside to be more blue (there were plenty of other colors to accompany the blue details) but it was nonetheless an incredible collection of pattern.Istanbul319

One of the historical facts I find interesting and very apparent in this part of the world is that while Europeans had begun to perfect the human form by way of religious depictions of Jesus, Mary, and other biblical icons, art in Islamic countries was all about color, pattern, and calligraphy (being that they were not using human depictions of important religious figures, but rather their written names). Istanbul324

This makes for some beautiful decorative details. Seeing the way they handled pattern has really made me change the way I think about pattern in general. A few more photos to show you what I mean…Istanbul325 Istanbul333 Istanbul336 Istanbul344 Istanbul345

The reason the Blue Mosque picked up this nickname is because of the amount of Iznik tile used throughout the interior. The tile order for this project was so massive that the Sultan forbade any tiles to be produced for any other purpose until this mosque had been completed. There are over 20,000 of these tiles in the Blue Mosque.Istanbul347 Istanbul348

It was indeed quite a treat to have spent some time inside this mosque, an incredible work of art in its own right.Istanbul351

After a long day of walking all over the city, I caught a glimpse of this tile wall peeking out over a balcony above us as we walked by.Istanbul457

We wandered up the nearby staircase, toward the tile, and discovered the Rustem Pasha Mosque. It was almost hidden, sitting in the middle of a densely built area.

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Inside, we were the only tourists sharing the space with a couple of Islamic worshipers. Some of the details inside were quite different from Suleymaniye and the Blue Mosques, like this wonderful carved and painted wood ceiling detail.Istanbul460

And the decorated dome overhead was just as spectacular, perhaps especially in that it occupied such a small space.
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More so than the Blue Mosque, we felt enveloped in blue Iznik tiles. They were everywhere, covering just about every flat surface from floor to ceiling.Istanbul464

And among the tile, some beautiful marble and painted pattern details.Istanbul468

No surface seemed untouched by decorative detail, not even these ceiling panels. Istanbul472

As the sun was beginning to set, we felt privileged to have happened upon this small, seemingly hidden, spiritual space. We were so tired when we entered the prayer room, feet throbbing from walking all day, and yet this space brought us a surprising sense of peace. It was a wonderful place to rest for a few minutes.Istanbul476

What do you think of all this pattern and detail? Do you like it?

This Week I Loved…

Mixing paints for my Color Theory class.1065683_10100542953823225_16864961_o

This original 1920’s elevator in a friend’s apartment building.

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A sausage lunch.sausage

Sunset in Glendale.sunset

This photo from our tour on the Bosphorus.Istanbul206And these behind the scenes photos from Freaks and Geeks.

http://imgur.com/a/1qseH

The Parlour Room: Vintage Lighting for an Intimate Dive Bar

Today I’m taking a break from vacation photos (and maybe you need a break too!) to share a little bit of what I’m working on in one of my classes. In my lighting design class, we were tasked with essentially doing a case study in lighting on a bar, restaurant, or hotel lobby. So I gathered the troops (aka a few willing friends) for a night out in Hollywood to check out the Parlour Room for my project… and for a few cocktails, of course!

Note: These pictures were taken without a flash and are intended to highlight the lighting elements of the space. The colors have not been altered, and are a fairly accurate representation of the warmth of the actual lighting in  the bar.

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The Parlour Room in Hollywood is known for its “dive bar” atmosphere. Its small space and dark, high contrast lighting give off pockets of lit areas where you feel as though you should have a whispering conversation with close friends. But more than your typical “dive bar,” the furniture, wall coverings, and chandeliers lift this one into a much more trendy status, but also seem to imply an old-world mentality, as though this bar could have easily survived since the early twentieth century.

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The ceilings were decorated with wonderful vintage chandeliers that provided only very low amounts of ambient light throughout the space. It was just enough light to give you a sense if the pattern in the wallpaper surrounding the room.DSCN3086

I was very surprised to notice the amount of candle light used to actually light the space. Im more farmiliar with a little candle on a cafe table at night to provide ambience, but here the candles on each of the cocktail tables were necessary to light the space. They even used candles to light this brick wall, which significantly helped brighten up this corner of the space. Also, if you think about how low candle light is and notice that the chandeliers are about an equal amount of light to the candles in this photo, that will give you a sense of just how dark and cozy this bar is.DSCN3085

The bar itself still had pretty low light, but a lot more of it. I’m sure this is a huge help for the bar tender, and also helps you as a patron see what they have to offer on the shelves behind him.DSCN3078

I’m not a fan of these red track lights, but I have a feeling they are pretty necessary so no one trips on the raised platform where these super comfortable sofas lie. The lighting is the same here, only lit by very low chandelier light, candles, and a couple of downlights bouncing off of the dark, warm, patterned surface of the wall.

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I love this mirror over one of the sofas, and it definitely helps reflect some more light into the space.DSCN3088

Even the short hallways were lit with this very low light coming from (smaller) vintage chandeliers.
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Once we discovered the back bar (which we overheard someone talk about), we parked it here for the rest of the night. Same low lighting, but with a fire going in the center of the space to contribute to the intimate atmosphere. This is my kind of drinking spot! It wasn’t cold when we were there (it is summer, after all) but if it was, I’d happily sit right next to the fire all night with one of their delicious cocktails.
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I especially loved the vintage sconces they had outside, much more suited for the outdoors since they have more of a covering over the top of the bulb, but still with the same vintage feel.DSCN3087Plus, the back bar was open air! We caught the tail end of dusk there, but I would imagine in the winter when the sun sets much earlier, this opening doesn’t provide much light at all. It does, however, provide a nice amount of air flow and a little bit of glow from the surrounding lights of Hollywood.

What do you think of the lighting? Would you like to settle in here for a beverage or two?

Circle Cafe: An Adorable Oasis in the Middle East

One of the things I love about visiting unfamiliar places where friends live is that they have had the advantage of time to find all sorts of hidden gems around their area. (For our friends that visit us in Los Angeles, I have a ton of them!) So we were thrilled to visit some of our friends’ favorite places in Abu Dhabi.

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On our second day there we had a delightful and delicious lunch at Circle Cafe. It was a lovely place with enormous windows that let in an incredible amount of natural light, which was soothing and hapiness inducing. AbuDhabi150

I’d not thought about creating a design theme around one geometric shape before, but somehow the “circle” theme was inspirational to this interior designer and became a successful grounding element for the entire cafe.  Circles were repeated in the tables, chairs, ceiling, and lighting fixtures throughout the cafe. Even the placemats were circles.AbuDhabi151

And smartly, those circles were broken up by beautiful brown leather chairs and natural wood tables that were set up in an invitation that seemed to say “come in, stay a while, bring your laptop or borrow a book and be our friend for the day.” And there were a few people there who had done just those things it seemed.AbuDhabi157

I loved the unfinished wood pieces along the sides of the space as well. I am a total sucker for combining modern and vintage/antique furniture, so this subtle nod to that method made me feel right at home.
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Of course I also felt at home staring at their baked goods all during lunch. Yum! I should also say, they had chosen the perfect gray wall color to contrast with the white furniture and trim. This place feels much like what I hope our kitchen will feel like when we’re finished redecorating it!AbuDhabi152

And I loved their paper lighting fixtures. They are definitely decorative (I don’t think these would light the space at night in the slightest), but I love the way the light within glows through just enough to highlight the edges of the strips that make up this whimsical design.AbuDhabi139

Ok, I know this isn’t design related, but I can’t resist mentioning how delicious these juices were. The green one was the best mint lemonade I had the whole trip. Yum!AbuDhabi137What do you think? Do you like the design of this cafe?

This Week I Loved…

These quotes from my Color Theory class:

  • “Color is a basic need… Like fire and water, a raw material, indispensable to life.” – Fernand Leger
  • “Color belongs to our being, maybe each one has his own.” – Le Corbusier

A date night with the hubby and the best oysters ever at this place in Silverlake.

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Our Turkish vase filled with flowers.

IMG_20130627_112748_804The pre-show before seeing Monsters University at the El Capitan.

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A great friend visiting from the East coast.

1019872_10100525292192275_1468413643_oDaydreaming about the Burj Khalifa.

Dubai141And this photo essay:

http://nation.time.com/2013/06/26/at-the-supreme-court-witnesses-to-gay-marriage-history/

Dining and Design in the UAE

For our entire vacation in the Middle East, it struck me how well we were eating. We never had bad food, not even once. It also struck me that the service at restaurants in the UAE was always top notch. Really impeccable. We certainly felt spoiled! Here is a highlight of our favorite dining experiences from the UAE.

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One night, the friends we were visiting took us to their all time favorite restaurant in Abu Dhabi, called 18 Degrees (named because if the building it resides in, which is built at an 18 degree angle). It was an opportunity to meet their friends (mostly expats from the US and the UK) and for them to share with us one of their favorite places.

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The interior embraces the building’s lean, and seems to use the steel reinforcement as an important element of the decor, rather than trying to disguise it.

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The kitchen is open to the dining room, and we were lucky enough to be sitting right next to the kitchen so we were able to watch the magicians at work.

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When we got to our table, the restaurant manager had left this note for each of us, addressed to each individual person. This was not prearranged by our friends, just something that they did to make us feel welcome and well taken care of.

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All of the food was incredible. They had started us off with a variety of appetizers, already divided into a sample plate of sorts for each of us, to ensure we could all try each one. Then our main courses arrived. I ordered their duck leg (which was our friend’s favorite dish there… which such a shining recommendation, I couldn’t resist) and it did not disappoint! Definitely the best duck I have ever had. And we even had a chance to tell the Michelin rated chef as much. He came out to our table a couple times to see how we were doing and to chat with us a bit.

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They treated us all to complimentary champagne, and then of course we drank lots of wonderful wine. And after our meals were done their cheese specialist came downstairs with these unexpected and quite decadent variety of cheeses, some as old as 15 years and all unpasteurized. The staff described each cheese in detail, just as they had done with each appetizer, meal, dessert, and cocktail (each by their own specialist). If you know me well, you know I love cheese… a lot! So I was in heaven!

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AbuDhabi610Just the next night, to cap off a day in Dubai, we had reservations for another incredible place. Rather than pay an entry fee to ride an elevator to the observation deck of the Burj Khalifa, we opted to have a luxurious evening of cocktails at the bar and lounge on the 124th floor, called Atmosphere.

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Yes, the cocktails were unique and delicious. And yes, the service was once again amazing. But I was in interior design heaven, surrounded by what looked to be glossy bent mahogany, like something you might see on a very expensive yacht. The warmth of the wood exaggerated the warmth of the sunset coming in through the windows.

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And yes, we were 124 stories up for sunset. This photo will not do the view justice… it’s hard to describe just how far you are able to see while looking out a window at that height. It doesn’t seem real!

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On our final night in Abu Dhabi, before the four of us jumped on a plane to Istanbul, we took my hubby to Emirates Palace for dinner at Hakkasan, an awesome Asian fusion restaurant (which I understand has locations in several cities around the world).

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I loved the decor! Once again, we felt surrounded by beautiful wood, but this time in a form much more open.

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There were a couple different seating set-ups, but all were both modern and comfortable with great use of materials like wood and leather.

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Outside, there was what seemed like a bridge or boardwalk leading to beautiful, almost tropical looking, outdoor lounge areas.AbuDhabi706 AbuDhabi708

Once again, the food was to die for. It started with some delicious, tender, perfectly flavored dim sum.

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Then we shared a few main courses, family style if you will. My favorite one was the sea bass cooked in wine (I’m sure the menu described it much more eloquently!) But the lotus root dish was pretty amazing too, I’d never had anything quite like it before.

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And when they learned that it was his birthday, they brought this dessert out so we could sing to him embarrassingly. Because what would a birthday be without that.

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One thing I feel certain about is that Abu Dhabi and Dubai are doing it right when it comes to hospitality and dining. No expense seems spared in the design, and the service could make any average joe feel like a millionaire!

What do you think? Do you like the design of these restaurants? Does the food look intriguing?

This Week I Loved…

Making our favorite almond cake…

1020443_10100514168988265_1667345829_oInto this…

1020100_10100514182386415_1848088860_oFinding this little guy in the lavender on our front patio.

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A heart shaped breakfast.

1019626_10100517491030865_1134018466_oOur new Turkish rug.

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Finding this picture among our vacation photos.

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And remember Mr. Rogers…

http://www.buzzfeed.com/ryanhatesthis/heartwarming-and-beautiful-facts-about-mr-rogers-that-wil

Abu Dhabi’s Grand Mosque

While in Abu Dhabi, we took some time to visit the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi’s grand mosque. This was the first mosque I had been to, and quite an extravagant one for me to make my introduction with. (This mosque is worlds away from the seemingly ancient mosques we visited in Istanbul the following week.) As I mentioned earlier this week, Sheikh Zayed was the president of the Emirates and the beloved leader who was responsible for the oil lease arrangement that ensured the wealth of their country and its natives. This enormous structure is a striking symbol of both that extreme wealth and of their dedication to the Muslim religion.

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This mosque is the source of the daily prayer for the entire city. Unlike the centuries-old mosques of Istanbul, which seemed to almost compete for your attention, in Abu Dhabi the call to prayer is broadcast out to all of the surrounding mosques in one unified declaration.

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The outside of the mosque features pools of water meant to shows the mosque’s own reflection when lit up at night.

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The floors and columns throughout are climbing with vines of inlaid stone floral designs. An incredible variety of stones  were used for these designs, and they are the most colorful ornamentation on the grounds.

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Gold leaf is also used in detailing and on columns, highlighting the opulence of all the materials used.

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When you first walk into the lobby area, before entering the courtyard, you immediately begin to get a sense of the scale of this enormous place, with high ceilings and the even higher inset undersides of the domes. Each dome is ornamented like lace, and each seems to be of a different design than the last.

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A little bit of a precursor to our trip to Istanbul, there were also a couple walls of Iznik tile designs. We would be seeing lots and lots of this in Turkey!

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Even the ablution room (where worshipers go to wash their hands and feet before prayer) is an incredible place, built almost entirely of green marble.

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The entire structure is constructed of white marble. Between the marble and the bright, hot sun, when you enter into the courtyard you feel like you might be in a glowing white dream world.

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There is an incredible amount of detail carved into the marble, again in the form of these beautiful, lace-like vines.

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Each dome is topped with a crescent moon, an important symbol for Islam.

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The lobby at the entrance to the prayer room boasted a different kind of design. Almost a combination of the inlaid stones and the carved white marble, these flowery vines used the same tremendous variety of stones but were embossed rather than inlaid.

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The chandeliers throughout use Swarovski crystals, including this one in the lobby, and were surrounded by even more elaborate ornamentation.

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You are greeted by more gilt gold as you enter the prayer room.

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The grand mosque’s prayer room is large enough to house 40,000 worshipers at a time.

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Upon entering the room, the first thing you will notice is the giant Swarovski crystal chandelier, estimated to be the third largest chandelier in the world. It’s also surrounded by a tremendous amount of beautiful ornamentation, some carved and some inlaid.

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It seems that little goes untouched by ornamentation here. Inlaid mother of pearl, carved marble, and gilt gold details can be seen throughout.

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Not even the wood elements, like the carts that hold copies of the Quran for worshipers or the wood panels that line the room, are free of this incredible detail and craftsmanship.

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The wall opposite of the entrance is not only peppered with the names of the profits (written in Arabic), but the detail around them glows from daylight being subtly let in from the outside through the vine-like designs.

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The carpet that lines the floor in the prayer room is the world’s largest carpet, handmade by more than a thousand people. It is one piece that covers the entire floor, and is even made to perfectly fit around the flower-petal column bases.

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The Sheikh Zayed Mosque is otherworldly, a sight I am so glad we took time to experience while we were there. A product of architects and designers from around the world, the craftsmanship is impeccable and the use of materials and ornamentation seems to be of another era altogether. It’s hard to imagine this was just recently built (in 2004). It’s such an integral part of the Abu Dhabi horizon, it seems that it should have been there forever.

What are your thoughts on the ornamentation and inlay?