2012: One Year, Ten Photos

In keeping with the WordPress Daily Post‘s weekly photo challenge, I present to you my 2012 in photos. Originally I wanted to do one for every month but, you see, my life is not exciting enough for that to make an interesting blog post. And since I tend to take photos in bursts at various unpredictable points around the year, it would also be unrealistic. But anyway, here the top ten highlights of my photographic wanderings this year:

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Sheep | Okay, so I technically took this picture on December 31, 2011. Close enough, right? And practically one of the first shots of the new year. This sheep belongs to one of our family friends — they have a beautiful home tucked away in the woods, and lots of animals. I really tried to capture this little guy’s facial expression here.

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Abu Dhabi | If you’ve been following this blog for a decent length of time, you’ll have seen these images — from my January trip to Abu Dhabi — already. (And if you want more, you can view all my photos here and here.) The first is a sunset above the desert, and the second is a image from the exterior of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. The columns are decorated with gold leaf and precious stones from around the world, and border the entire structure. It is truly breathtaking, and the beauty — of both and mosque and the desert — is just overwhelming.

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Washington, DC | A capture from the White House lawn during the annual White House Garden Tour — it’s a fun experience for the public, although the gardens themselves are not too exciting. The view is spectacular, though, and you can see clear through the Jefferson Memorial if you zoom in enough. It was a bit overcast; sorry about the exposure.

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Morocco | These are just a few of many shots from my trip to Morocco this past summer, where I studied Arabic. It was a fantastic experience and by the end of it I barely felt like a tourist. (It’s especially rewarding when you can bargain in Arabic and avoid tourist pricing in the souks.) The first image is from the city of Meknes, the second is a beautiful riad in Fes, and the third is of Arabic writing on a souk wall — I thought the colors here were especially beautiful. Anyway, I’m planning on doing a big photo and culture post of my trip in the near future, so this is just a small sneak peek!

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Plant | Just a random shot of a plant in our dining room. Not sure why I took this in the first place, but I think it’s really simple and refreshing.

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Christmas Desserts | Just a sampling of all the baking I did for our Christmas dessert party. Clockwise, from upper right: lemon cherry tea cookies, candied orange peels, baklava, and a chocolate orange tart with toasted almonds. All very delicious — the baklava and chocolate tart were especially popular. Hopefully I’ll have some recipes up soon!

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The Puppy | Here’s your daily dose of cute. And proof that I have the cutest golden retriever in the world. He’s actually getting a bit old, but he still thinks he’s a puppy. Or a person — we haven’t really figured that one out.

These images, I think, adequately wrap up much of my 2012 in photography — of course there are many images I didn’t include, but I hope these photos paint a more varied picture. Here’s to a happy 2013 and a another year of photos.

Abu Dhabi, Take Two

Sunset in the desert.

I just posted some photos from my visit to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque during my recent trip to Abu Dhabi, and am humbled and honored that my post was chosen for WordPress’s “Freshly Pressed” feature page. It has been such a whirlwind, and I want to thank everyone for taking the time to visit my blog and leave such wonderful comments. I read every last one, and they all make me so happy.

I also promised that I would post more pictures from my trip. These ones aren’t as organized, they are simply snapshots of some of the highlights/best photos I came out with.

On the first day we took a walk along the Corniche, a relatively new stretch of beachfront running along Corniche road. It was absolutely beautiful. Because it was winter in Abu Dhabi, the weather was quite temperate, in the high 70s (F), making it perfect for a quick trip to the beach.

Above is the view of the rising Abu Dhabi skyline from the Corniche. It was really interesting to see all the construction going on at the same time (if you look closely you can see the rightmost two skyscrapers are under construction). Also, sorry about the over-exposure on these; it was super bright out.

Good morning! The sun rises and sunsets in Abu Dhabi were so brilliant.

Just a few snapshots from the city…

I really like the detailing you can see in this shot.

The juxtaposition between the skyscraper and the minaret here really caught my eye.

Above is the Emirates Palace Hotel at night. This place is crazy — apparently, there’s a gold vending machine in the lobby. (There are actual videos of this on YouTube, I kid you not.)

Some more shots from the desert. This was my first time ever setting foot in a desert, and it was an unbelievable experience. I was simply blown away by it, and it’s difficult to put it all into words. It’s incredibly vast and expansive, and you can really feel that when you’re standing on top of a dune, soaking it all in. It is also a very peaceful experience. (Side note: climbing sand dunes is quite the workout.)

The sunset in the desert was stunning. That shade of pink is totally unedited. A closer look…

Beautiful.

You can see my first photo post about the trip here.

Photos taken by me, please request permission before use.

Abu Dhabi: The Grand Mosque

Early morning fog at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi.

I recently travelled to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates for a short trip and had an incredible experience. It was unlike any place I have ever been (especially considering that I haven’t been out of the States much.) The city was not as touristy as I had initially anticipated, which came as a surprise and relief — I wanted to experience the culture, not just become part of a massive entertainment industry. You can see two distinct cultures in Abu Dhabi: the old, or more traditional, UAE, and the new, modern city, still under heavy construction. There is a strong push towards the future in Abu Dhabi, especially when it comes to architecture, which is evident pretty much any where you go. But there are also pockets of traditional culture that are very interesting to explore. Although I have tons of pictures from the trip, the following are all from the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, an absolutely stunning piece of architecture.

The domed archway to enter the courtyard of the mosque.

Beautiful detailing inside the dome — note the gold Quranic text.

I have hundreds of photos (so many beautiful things to see!), but for now I’ll just share a few of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, a project begun by the late president of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nayhan (whose tomb is also located on the grounds). It is actually a relatively new mosque, still under construction, and there is a second phase of building — for an Islamic center — that has not yet begun. I have a certain fascination with Islamic architecture, and the mosque is an absolutely breathtaking example. When you first walk into the courtyard area (the sahn), you are immediately left slack-jawed by the sheer immensity of it. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves, though.

Looking into the sahn from the outside.

Inside the sahn.

One of the mosque’s four minarets — about 351 feet tall.

Beautiful reflection pools surround the mosque.

As our guide explained, the mosque is designed to be an international mosque, incorporating elements from countries across the world. Many of the colored precious stones inlaid in the columns surrounding the sahn and in the marble courtyard floor come from all over the globe (detailed above). After the sahn, we prepared to enter the main prayer hall.

The sahn was absolutely stunning, but the main prayer hall was just as cavernous and beautiful, with high domed ceilings and tons of small inset windows to let in natural light. Again, indescribable:

Inside the main prayer hall.

The main prayer hall is home to the largest single carpet in the world, made by Iran’s Carpet Company. The rug took two years to complete. If you look closely, you can see the small raised lines in the carpet that indicate where men align themselves to pray.

The qibla (means “direction”) wall of the mosque indicates the direction of Mecca. The qibla wall in the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque features Arabic calligraphy of the 99 names (qualities) of Allah.

One of the largest chandeliers in the world hangs in the center of the main prayer hall, suspended under the largest dome of the mosque. It is made with German Swarovski crystals.

The ventilating system installed above the columns.

The full main prayer hall. So beautiful.

The prayer clocks (adhan) around the mosque were made in London, England — again, embracing the international reach of the mosque.

Beautiful and sunny back in the courtyard!

Those are the majority of my best photos from the mosque, although I have plenty more from my trip to Abu Dhabi that I’m hoping to share soon. Have you visited before? What are your thoughts on the mosque and/or city?

Part II: view more snapshots from my trip here.

Photos taken by me. Please request permission before use.