Abu Dhabi’s architectural gem, fitting backdrop for a man on a mission

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Pope Francis attends a welcome ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Abu Dhabi, UAE, on Feb. 4, 2019. (Vatican Media/­Handout via REUTERS)
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Pope Francis (C-R) walking alongside Egypt's Azhar Grand Imam, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb (C-L), as they arrive at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi on Feb. 4, 2019 . (AFP PHOTO / Vatican media handout
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Honor guards escort Pope Francis (C) and Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan (C-L) during his welcome ceremony at the presidential palace in Abu Dhabi on Feb. 4, 2019 . (AFP PHOTO / Vatican media handout)
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Pope Francis (C-R) poses for a picture with Egypt's Azhar Grand Imam, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb (C-L), as they arrive at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi on February 4, 2019. (AFP / Giuseppe Cacace)
Updated 05 February 2019
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Abu Dhabi’s architectural gem, fitting backdrop for a man on a mission

  • Pope Francis arrived in the UAE on Sunday for a 3-day trip, the first ever for a Roman Catholic pope in the Arabian peninsula
  • he Pope was driven up in his Kia to the front door of the palace, where he was greeted by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed

ABU DHABI: He may have arrived at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in a Kia, but surely even this most humble of pontiffs could not fail to have been impressed by Abu Dhabi’s crowning architectural gem.

Pope Francis is known as the people’s pope — he refuses to live in the palatial Vatican apartment set aside for him, and eschews lavish limousines. But no amount of low-key transport, like the minibus that shuttled him away from the airport, was going to hide the UAE capital city’s splendor.

Under an azure sky, a shimmer of cloud adding that quilted texture, Monday began with the pontiff being greeted at the Presidential Palace — a vast white building near the luxurious Emirates Palace Hotel.

There was a military band, and members of the UAE army, before jets flew above leaving a trail of yellow and white smoke — the colors of the Vatican flag — and a 21-gun salute echoed from behind the palace.

The Pope was driven up in his Kia to the front door of the palace, where he was greeted by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, vice president and prime minister of the UAE, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, crown prince of Abu Dhabi.

They stood for the national anthems, and shook hands with UAE government ministers and members of the Vatican delegation.

The courtyard of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, as pictured on Feb. 4, 2019 with a fisheye lens e lens, shows a view of Pope Francis arrives to visit. (AFP / Giuseppe Cacace)

The leader of the troop walked to the three leaders, saluted, and then they turned and left.

A few hours later Pope Francis appeared again, his small Kia surrounded by a vast security convoy, a helicopter flying above as he arrived at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

Pope Francis stepped out of his understated black car and shook hands with Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb, the imam of Al-Azhar, they posed for photos and then walked into the vast white place of worship through huge doors.

It is hard to imagine how even this pope, with all his humility, could not have felt a slight tingle of excitement as he saw the vast minarets climbing high into the sky, the vast domes softened by their subtle curves, the huge white-floor of the courtyard so clean that it provides a perfect mirror image of the building above it.

Pope Francis had arrived: The people’s pope on a quest for fraternity, asking for a unity of faiths.


More than 85 Houthis killed in battles across Yemen

Updated 17 February 2019
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More than 85 Houthis killed in battles across Yemen

  • More than 40 militants were killed in the southern Taiz province, and 18 others were killed on the Damt front in the southern Ad Dali province
  • Scores of militants were wounded, while the army seized military-grade equipment and ammunition.

DUBAI: More than 85 Iran-backed Houthi militants were killed and more wounded in clashes with the Yemeni army supported by the Arab Coalition across the country on Saturday, Saudi state-news agency SPA reported.

According to the reports, more than 40 militants were killed in the southern Taiz province, and 18 others were killed on the Damt front in the southern Ad Dali province, while more than 30 were killed in clashes with the Hajour tribe northwest of the country.

Scores of militants were wounded, while the army seized military-grade equipment and ammunition.

Meanwhile, Yemen’ Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad al-Hadrami said that the continued conflict stirred by the Houthis threatens the Swedish peace agreement and any progress in the political process.

In a meeting with UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr. Anwar Gargash on the sidelines of the 55th session of the Munich Conference of Security 2019, Al-Hadrami said that the continued Houthi manipulation represents the failed opportunities for peace in Yemen.

For his part, UAE’s Gargash stressed on the need to combine efforts and send clear messages to the international community revealing the truth behind the militia’s violations on the ground.