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

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.


Turkey’s Erdogan to visit Moscow after convoy hit in Syria

Updated 34 min 47 sec ago

Turkey’s Erdogan to visit Moscow after convoy hit in Syria

  • The surprise visit comes as the forces of President Bashar Assad made advances into the last rebel stronghold of Idlib in Syria’s northwest
  • The talks, on Tuesday, will take place during the Maks international air show – about 40 kilometers from Moscow

ISTANBUL: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will visit Moscow on Tuesday for a meeting with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, the presidency said in a statement, days after a Turkish convoy was hit by an air strike in Syria.
The surprise visit comes as the forces of President Bashar Assad made advances into the last rebel stronghold of Idlib in Syria’s northwest and upped the stakes with Turkey in its months-long offensive backed by Russia.
Erdogan will pay a one-day visit to Moscow, the presidency said, without giving further details.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed the Putin-Erdogan meeting on August 27 to the Russian agencies.
He told the Interfax news agency that the talks would take place during the Maks international air show – about 40 kilometers (24 miles) from Moscow.
Turkey is a vocal opponent of Assad in Damascus and instead backs rebels fighting for his ouster.
But Ankara last year struck a deal with Moscow to protect the Idlib province from a massive government offensive.
Turkish officials on Monday “strongly” condemned an air strike on its military convoy heading through Idlib province, saying it was a violation of agreements with Syria.
Ankara blamed “regime forces” for the attack which it said killed three civilians, and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the attack was carried out by Syrian and Russian air forces, and was aimed at hindering the convoy’s advance through Idlib province.
The announcement of the visit also comes shortly after Erdogan and Putin on Friday agreed to “activate mutual efforts” to ease the situation in Idlib, according to the Kremlin.
“They agreed to activate mutual efforts with the goal of liquidating the terrorist threat coming from this region,” during a phone call initiated by Erdogan, it said.
According to the Turkish presidency, Erdogan told the Russian leader regime forces’ attacks in Idlib “very seriously” threatened Turkey’s national security and led to “a grave humanitarian crisis.”
“These attacks damage the efforts to regulate the Syrian conflict,” it said.
Erdogan is set to host Putin and Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, for a summit on Syria in Ankara on September 16.
Iran and Russia are allies of Assad, but work closely with Turkey for a political solution to the conflict.
Since late April, Syria and Russia have upped their bombardment of the extremist-ruled Idlib region of some three million people, killing around 900 civilians.
Idlib sits on the Turkish border.
One of Turkey’s 12 observation posts set up along the front line between government forces and the extremists and their rebel allies last year were surrounded by Syrian troops this week.
That drew Turkey’s wrath, with Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu saying that Turkish troops would not leave the observation post.