Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

           Memorial Day weekend was slowly approaching. Instead of hanging around Riyadh and squander that time away waiting for others to decide what they wanted to do, I asked my co-worker Cherryl to go to Abu Dhabi. Without hesitation she agreed. I do not know how much time I have left in the Kingdom, so I plan to travel to a few other places in the area before returning to the U.S. So with ticket in hand we were off to spend four days in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE).
            Abu Dhabi is the capital of United Arab Emirates, located on the Arabian Gulf and situated among over 200 other islands. The current President is Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Nahyan became president on November 3, 2004, subsequent to the death of his father, Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. The UAE is more conservative than Western countries but far more progressive than Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Wearing an abaya is not enforced, women can drive and there are movie theaters, night clubs and one can partake in a little libation!

             There is a lot to do in Abu Dhabi. There are beaches, golfing, fishing and of course shopping. Each day, I was there, the weather was sunny and humid. It reminded me of South Pasadena Florida, which is where I live back in the states.

            The Intercontinental Hotel, where we stayed, was in the perfect location, situated on the Arabian Gulf with a white sandy beach and marina. We were minutes away from the shopping malls, business districts and the famous Abu Dhabi Corniche. Every day when I awoke I would undraw the curtains to a breathtaking view of the city skyline and the Gulf!  The amenities included a state-of-the-art gym, outdoor pool, tennis courts, health club and skillful massage therapists!

            There are several eateries on the premises. Some of the places we frequented was the Belgian Café where the favorite entrees is fresh mussels, Belgian waffles and of course selection of 18 types of Belgium beer. We also visited the Fishmarket that is located on the beach. The inside perimeter of the restaurant is set up like a market. Once seated, a server comes to your table and escorts you around the market to select your dinner which can be fresh seafood, chicken or steak, and a wide selection of vegetables. The chef then prepares your entree with your selected sauce and brought to your table steaming hot!
            A must do is the Big Bus Tour. For 200 Arab Emirates Dirham (AED) or $54, the tour offers a tour around Abu Dhabi and have recorded commentary in eight different languages. You can hop on and off the bus at several locations. It was pretty hot and humid the day we went so I took most of my photos from the bus.

            We embarked the Big Bus in front of Marina Mall. Marina Mall contains high end stores like Louis Vuitton,Yves Saint Laurent and Burberry, to name a few. There is also a cinema and sky tower.

            The first stop was Emirates Palace Hotel, the most expensive built hotel in the world and is located on West Corniche Road.  With its 7-star status and luxurious amenities, a modest room per night begins at $773 and a palace suite is $11,200 per night! This would definitely be an amazing place to stay.

             The next stop was the Sheikh Zayed Mosque which is known for its 24 carat gold chandeliers, the world’s largest hand crafted carpet and is the third largest mosque in the world! The architecture was absolutely beautiful with its magnificent white domes and columns. This mosque can house up to 40,000 worshippers and is accessible to non-Muslims as well.  Appropriate attire is a must and abaya and head covers are provided to visitors.

            We passed the Abu Dhabi Mall then on to Saadiyat Island. Saadiyat Island is 27 square kilometers and is located off the coast of Abu Dhabi. There are two galleries; one an interactive narrative of the history of the island called the Saadiyat Story and the other is the Arts Abu Dhabi Gallery. There is also the UAE Pavilion that holds some of Abu Dhabi’s cultural functions. Co-located is the Saadiyat Beach Golf Club and two five star properties; the St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort and Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi. There is also a public beach.


            Beside the malls, another place for shopping that we passed was the infamous Iranian souk where you can purchase anything from foods to carpets. Due to the heat, we passed up the opportunity to shop outdoors.  Another place outdoors that would be perfect during less humid weather is the Abu Dhabi Corniche that is located along the Gulf and extends almost 4 miles. Folks can be found either jogging, walking or biking. What a beautiful place to just lie out and relax on the beach front with the family. 

            The last stop was the cultural attraction called Heritage Village that displays a glimpse of traditional past Bedouin living.  Entrance to Heritage Village is free. Also co-located here is the tallest flag pole in United Arab Emirates. The highest point in the city is the Jumeirah at Etihad Towers which is known for serving high tea (a heavy meal of meat dishes, fish dishes, baked goods, vegetables and other heavy foods) served after five PM. All of this is complimented by a scenic view of the Arabic sea and the city.

            Our last night in Abu Dhabi, we went to the Jazz Bar and Dining (cross through Hemingway’s) at the Hilton Abu Dhabi. I was told by a friend that they have live entertainment featuring a six piece band in a cozy, laid-back atmosphere. The band, unlike the title of the bar, played the latest top hits, enticing you to at least tap your foot or snap your fingers. Okay,….I gave up and just got up and danced!  

            What can I say, a perfect ending to a wonderful four day retreat! It does a psyche good to get away from the Kingdom for a bit and dwell in activities comparable to the West. If you thought about it, make plans to visit Abu Dhabi.

All the best

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