GUEST ARTICLE: Holy Hotness!! Abu Dhabi was a scorching +42C when we arrived and +45C when we left. The air was dry as a bone and the sun absolutely scorching. You really couldn’t stand out in the open for very long before you literally started to self-bathe and sprout a Rudolf nose. ‘Parched’ took on a whole new meaning for us that’s for sure!
My wife being Canadian had to get a special visa to enter the UAE. We’re not sure what the squabble between the two countries is exactly but a not so funny $180 later we were in. To add insult to injury, to get the visa (without being in Canada) we had to book our hotel at inflated prices through a travel agency. In the end it all worked out and we had a decent room at the Mercure Abu Dhabi with nice amenities.
Taxis are dirt-cheap in Abu Dhabi and thank goodness for that since the airport is located about 35kms out of the city. It only cost us about $12AUD to get to our hotel. We passed lines of palms and pale stone colored homes on the way in and some incredible looking buildings. One of the things to do in Abu Dhabi is to simply look at the buildings – some of the architecture is like none we’ve ever seen, unique and creative.
The temperature at night was really nice and it usually got down to a balmy +30C. The gentle night breezes with wafts of Hubbly Bubbly every now and again in the air was really nice. A warm glow bathed the city at sunset and everything seemed to come to life…especially the gigantic shopping malls.
We only stayed a few days in Abu Dhabi and found ourselves strolling two of their main shopping malls during the day. The Marina and Abu Dhabi Malls are both massive and can take up most of your day and moolah if one is not careful. There are quite a few cafés and fast food venues and some really good frozen yogurt places. And if you’re a coffee junkie they never seemed to be short of a Starbucks.
The perfumeries we found were very opulent. Grand window designs and elaborate doors welcomed you in. Beautiful glass perfume bottles decorated with gold lined the shelves and there seemed like hundreds of delectable scents to choose from. Actually with all of those scents in one area it was a bit overwhelming at times but definitely worth a look and a try.
For our first sightsee we went to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. We hired a driver for $29AUD/hr. Normally we would have just taken a taxi but for this particular excursion but we heard it was good to have a car waiting for you since there are no taxi stands at the mosque.
The Mosque design has Arab, Mughal and Moorish influence and can hold up to 40,000 worshipers. It also has the world’s largest carpet and chandelier. The Mosque is made up of beautiful white Italian marble, crystals, stone, ceramics, gold and semi-precious stones.
The lush green grasses surrounding the Mosque against its stark white marble was absolutely brilliant. Sheikh Zayed’s Tomb was located just before the entrance but you weren’t allowed to take any pictures of that. Otherwise we were free to take as many photos as we wanted. There was no entry fee, which we thought was really nice (and rare these days). Before we entered my wife had to go and put on a traditional Abaya that was provided. I wore long pants that day so I didn’t have to wear a Dishdasha. Just like in any mosque we had to take off our shoes before entering out of respect.
The inner courtyard of the mosque was amazing. It had a vast white marble floor decorated with inlaid stones to form pictures of swirling flowers and vines.
Striking glass mosaics adorned all the windows to the main hall, sparkling with semi-precious stones and crystals and when the sun hit them they lit up the room.
The inside of the mosque was extraordinary. Giant marble columns were situated around the room surrounding giant bejeweled chandeliers. The carpet was super soft on the tootsies and had the most exquisite designs. Another plus was this whole area was air-conditioned…so nice!
Afterwards we went to see the Emirates Palace Hotel. It is said to be the 2nd most expensively built hotel in the world, costing about 11.02billion Dirhams. It certainly looked the part with giant foyers elaborately decorated throughout. Because we were just visitors we weren’t allowed in many parts of the hotel which is a shame because I heard they have 2 very beautiful pools worth seeing. In any case we got a good enough look.
We had a really great stay in Abu Dhabi. We found the people to be very nice, even though we didn’t actually deal with hardly any locals. Most of the people we dealt with were expats / foreign workers. One thing we didn’t do but wished we would have was gone to the beach. It was just too darn hot. The deep azure waters against the white sand looked really appealing. Looks like we’re going to have to leave that one until next time.
Abu Dhabi isn’t a destination in itself but it makes a great stopover for those travelling on to Europe. Don’t just stay overnight. We stayed for 3 nights and that was perfect. Best of all, for the first time in my recollection, the UAE is a deal – hotels, cabs, food etc are cheap.
This travel diary has been written by Rob Gower, a friend who enjoys taking the road less traveled!