A three day holiday was declared in the UAE so people could celebrate the birth of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Mary Ann and I decided it was our three day 4th of July holiday, albeit a few days early. Never look a gift holiday in the mouth I always say.
Three days obviously is not a long enough time to take an international trip, and with 3 or 4 of those planned to round out the year, we decided not fly anywhere.
We had never been to Abu Dhabi. It is the capitol of the UAE. AD is the largest Emirate of the 7. It is also the richest, by far.
Our transportation for this trip was a 2 hour bus ride. The cost of the ride was under US$10. We were travelling with the workers from Pakistan and India going to visit comrade workers or simply take a little break. The bus was full.
Have I mentioned that it was HOT? Not the bus, the air conditioner worked. The whole country was HOT. Beyond the heat, a sandstorm started up and lasted all weekend. This was not the type of sandstorm you see in the Hollywood movies like Lawrence of Arabia. It reminded me more of when I experienced a white-out in the arctic, except it was HOT. Everything was grey/white. Visibility was less than a mile, and in case I forgot to tell you, it was HOT!
When we decided to go, Mary Ann did her usual expert travel agent work and found out that many of the hotels had big discounts at this time of year. Why? Because it is HOT.
We arrived, got off the bus and into an air-conditioned taxi and arrived at our hotel. This is the AD branch of world-wide chain which usually gets 4 stars or better. Our cab was not met at the door with helpful doorman to greet you and take the bags, Why? I guess it was too HOT. After we carried our luckily light bags into the reception area, we took one look at the line at the counter, and said to each other “lunch.”
We ate lunch in a little café with a view of the line at the counter. I began to wonder if maybe it was really a sculpture of a line put there as a gag, because it was not moving. The published check-in time is 2:30, it was 1:30 when we were done with lunch and the same people were still in line. We figured the hip thing to do was check our bags with the concierge, and hit the mall.
The mall, indeed the entire city lacks the glitz, the pizzazz, and the bling of Dubai. AD has much more oil, hence wealth, than Dubai, but the city does not display it. Neither did this mall. After the malls in Dubia, it was like walking into a mall in Beverly Hills, way below the Dubai level. The architecture of the city is simply not as amazing as Dubai. It is very functional instead of fun. So was this mall. OK, it had the Rolex outlets, but the place just lacked the magic carpet effect the Dubai malls have. It was equally air conditioned, if not overly air conditioned so we window shopped for a couple of hours, then we walked back to the hotel. Yes, we walked, and yes it was still HOT.
We walked into lobby and the check-in line was only half as long. We went to the little café and ordered some draft beers. Yes, you can drink in the UAE. It is allowed in hotels and restaurants connected to hotels. Drinking is also allowed in airports. This is not some liberalization of the law. This is from the Quran. Travelers have always been exempt from the restriction on alcohol. Invariably you will find an Emirati gentleman in his dish-dash (white robe thingie) having a cold one in the next booth. I always want to take a picture and post it with my blog, but I lack the rudeness needed to do that. And he just may be a traveler also, so what?
OK, so it is now 4:30ish. I go stand in line and watch the slowest desk clerk this side of the invention of electricity try to check people in. Finally it all worked and we finally got into our room at 5:30 after first arriving at noon. Believe me, TripAdvisor heard about it!
We had already planned on visiting the Yas Island Circuit the next day. Yas Island is the island next to AD, which by the way is also an island. Yas Island is building up lately with fancy hotels and attractions. The Circuit is a Formula 1 track. I am not an F1 fan, but we TripAdvisor said the tour was really cool, even when it is HOT, so I called the concierge to have him book it for us. No good. I mean here we are in an expensive hotel and all the concierge can do is hold your luggage and get you a taxi.
So we went out to a “authentic” English pub in the hotel and had fish and chips and real “draught” beer.
You could even smoke at the table! I had noticed in the mall that people were smoking! This emirate is behind the curve on the no smoking zealotry. I have a feeling the ruler is a Marlboro man.
Next morning we took off for Yas Island. The circuit tour was awesome.
The only other thing we wanted to see was the grand mosque. This is the 3rd largest mosque in the world. I will never see the first (Mecca) or the second (Medina) for obvious reasons. It has the world’s largest carpet, which is gorgeous.
That was our HOT weekend. How HOT was it? It was like being in the Arabian Desert in the summer. Ahh, come to think of it…
FACTOID: 70% of the electricity generated in the UAE is used for AIR CONDITIONING!
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