When I was thinking about the place where I want to spend my whole life I had in mind two essential things: it should be next by the sea and it should always be summer.
I live in Abu Dhabi, a city in the Middle East, which partially correspond to my dream location but just a little bit hotter during summer. I’ve been living here for tree years and I had so much sun that I start missing the snow. I had so much sea that I start craving for green, for nature.
I think that’s wrong with the people: we never appreciate what we have…until we lose it.
29th birthday in style
If I learned something during all this time living abroad was not to have high expectation from anyone. This being said I decided to make myself a special present for my 29th anniversary and invite two of my best friends from Romania to spend their holiday with me in Dubai and then discover my home base, Abu Dhabi, together.
Excited about the weekend ahead I start making plans, reading the city reviews and inspecting the transportation maps. Thats how I discovered the cheapest, fastest and easiest way to explore the biggest city of the U.A.E (Dubai), the metro. Beside that, it comes with lot of fun.
From the airport to the hotel my friends have made a pretty clear idea about the people who live in the most glamorous city of the world. Brazilians would be in shock to see their famous havaianas wore with socks while the real men would kick the shit out of a filipino guy with orange hair and green contact lenses. My friend was going to have a heart attach when an african baby decided to wipe his food on her brand new jeans under the close supervision of his mother and often the indispensable fragrances were replaced by strong perspiration smell.
Nothing can ruin our good mood though especially now when we reach the hotel and found out that our basic room was upgraded to a huge appartment with a direct view over Burj Khalifa. My friends are over excited taking pictures in each and every corner while the arabic music is playing loud on the tv for their delight.
Jumeirah the artificial palm island
Next day in the morning we grab the first taxi, heading straight to the public beach of Burj al Arab. Surprisingly even if is weekend and the weather is wonderful, the beach is not so crowded as I expected. I cant complain about that…less people, more waves and few surfers which gives Dubai a little bit of the californian adventurous look.
I have to admit that beside the fact that I wasnt aware that surf can be practiced in U.A.E I am also surprised that between long nights filled with parties and alcohol, Dubai residents are involved in some plesant activities.
Jumeirah palm is close by and it would be such a pitty to miss it out.
Personally I consider it the most unique and inspired place of whole U.A.E. To make an palm shape artificial island right in the middle of the sea…this is what I call high class engineering.
I take the girls to Atlantis hotel for a quick photoshoot and then we are droped by a funny Pakistani driver (which raise our energy by playing some “exotic” music) to Burj Khalifa, the highest building of the world.
Burj Khalifa, on top of the world
The whole tower measure a bit over 829 meters and the tourists are permited to visit the observational deck located at 124 and 149 floors. I had the great inspiration to purchase the tickets online for 120 dirhams each, trying to get it directly from the counter being almost impossible and 5 times more expensive.
The view is nice but cant compare with the one from Chicago observation deck or the Empire state building in New York. I m not showing off, on the contrary, I have to admit that traveling too much makes you ungrateful or unimpressed. Still, I am excited to be on the highest place of the world.
Luckily there are no stairs but few fast elevators which takes us up within seconds and gives us the felling that we are boarding a weird UFO.
Once we step outside, a smart photographer notice our “touristic” gaze and grab us fast in front of the camera…”sit here, smile, pretend to be surprised” and by the end of the short photoshoot he charge us the ridiculos price of 120 dh per picture.
I am buying 3 of them and the code which allows me to download the other pictures online. Its Dubai, everything cost…a lot…
Dinning with a magnificent view
While we are waiting for the fountains to start its performance I am trying to find a proper place to enjoy the evening and the view in a classy style.
We choose a fancy restaurant located on the second floor of Dubai mall and we are delighted not only with the atmosphere but also with the traditional “date pudding” dessert, away from the crowd and the agitation below.
Burj Khalifa tower is joining our special moment by glowing in different colors and themes, more amazing than I ever seen it before.
At 6 o’clock sharp, the spectators are falling into a deep silence waiting breathless the first show of the day. Seconds later, the fountain is starting its gracious performance, leaving everyone with the mouth open and with goosebumps on the skin. It’s marvelous and, stunned by its beauty, we decide to wait for the following two shows of the night, which are half an hour apart.
Only if Crina (my friend) would have press the Record button… we make fun of her negligence and rush back to the hotel with heavy shopping bags…you must be insane to leave the 13 million square foot shopping mall empty handed and we are not. And how could we miss this out, when Aly (my other friend) offered herself to carry the bags?!
A late night walk in JLT
We dont want to lose a second of the day and this being said, in one hour we are already sipping an aromatic marrocan tea and shisha in Jumeirah Lake Towers area.
Aly seems to enjoy every second of the trip while Crina thoughts are flying far away from us and from Dubai. Its freezing cold, abnormal weather for U.A.E though and the blanket provided by the restaurant cant keep us warm anymore.
A buggy is droping us close by the metro station and we are ending the night grateful for the shortcut offered and for the fun drive.
I have to admit that I am a little bit stuffed with Dubai and I cant wait to return to my cosy and quiet Abu dhabi. But before that I have to show the girls one more thing…
The miracle garden
Far away from the city center, in a dusty industrial area of Dubai, the beautiful gardens are rising from the desert like a hidden paradise. Its a windy day which predict a possible sand storm, definitely not a good time to visit the garden but here we are, armed with sun glasses and headscarf and seems like nothing can stop us.
It changed a bit since last time when I have been here, a huge Airbus 380 donated by Emirates airline is covered in flowers and represent the main attraction of the garden, together with the heart shape tunnel.
A bit of fun and custom in Abu dhabi…Heritage village
I am so excited to be back home and I love this city so much that I am trying my best to make the girls like it as well. Its not going to be easy though, after visiting the most glamorous city of the world I have the felling that Abu Dhabi cant win this unfair competition.
First thing that I wanted to see when I came to Abu dhabi, tree years ago, was desert and camels. How can I offer my friends same experience just in the middle of the capital city? …by taking them to Heritage village, the place where they can get a slight ideea about art, tradition and local fashion.
Just how I expected they run straight to the desert corner, taking pictures with the camel while Crina more brave than us, decided to ride the naughty animal…getting what she deserves in the end. Instructed by the arabic caretaker, the camel grins with its big theet in not so friendly manner, scarring Crina to death while we are laughing in tears, recording the best moment of the trip.
Walking to Emirates palace, we are constantly approached by local guys which are driving slow, playing loud arabic songs trying to impress us in the most inadequate way. I instruct the girls to look forward and keep walking as I dont want to be stalked by those spoiled “teenagers” anylonger. When I said walk straight I didnt mean hit the road signs with your head but it seems that Crina took my words too literary and didn’t avoid any obstacle. One more funny event checked on the daily agenda.
Emirates palace, the treasure of Abu dhabi
We reach Emirates palace just in time for the sunset and the sun is still reflecting its beauty on the external mirrors of Etihad towers, located opposite the palace. The beautiful skycrapers won even more notoriety after the famous production Fast & Furious 7 shoot few scene over here.
We climb the stairs to the top making our way through the hundred tourists until we reach the entrance of the palace. Few luxurious cars are parked in the front and the valets wearing “imperial” outfits offer the ladies a hand to disembark safe.
First thing that capture everyone attention while we step inside are the portraits of the royal familly. My friends are over excited trying to get the best shoot with the “big boss” (seful…how they call him).
Gossips says that the palace was actually build as a new residence for the Sheik (from 5 different types of sand) who found it a little bit too fancy for his taste and decided to transform it in a luxurious 5 stars hotel. The Sheik still lives in his old palace, a marvelous white construction while Emirates palace maintenance seems to not be covered by the bookings. With all these, is still functional, being the main attraction of Abu Dhabi and the second most expensive ever build hotels in the world, after Marina Bay from Singapore.
The inside doesnt disappoint eighter. A variety of luxurious shops are displaying their diamond jewelry and crocodile leather bags while a Gold ATM is waiting for costumers intersted in gold bars and customized coins.
Beside that, the restaurants sprinkle tasty desserts with edible gold which is not harmful for the health but doesnt have a nutritionl value eighter. In the end of the day…how many people can certify they’ve been eating gold?
Stunning arhitecture at Sheik Zayed mosque
The holiday is almost over but we still have so many things to do. I cant let the girls go back home without seeing the biggest mosque of United Arab Emirates.
Made by hundred columns of pure white and using artisans and materials from all over the world, the Sheik Zayed mosque doesnt impress only by size but more but its incontestabile beauty, being one of my favorite places in the world.
Unfortunately I am a bit busy today and I cant accompany my friends. After a short briefing about how should behave inside of the holy place, I dress them accordingly and drop both of them in front of the mosque. “Dont forget what I told you”, I am yelling from the taxi.
Like every holy place, it require a higher dose of respect, starting with the outfit (inadequate clothes are not permited, body and hair should be covered) while the posture should not cross any limit (pictures laying on the floor or obscene gestures are totally forbidden).
If you are seen by the security guards breaking any of the rules you would be politely ask to leave.
When I come to pick them up, I find them excited keep talking about the beauty of the mosque: the largest carpet of the world (5627 m), huge chandeliers which incorporate millions of Swarovsky crystals and beautiful arabic caligraphy on the Qibla wall.
Amused, I tell them to slow down, it seems they forgot that I live here and I visited this place so many times, even though I have to admit its beauty never stops to fascinate me.
The best time to visit the mosque is right after the sun goes down, when the columns are admiring their beauty reflected in the surrounding water pools and the unique lighting system change its brightness according to the moon phases.
A night full of adventure…in desert
I decided to make my girls a surprise on the day before their flight and take them to arabian night just in the middle of the desert.
After a long ride from Abu Dhabi, the bus driver drop us next by a tiny road where few 4 wheel cars are ready to raise our adrenaline to maximum levels in the unique dune bashing experience. Aly and Crina are over excited for their first ride in the desert while me and Georgy are holding our hands together in the back side of the car, praying to return home safe.
Luckily in less than 20 min we reach the camp unharmed and we are greet by the locals with arabic coffee and sweets.
Probably attracted by our eccentric look, numerous tourists are asking for a souvenir picture with us, while the poor falcon (national bird of UAE) sits alone in a corner with his eyes tied up, loosing its well deserved popularity.
Crina and Aly have their hands beautiful painted with henna while me and Georgy order a shisha, sipping our homemade cocktail in the same time. Surprisingly, the camp has a bar corner where you can freely consume alcoholic drinks while buying it from the liquor stores in the city require a special alcohol license. However…its better to come prepared, like us.
After dinner, a dervish dancer its whirling his lightened dress in a sacred ceremony, usually performed by the Sufis who try to reach religious ecstasy, followed by a russian belly dancer enchanting the audience with her elegant moves. The show is not over before she invites few tourists to wave their bodies in the rhythm of arabic music for the audience amusement.
Girls night out…
The night is far to be over, once we are back to Abu dhabi we get nicely dressed to join one of the ladies night in the city. The unique concept adopted by our clubs offer the ladies the possibility to enjoy free cocktails all night long.
The headache of the next day is warnig us that we might have abused the kind offer of the previous night but we dont regret a thing.
Its time for the girls to go back to Romania and my home returns to its original state of emptiness. They brought so much joy and energy but now its time to say goodbye.
Excepting that, my friends left Abu Dhabi with a great impression, sharing my love for this amazing city, which combine peacefully the tradition of the past with the modern of the daily life.