We have been struggling to think of how to write this post. Perhaps that is why it has taken a few months to finally get onto it! We have also found that our clearest views and thoughts about a country/place are usually several months after we have visited it. The memorable moments seem to become even more memorable, whilst any small annoyances and mishaps seem to vanish in lieu of the true overall picture (true in our experience anyway). However, despite the few months, nothing has changed with our view of Abu Dhabi, which to be honest is a surprise. The whole time we were there we absolutely loved it, even to the extent of searching for jobs upon our return to Korea so that we might return and live there sometime in the future. But now our feelings have, if anything, increased. We adored Abu Dhabi. Simply loved it. But in a way, I’m not sure why that is. Perhaps after 5 weeks in developing nations, the return to super-modern super-efficient, super-clean surroundings magnified how we felt about it. Or perhaps it was because we had used the Etihad stopover special and were staying in the nicest hotel we had ever stayed in in our lives. Or perhaps it was the overwhelming service and courtesy we found in all establishments. Or perhaps our feelings were spot on, and it really is a fantastic place.
We arrived early in the morning and took the airport bus to our hotel. By this point of our trip we were quite seriously watching the pennies. Free breakfasts were very helpful at this point, and the rest of our meals were primarily from supermarkets, however with the huge expat population this meant cheap caesar salads, cheese salami and crackers, and delicious sandwiches. What a pity! We were staying out of the city center as the initial plan for coming to Abu Dhabi was to go to Ferrari world. However after reading some reviews and seeing what was actually on offer we decided to not go and headed out to the desert instead. We were locked into our hotel choice however, which was strategically placed between the city center and Ferrari world, but it didn’t matter. Upon checking in we were greeting with a luxurious room with amazing views over the river and desert. After a bit of ooooooing and aaaaaaaahing we took the free hotel shuttle to the Marina Mall for a bit of time wandering around shops and checking out the northwest of the city. Upon leaving the hotel we saw a squadron of planes flying overhead with bright smoke shooting out, obviously as part of an airshow. The mall was huge with no expense being spared for the outfitting or surroundings. The city itself looked like a model it was so perfect, with the azure sea shimmering in the foreground making quite the picture.
Upon returning to the hotel in the evening, we noticed that the carpark nextdoor housed a large collection of military vehicles. We watched as all manor of tanks, gunships, cars, jeeps, and personel carriers were all driven in and around the area. 2 warships also raced down the river which was quite a sight! It turned out that the following weekend was the annual military equipment show, which explained the planes from earlier.
On our second day we had booked a desert safari. We had chosen to go in the morning, and we were extremely happy for this decision…most people go in the late afternoon/evening and get a dinner, performances and get to see the desert at night. But because most people went later, not many people went earlier. And by not many, I mean none. No one. Not only did we have the car and tour guide to ourselves, but the entire desert as well. The whole time out there we saw one car in the distance, and that was it (compared to the 50+ vehicles which congregate in the evening). After seeing some camel racing and stopping off to feed some camels, we enjoying a bit of desert dune bashing in a trusty Toyota Hilux. We told the tour guide to go for it, and a small smirk twitched on his face as he dropped a gear and gunned the car over a dune, catching a fair amount of air before hurtling down the other side. Great fun! We stopped for a spot of dressing up (awfully hot), camel riding, and sand boarding (uselessly slow, but fun running up the dune to the top). It was amazing being in the desert for the first time and an experience we will never forget.
We got back to the hotel in the early afternoon and decided to make use of the facilities and the rooftop pool. This was the second good decision we had made as just as we got into our room, the planes from the previous afternoon started practicing their stunts for the upcoming military show. We ended up having what felt like our own personal stunt flight show. Amazing is not the word as seemingly every trick was pulled. The performance lasted half an hour, and most of it at our eye level.
Later that evening we made a trip to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. We had never really seen any mosques, let alone entered into one, so we took the chance of a free tour with glee. The mosque was huge, and covered in beautiful architecture and designs. Inside it looked extremely opulent with the worlds largest hand made rug and huge chandeliers hanging from the arched ceilings. It was a sight to behold and a great way to cap off one of our best days on the whole trip.
Our final day saw us venture into the city centre and explore. While not as eventful as the other days, it was fascinating to wander round and experience the city. Although there seemed to be very few eating establishments around…
That evening we caught a plane back to Korea. It had been quite a hectic 6 weeks to say the least! But our funds had run out, and we had a 2 month wait until our new job started in Korea. Until then, we will continue to dream about our future travels…