When my friend’s parents moved to Abu Dhabi, we saw it as a fantastic opportunity. Having never been to the United Arab Emirates, and what with it being so different to the Western world, we had a chance to experience the country with tour guides; my friend and her parents.
Our flight took us through Doha airport (one of the most ornate and beautiful airports I have ever seen) and when we touched down in Abu Dhabi airport the heat hit us with an alarming force. Wow, it was going to be hot!
And my ten days in the country were like nothing I have ever experienced. The heat (in October) was so hot that I couldn’t sit on the beach all day. We swam in the bath warm sea and reclined under parasols until the sun dropped and it cooled enough for us to come out from the shadows.
Abu Dhabi is a far stricter country than Dubai, so we followed customs and covered our shoulders and knees. It made the days hot, but we were careful to not offend any of the traditions that we knew little about. By day we swam and sunbathed on the Corniche, taking time out to visit some of the fantastic shopping centres, and by night we ate some delightful food in tiny little restaurants, or visited bars in the hotels like the Hilton.
One night we went as VIP guests to a party in the club Etoiles, which is nestled in the bottom of the Emirates Palace. It was a night to remember; I’ve never had such star treatment and I don’t think I ever will again. We were waited on hand and foot, with a man even breaking a neck to provide a light when my friend produced a cigarette from her bag.
The emirates palace is a truly magnificent place. We stopped at the cafe and had chocolate fondue coated in gold leaf, and cappuccinos with gold sprinkles on the top. Everything about the country exudes extravagance, and it was unreal.
The architecture in the mosques is simply divine too. The Arabs really pay attention to their buildings and nothing is drab or plain; the skyscrapers loom out like something in a designer film and the mosques are ornate and intricate, truly carved for the gods.
It’s a place that will go against any ideas that you have; everything is different to the westernised world and it’s a rich and heady blend of old and new. I was surprised to see Arab men in full attire, turbans and white robes carrying palm pilots and talking on their hands free kits. The shops; Prada, Gap, MAC… all have the names in English, repeated below in beautiful Arab cursive. It’s strange but at the same time, perfect.
If you are going don’t make the mistake a friend made and go without travel insurance. Even in the winter it is over thirty degrees at midnight making it really easy to get dehydration. I went with Swiftcover’s holiday insurance in the end because they just seemed to be the best and cheapest, but have a look around.. Maybe try the meerkats!