I had booked a day trip to Abu Dhabi as I wanted to visit another Emirate. I hadn't been too impressed when making my booking that they charged more for a single booking, feels a bit shady that they want to discriminate against solo travellers. Also when they sent the instructions to get to the departure point, it was bloody miles away. Also the instructions were only suitable for those driving or taking a cab, not great those of us that use public transport. Anyway, I figured out a route and took the subway. Once I exited the station, I used the maps on my phone to locate the hotel. Well that was a big mistake as it had the location in the wrong place and I ended up walking along the wrong side of the motorway. I figured out that the hotel was back in the other side, but I doubted that I would make the tour on time. I was so missed off with myself, my shorty phone, and the tour company for not giving comprehensive directions. I arrived late at the hotel, but the tour hadn't left, I was so relieved.
The drive to Abu Dhabi took
a while, we stopped in another part of Dubai, which is obviously where all the fancy, rich people stay. One of the guides filled us in on some of the history of the area. He also pointed out how the design of the streetlights change so that you know you have left Dubai and are now in Abu Dhabi. It was also really interesting how the Emirati government make it totally impossible for foreigners to become citizens. I found that strange as the foreign population is so huge, I suppose it keeps the foreigners firmly in 'their' place. Also, it sounds like if you are an Emirati, you are set for life with cushy government jobs and benefits. The scenery in the drive was nothing too impressive, construction work and barren land.
Our first stop was Yas Iand, which is home to the Formula 1 Grand Prix track, theme parks, hotels and other recreational venues. We headed to the Yas Circuit first, the bus wasn't allowed to stop, so we just drove along the road which goes over the track and then back round. Then we headed over to Ferrari World, which is a big theme park. Of course,
there wasn't enough time to visit theme park, but we could go in the entrance and look at all the fancy cars on display. There was also a nice mall attached to the entrance of Ferrari World so I was able to grab a coffee at Starbucks, which my tour group and lots of the others seemed to be doing too.
Back in the bus we drove along past some impressive looking buildings to reach the Abu Dhabi museum/fort, Al Hosn palace. I was gutted as the museum was closed for some reason and I had been looking forward to seeing what it was like in comparison to the one in Dubai and learning more about the history of Abu Dhabi. Instead we kept driving to Our next destination. Abu Dhabi seems to be a bit of a ghost town as there was no one about. I don't know if the place is just quiet in general or everyone was indoors staying out of the heat. The bus pulled up near the Al Kareem Mosque and we headed down to the riverside to see the beautiful buildings across the water. This was the first time that I had properly
been outside that day and the sun was beating down making it feel ferociously hot. I was only outside about 15-20 minutes, but I could feel the skin on my forehead burning. The views were really nice, I could see the grand buildings. I'm not sure if it was the UAE Presidential Palace that I could see it the Emirates Palace as they are located pretty much next door to each other. Still, from the distance across the water, I could sense 're grandeur of the buildings. They were gleaming beautifully white in the sunlight. I think if the weather had been cooler, it would have been nice to take a walk along the promenade. Now that we had seen these building from far away, we drove over to see them up close. First, we headed over the Emirates Palace, which was also locked up, but we were allowed off the coach to get some photos in front of it. The buildings were very impressive up close, it was interesting to see how the other half (or should that be the super rich 1%) live. For security reasons, the tour bus wasn't allowed to pull up at the UAE Presidential
Palace, so we just went around the roundabout a few times so everyone could get a good view.
For lunch, there were two options; a buffet at a fancy hotel or the Marina Mall, which was next door to the hotel. I went for the mall option, I would have liked to go to the hotel, but being alone, it wasn't too appealing. The mall was pretty big and I wandered around for a bit before heading to the food court. There were quite a few different options that looked good, but I decided to stick with traditional Middle Eastern cuisine. I had meat with rice, flat bread and hummus. For being a fast food place, it was really good and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I then headed back to the coach to sit in the air conditioning.
We drove around Abu Dhabi a bit more and the guides explained what the things were we could see out of the windows. I wasn't really interested in taking photos of anything with the glare of the windows. We did past lots more interesting looking buildings before heading to Our final stop which was the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. I
was pretty excited for this, as I had never been inside a mosque before. The mosque has a very strict dress code and our guide explained that it hadn't always been that way, but too many celebrities visiting the mosque posted pictures of themselves on social media of themselves wearing skimpy clothing, which caused a backlash and forced the mosque to tighten up their dress code.The tour company offer to rent you a traditional outfit for a few dollars and I had arranged to rent one as I knew my own clothes, however modest I felt they were, would be unsuitable. I fell instantly in love with the abaya as soon as I put it on. It was so loose and roomy. My initial reaction was I could eat so much and get so fat, and no one would know. I was tempted to convert just for this reason. The security at the mosque is super strict and we had to go through gender segregated lines. It was like being at the airport. Once inside our guide explained where and what time we would meet, before taking us to the main hall. The mosque is huge and took over ten
years to build. It can hold over 41,000 worshipers. Our guide told us a bit about The mosque and then we were left to our own devices. Since we had rushed through the first part of the main prayer hall, I went back to the start and walked through more slowly and carefully, taking in all the details. The mosque was so beautiful with lots of gorgeous patterns and intricate designs. I walked around the outside part, too. All the white marble sparkled in the afternoon sun. While I was walking around outside, I saw quite a few people getting told of by the security guards for inappropriate behaviour. I'm surprised I didn't get in trouble as my headscarf kept slipping off. While I loved the abaya, the headscarf was a pain to keep in place.
The drive back to Dubai was uneventful and the guides were kind enough to arrange that I could get dropped off at the subway station. I made my way back to the hostel to pick up my stuff and headed to the airport. My flight was leaving early in the morning and I was too cheap to pay for another night's accommodation and
taxi fare to the airport. My three days in the region had been pretty busy and hopefully I could find somewhere to have a nap in the departures lounge before my flight.
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