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Published: April 21st 2019
It's been a long few months, and I'll go into some of my Saudi Arabia travels in a future blog, but for the moment, I will go into a much needed weekend of fun, rest and friends. Fortunately, at the last minute, our company gave us Sunday off for Easter, so I could justify spending two nights in a nice hotel in Abu Dhabi without having to go to work the next day.
This was instigated by a former coworker of mine from Ventura who was coming to put on a workshop this week and I told her I would show her around over the weekend. So, I booked a room at a hotel near to hers that was super nice and resort-y. I was so looking forward to the weekend and even booked a massage for Friday afternoon, a well-deserved, relaxing massage.
On Thursday, one of my former "footie" teammates texted me to join them for a game Friday morning, my first game in over three years. I was excited and nervous. I did not want to make a fool of myself, but I also wanted to see my friends again and get back involved in soccer. I
needn't have worried. Two of my friends were there as were 5 other girls who were all nice, and the half of the players were guys. And the guys were also mostly nice, and thankfully not ball hogs. So, I played for 90 minutes straight and I think I played pretty well once I got back into it. Mostly, it was nice to catch up with the girls again.
Immediately afterwards, I headed for Abu Dhabi. It was just over an hour drive, but when I arrived, I wished I had changed at least a little bit. I booked at the Shangri-La Hotel Qaryat al Beri, just across from the Grand Mosque. It is a 5-star hotel, which I kind of knew, but I feel like I did not pay that much for it. So, I gave my car to valet and walked into the hotel, with staff opening all my doors and carrying my one tiny roller to the check in desk, where I was offered, tea, mint lemonade, and dates as well as a hotel towel. So, I was a bit embarrassed standing there in my sweaty shirt and leggings, hair pulled back and sneakers. Oh well,
they checked me in quickly, so maybe it was a good thing. I really liked my room; all rooms are located on the side of the hotel facing the mosque and each has a huge balcony. The bathroom was huge as was the tub; I fully intended on a relaxing bath, but really the shower itself was amazing.
Soon it was time for my massage, so after an attempt to confirm my appointment (since I got no confirmation email) and the lack of response, I just walked over and sure enough, as soon as I walk in "Miss Alexis? Relaxing Aroma Massage?" Ding ding! My masseuse, Gill, was amazing. I was seriously ready to sign up immediately for more later, but I'm glad I held myself in check (it was not cheap). She told me that next time I could come earlier and make use of the steam room and baths in a separate room - dang it! Since this was my first time there, she gave me the full foot bath, had me pick my scents and went to work. I had to continually make myself stop thinking of work, which was an effort, but I managed and
I felt so relaxed. Mission accomplished!
I ordered a sandwich for dinner and enjoyed my view as the sun set and the mosque lit up before going to bed relatively early. I texted my coworker, CD, and told her I would pick her up the following day.
So, day two, I had ordered room service breakfast rather than the huge breakfast buffet, just getting an omelette. Then I picked up CD at 11 and we headed for the Louvre. I pre-ordered tickets, so we were able to walk right in. I had been looking forward to visiting this place since I moved back. The architecture was said to be amazing and it did not disappoint. It was crowded but not overly so. There were not too many objects to view and they seemed somewhat haphazard, but that meant you kept moving along. They had the Egyptian mummy sarcophagus and a really cool piece of a mummy bandage laid out with excerpts from the Book of the Dead written on it. I think that was my favorite. There were many tapestries that we both liked, CD liked the statues, I liked the maps. We also visited the current exhibition
with passages from the Book of the Dead
of Dutch painters such as Rembrandt. All in all, the museum was very tasteful and nice, but it really is the architecture that makes it great. It was beautiful.
Our next stop was the Emirates Palace on the corniche. We were able to park inside and took photos in front of the grand steps below the palace itself. When we went inside, I tried to find the gold machine, but could not. Either it is gone or they moved it to a random place. Ah well. Either way, it was still magnificent. We stopped and had some cold mezze, me getting tea and CD with water, mostly enjoying the A/C. It was so nice to catch up! I saw her when I was back at training in the Netherlands in October, but besides that we had not seen each other in years and this was our first time to truly get to talk about everything.
Our next and final stop was the Grand Mosque. I was hoping to bring her at night, when it was cooler, less crowded and the mosque is lit up so beautifully. But she had an early morning flight to Saudi, so she wanted
to be back to her hotel by 7. Wow, the mosque has changed a lot in the last few years. I vaguely remember them planning an underground mall, but it is a full blown tourist attraction now. I remember going and parking (at night) right up near the mosque and just walking up (they directed you to get the abayas first), but now they have lines where you have to grab a ticket (still free) and walk a long way to get to the visitor's entrance. Then, much of the mosque is also cordoned off, directing the flow of people and the photos spots are crowded. You used to be able to walk on the marble in the courtyard, and remove your shoes to walk at least partially within the mosque itself. I don't blame them; the shear number of people would be difficult to control, especially herding them away at prayer times, but it does decrease the experience. That's for me. I think if you come there now as your first time, you don't know the difference and it is still overwhelming, and amazing and beautiful. There was just so many people. I still recommend going at night, FYI.
But either way, the Mosque is truly a work of art and you should read my previous blogs where I describe in more detail (October 2012 and February 2014).
Lastly, we went to the souq attached to my hotel and I don't know if I would consider it a souq so much as an indoor shopping center. However, we stopped at a Lebanese restaurant for dinner. The waiters were not the most friendly, but the food was delicious - fattoush (which CD loved), hummus with meat, cheese fatteh, and mixed grill. A perfect way to end a perfect day.
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