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Published: June 28th 2015
We arrived in Abu Dhabi at 4am on the 22nd after a 12 hour flight from Tokyo and headed straight to our hotel. I had surprised Matt with a really nice hotel for an engagement gift - staying at Jumeirah in the Etihad towers, opposite the Emirates Palace. When I was booking they asked if the holiday was for something special and I had told them it was for our recent engagement, which worked out really well because when we arrived we found out we were upgraded to the Grand deluxe room on the 36th floor. Our room was absolutely stunning, like nowhere we have ever stayed - it looked out to the city and to the ocean, and because we got there so early we were able to watch the sunrise which was beautiful. We were lucky that our hotel was rather westernised and that some of the restaurants there were still open during Ramadan, so we were able to enjoy a nice buffet breakfast after our long flight.
The heat was ridiculous - reaching around 42 degrees by lunch time - with hardly anyone outside, everyone drives or taxis everywhere because it's too hot to walk. Most people
who live in Abu Dhabi will actually leave during Ramadan to work elsewhere as its too hot. The city is so built up and rich, buildings are crazy shapes and sizes. The Emirates palace and the presidential palace were very close to our hotel and are such beautiful and expensive complexes.
After relaxing by the pool for a couple of hours we decided to walk down the road in our long tops and pants to another hotel which hosted water sports. We had both wanted to do jet skiing in Vietnam but never got round to it so we hired a jet ski each for half an hour and zoomed around the coast. The sea water was about 34 degrees and the breeze off the water was so warm! It was so much fun racing around and seeing the beaches and city from a distance - we wished we could've spent longer on them!
Later on we walked across to the Marina mall which looked like about 300m away from our hotel because we were so high up - turned out to be 2.5km away! The mall is massive and filled with some very expensive shops, but also lots
of great shops that we don't get in NZ and are reasonably priced! I had to get a couple of things for our desert safari tour the following day. That night we were so shattered from our travel and the heat that we ordered room service for dinner and had an early night.
On our second day in Abu Dhabi we walked across to the Emirates Palace to witness how incredible the gold-decorated hotel is. The palace cost 3 billion USD to build and is the second most expensive hotel ever built. We wandered around the palace absolutely mind blown at how beautiful and detailed the architecture and interior design is. We decided to go to the Palace cafe - because why not - and shared a cheese platter and just a casual Emirates Palace cappuccino with 24ct gold shavings on top.. The gold didn't taste like anything and the coffee was just a normal cappuccino - but we drank gold!!!.. The palace also has a 'Gold ATM' which you literally insert cash in and select from many gold necklaces with a gold pendant, starting around $1000 and it just spits it out like its a chocolate bar -
Anyway, we walked back to the hotel so as to be in air conditioning as quick as possible, and got ready for our desert safari tour. The tour started off interestingly as we were picked up 45 minutes late by these two Arab men who didn't introduce themselves and didn't have the company name on them anywhere, but they knew our names so we presumed they were the right people :S . When we got in the car they told us we were stopping off to pick up another couple and then they argued the whole way there in Arabic which was slightly inappropriate. We drove for an hour to the desert where when we arrived the driver turns around to us and just says "put your seat belts on," (of course they were already on - especially because the speed limit on the motorway in some parts is 160km) and he speeds off toward the dunes to start the 4wd experience... Well it was definitely an experience! It was an extremely thrilling and scary, but fun and exciting (looking back on it) experience, flying through the desert, drifting and spinning on the top of these tall
dunes, and driving on what felt like a 90 degree angle! Even though I was holding on for dear life, I completely (95%) trusted the driver... He had been doing these 4wd tours for 4 years and had never flipped the car, and apparently by the age of 9 most boys have gone out to the desert to spin around in the dunes! We stopped halfway through the 4 wheel driving at a camel farm where we could pat the camels and take photos with them which was really cool-they are very calm animals. When we finally arrived at the Basecamp area we were able to ride camels and board down the steep dunes - which was so much fun- as well as watch the sun set across the desert which was really beautiful and peaceful.
A massive Arabic feast was prepared for us in a buffet style which was so delicious- an amazing kebab style meal with the smoothest hummus I've ever tasted! After dinner, to end the evening we had sheesha (which is very common in the Arab Emirates), chatted with the instructors and watched the star filled sky.
On our third and final day in
Abu Dhabi we decided to hire a car for the morning before we headed to the airport. Our first stop was the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque which is the largest Mosque in the United Arab Emirates and considered to be the key place for worship in the country. As soon as I got out of the car I had to wrap my scarf around my head and neck so as the only skin showing were my hands and my face. The outside of the fully white Grand Mosque has the most spectacular architecture and design. The interior is filled with intense details of gold, crystal, marble and ceramic, as well as bold and beautiful chandeliers. We did not want to leave this incredible site, it was so surreal being there.
Before going to the airport we drove to YAS Island to check out the Ferrari world and Formula One track which was rather deserted because of Ramadan so we just drove around, but still very cool to see.
We were sad to leave this beautiful, rich and extremely hot country. We could've spent a lot more time there especially in the amazing hotel we were at, but we were
also so excited for the next part of our journey- the buzzing and busy London!
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