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Published: June 26th 2017
Later that afternoon (see previous blog) we were advised that we would be arriving in Abu Dhabi at 9pm to the tumultuous welcome of fireworks. This is to celebrate the MSC Lirica's first visit to the Emirates. As we are on the late sitting for dinner (at 8:30pm) this meant we would miss all the fun so decided to forgo our dinner and moving on to deck at 8:15 watching Abu Dhabi appearing ever closer.
9pm came and went. Our first experience in Abu Dhabi was to witness red carpet treatment. On the quayside as the ship pulled alongside there were some men dressed in traditional Arabic garb twirling sticks around like a bunch of psychotic majorettes!! The 'belly' dancers behind them seemed to be nothing more than glorified line dancers who had forgotten how to line dance!! All this and still no fireworks! We politely clapped as they broke in to the same repetitive song, doing the same repetitive dance then the cases of those disembarking appeared on the quay followed 20 minutes later by the passengers. Where are our fireworks??
We decided to get off the ship and join in the welcome party, as it doesn't look
like we'll be getting the fireworks.
As it turns out, there was quite a lot happening. There were the belly line dancers and the majorettes but there were also men with falcons daring passengers to handle them for a photo opportunity (free, of course!), There were a few tents sent up with locals offering food and drink. That was tea sorted anyway!!!!
The title for this part of the blog, after great aforethought, should have been: ‘Pole to Pole – Monaco to Abu Dhabi'. The play on words being from where it all started 18 days ago on the pole position at the Monaco F1 Grand Prix Circuit to the pole position of the Abu Dhabi Yas Island Grand Prix Circuit. However, unbeknown to us, the final tour of the circuit was yesterday!!! So if you're reading, Michael Palin, I won't be needing your title so I'd like my £10 back!!!
We have been 3 hours ahead of the UK since traversing through the Suez Canal. With the clocks going back in the UK on to GMT, we are now 4 hours in front of UK time.
As you can see from the title our second
experience of Abu Dhabi was a battle with the scum of the taxi drivers. As by now is customary, the distinct lack of direction meant that we just strolled off the ship at 07:45. We were directed to our allocated colour code, picked up our luggage and took the shuttle bus to the port gate.
What greeted us was a surge of taxi drivers all battling for our custom. One taxi driver grabbed Roisin's case and took it to an awaiting taxi whilst another taxi driver took my luggage in the opposite direction. After screaming at my taxi driver, he got the message and we loaded our cases in to the same taxi!!
Next whilst our taxi driver sat at the wheel another taxi driver popped his head in to the window and a discussion in Arabic ensued whilst we sat in the back and waited.
"Where you to, airport??"
asked the taxi driver
“No, Crowne plaza, Yas Island”,
Another quick few words in Arabic to his colleague. “Dirham or Euro?”
“500” said the taxi driver.
“I don't think so” I hollered (yes hollered is correct!!)
was the next
I had a 100 Dirham note in my pocket. “100”
I said and started to get out of the taxi
“Anyway, why isn't your meter on?”
“Wait 2 hours fore ship, no meter”
That just didn't make sense.
100 dirham is about £20. The journey took about 30 minutes so I was prepared to be ripped of for something that would have cost about that in the UK.
Meanwhile, Mrs H had been checking out the notice on her window. I thought she was very quiet. When we arrived at the hotel she called me over as the taxi driver was unloading our luggage. The notice she had been reading stated that if the meter of a taxi is not ‘on', the fare should be free. It is illegal in the UAE for a taxi to drive a fare without the meter running.
We pointed this out to the taxi driver and proceeded to walk away. He quickly pulled me over to his meter, switched it on and said, ‘Look, look. 47 dirham”
In order to preserve UK/UAE relations I was happy to pay
this amount. I ensured he gave me 53 dirhams change before I handed over the 100 dirham note. Result!!! Taxi Drivers 0, the Hodgson's 1!!!
The Crowe Plaza, Yas Island. Fantastic. It may not have 6 stars but it has men who open the doors and call you ‘sir'!! After 16 nights cooped up in an inside cabin of a ship that, according to Mike (our dinner companion) is missing the middle, our room was palatial. There is free internet (yippee, means I can write more for less!!) lounge area and a massive bathroom with a connecting window to the main bedroom. If you don't close the blinds, it's easy for someone to sneak up and take a photo when you're least expecting it!!!
As already mentioned, we were told no more F1 Yas Marina circuit tours until December so Roisin and I decided to head for the main entrance anyway. We could hear some cars racing around the track. Maybe they'll let us in to watch.
It was a short walk from our hotel to the main entrance for the circuit. We were welcomed in the aptly named welcome area. We were told the same story.
We were not allowed to spectate as the cars currently running on the track are those who have purchased ‘experience' packages.
We accepted this and started to look around at all the merchandise on sale. Within minutes, the friendly assistance appeared along side me as I browsed at the ‘overpriced' ball caps and polo shirts. The assistant probably thought to himself, ‘Ay, ay! I recognise that accent!!'
After a light lunch poolside back at the hotel we took the free shuttle to Ferrari world. Ferrari world is the world's largest indoor theme park. It is 86,000sqm and could hold 7 football pitches head to toe. The total roof area of 200,000sqm used enough aluminium to make 16,750 Ferraris and if you flattened the roof, you could lay 20,000 Ferraris side by side over the area. The volume of concrete used in the Hoover dam could fit inside Ferrari world. Well, you get the picture anyway. It is bloody huge!! At £45 general admission, it isn't cheap but I suppose it is on par with other theme parks around the world.
On entering Ferrari world I couldn't even persuade Roisin to take the escalator up to the ticket
booth. What chance have I got with trying to get her on any of the rides!!! We decided to give this a miss. Just being here and savouring yet another engineering marvel was good enough for us.
Roisin had said that if she had the opportunity, she would get a henna tattoo whilst she is in the Emirates. Well now was the opportunity. The pattern she chose was very ornate but to me it just looked like someone had memorised an A-Z roadmap and transferred it to her hand. I could have sworn the junction with Stanley Road and Merton Road appeared just below the knuckle on her little finger!!!
We took the shuttle back to the Yas hotel. This hotel looks very futuristic and straddles the F1 circuit. We wandered in to the hotel, greeted by the now customary, Good afternoon Sir, Madam”. We headed for the Bridge of the hotel and spent some time taking photos.
It was about 4:30pm and already the music from the adjoining disco/club was being cranked up. The Yas hotel was on our list of possible locations to stay during our time here. It was slightly cheaper than the Crowne
Plaza but feedback on Trip Advisor warned about noise from the disco. They weren't wrong!! If is like this now, I can't imagine how loud it would be with a room full of people!!
We ate on the terrace of the hotel this evening. Just chilling out. The temperature was now ideal. Not stifling hot or close. It was warm with a slight breeze coming off the Arabian Gulf. Now this felt like being on holiday!! It's a pity it's only going to last for another couple of days.
Other than the F1 circuit, the only other ‘must do' we agreed on was the Grand Mosque. After a fantastic breakfast we took a taxi for the 15-minute journey to the Grand Mosque entrance.
En route we passed a perfect disc of a building that I learned later to be the Aldar HQ based at Al Raha Beach.
The Grand Mosque was commissioned and built between 1997 and 2004 from white marble and shipped all the way from Italy. It is the 2nd
biggest mosque in the world and houses the biggest chandelier in the world at 9 ton weight. This is housed in the Grand prayer
room. When I saw this chandelier with its several million swarovski crystals, I couldn't help giving a wry smile as I thought of Del Boy and Rodney in their attempt to remove a chandelier during one of their madcap episodes!!
There are 82 domes and over 1000 columns throughout the mosque all hand crafted with gems and inlaid with mother of pearl. It takes a lot to overwhelm me but all in all, this was turning out to be a breath-taking experience. Not to mention the cost of this mosque at a staggering ½ billion Euros.
OK, enough of the geeky facts. Roisin was not allowed on to the grounds of the mosque although she was respectably dressed. She, along with most other females disappeared behind a screen. What emerged was a whole host of women for all corners of the globe and all religions dressed from head to foot in black abayas. I haven't seen so many women in little black numbers under one roof since the ‘Grafton' ca. 1976!!!
Whilst waiting for Roisin to reappear from the changing room an hour or so later (after our tour) I happened to turn around and there, sitting
on a bench seat, were 3 men in traditional Arabic dress…playing with their ipods!!!
We hailed a taxi to drive us the several miles down to Marina Mall that would provide us with excellent views of down town Abu Dhabi and is also only a short distance from the tallest flag pole in the Emirates.
Once again en route, we passed a strange looking ‘boot shaped' building. Some of the buildings in the Emirates are truly innovative and awe inspiring. This building is the Capital Gate building. Other than that…no idea!!!
Not only the tallest in the Emirates, this flagpole claims to be the tallest in the world (unsupported) at 400ft and was erected as part of the counties 30th
National Day celebrations.
It has been a tiring, energy-sucking but eventful day. We took 205 photos between us today alone and over 1000 so far this trip. Don't panic. I don't intend to post them all to the blog. Just the ones to assist you along the way and to help you understand what I've been rambling on about for the past few weeks!
Tomorrow is our last full day. Where has the time gone?
It seems a long time ago since Monaco but on the other hand it seems no time at all!
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