Burj-tastic


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Published: May 2nd 2011
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Like many other Brits, Scott and I took advantage of 11 days holiday for the price of 3 days annual leave. On Easter Friday we jetted out from Heathrow to Abu Dhabi, landing early evening and then whizzing straight to the coast. The city was much bigger than we had thought, grid like and very busy being a Friday evening. There were huge road works and building sites on each block. That evening we ate under the stars at the hotel seafood restaurant and watched a parade of concrete trucks head over to a nearby Island. Really Abu Dhabi is a collection of Islands some natural and some man-made.
The next morning we saw from the hotel the extent of the road-works; it felt like the part of the city we were in was one large construction site! That afternoon we headed to Ferrari World out on Yasi Island via Saadiyat Island. At the moment Saadiyat Island is a large dusty flat land, in a few years time it will be an island ‘Cultural District’ with a sensationally designed Guggenheim, Louver, plus hotels, residential area, golf course and a stunning looking long white sand beach. I love the vision and then the ability to just make it happen, astonishing. The Ferrari World building was a sleek red prism structure, it was very striking. Inside was a large playground situated very close to the Yasi F1 track which we managed to catch a glimpse of. The best ride was the world’s fastest rollercoaster, the acceleration was mental. The park itself was very well done with a mix of rides and educational things about the Ferrari. Soon they will be opening a Warner Bros park, a mall and all types of things; an entertainment island. That evening we had a fantastic dinner at a revolving restaurant at a nearby hotel. The the view of the glittering city below was excellent. On our final day in the UAE capital we went to the Grand Mosque, full name Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Grand Mosque. It really blew both of us away; some SERIOUS money was spent on this amazing structure. It is a global mosque so you have designs, features, material and people that worked on it from all different parts of the world; not just Islamic countries. Once I was completely covered and had a scarf on my head wrapped professionally we joined one of the free tours. The tour was excellent learnt a lots about Mosques and the different features of the building. The crystal chandeliers in the entrance and main pray hall were phenomenal, the largest in the world. It was a very peaceful and impressive place. We then went to visit the famous Emirates Palace Hotel which was very under-whelming, a very large brownish red building very nicely appointed but not much atmosphere. That afternoon we relax lagoon side at that hotel before flying off to Oman.
Muscat felt very western on the drive in. We managed to spot about four McDonalds and a number of hyper-markets. We decided to stay at Old Muscat’s harbour for one night given we arrived in so late. The view from the room was lovely around the harbour. Early the next morning we visited the fish market across the road which was a hive of activity and full of large fish. We then strolled around the harbour and visiting the Souk. Soon after that we were whizzing along the dramatic coast line towards the Shangri-La, our resort location of the next three nights. We had a great time relaxing sea-side and enjoying lovely Arabic and seafood meals. This was our first attempt at doing the resort thing on holiday and it was most agreeable!
Our next stop was Dubai, and we had a fantastic 3 days. We ended up focusing on the modern Dubai even though we stayed in the Dubai Creek area the older area. That evening we headed straight to the Dubai Mall and walked through ‘open mouthed’ in near disbelieve of the scale and glamour of the place towards the Dubai Fountain. The Fountain show was superb and the tallest building in the world was well tall! The Burj Khalifa stood majestically behind the lake and boy it is tall and very sleek. We attempted to walk to a recommended restaurant and that was the first and last time we tried to walk anywhere. As we got lost we stumbled across the valet parking near ‘Fashion Avenue’, now there were some fancy cars. The money in the place is very obvious. We enjoyed an Arabic meal in a lovely open courtyard that evening.
29th April 2011, Royal Wedding Day! We attempted to catch the newly opened metro down to the Marina area to a bar we planned to watch the wedding at. However due to Friday prayers the Metro wasn’t open so we jumped in a cab. There were multiple different Wedding parties going on around the hotels, but this was we chose as it was a beach bar and looked fun. We JUST managed to find some seats outside but in the shade, under a palm tree. No better way to watch the royal wedding. The bar filled up pretty quickly and there was some good people watching as well. The wedding was great and what a fantastic show London put on. Post wedding we caught the monorail down the centre of The Palm to Atlantis. The Palm was impressive and the ride offered great views of the Marine and Burj Al Arab (sail hotel). Some of the Palm arms are not yet populated so still just bars of land. Early evening we headed to Madinat Souk Jumeirah and enjoyed a couple of drinks on a beanbag watching the Royal kiss and highlights from the wedding. This was a purpose build Souk made up of a number of canals and waterways and of course lots of touristic shops. We then managed to wander through the hotel and down to the beach to get some sensational views of the Burj Al Arab and enjoyed a few more cocktails. That evening it was more Arabic mezze overlooking the canal. The following day we tackled the Mall and shopped most of the day; Scott ended up buying more than I, rather a shock. In the Mall as well the 100’s of shops and the fountain, there is an aquarium and a waterfall. We caught a lot of taxi’s around in both UAE and Oman and boy do they go fast. But the ride home from the Mall was the worst. This crazy guy weaved in and out of traffic at an alarming pace; pretty happy to get out of the car alive.
That evening we treated ourselves to cocktails at the top of the Burj Al Arab, it was a wonderful experience. The hotel is just off the coast, it was going to be a casino but when they ran out of money and Ab Dhabi bailed them out, they did so only on the condition there would be no casino. The lobby was very impressive, aquarium, gold ...general opulence. The bar had a real James Bond feel to it and prices to match - the champagne cocktails were around £30 - but were very good. We were having dinner at a sister hotel so managed to get a golf-buggy ride to the restaurant which was great fun. As we exited the hotel that evening we realised this hotel was also extremely fancy and had one of the most expensive cars in the world parked outside. We just got a normal taxi home. On our last day in Dubai we headed back down to the Marina and did a little jet boat ride out around The Palm, to the Burj Al Arab and back through the Marina. The Marina was very interesting, built up all in about 8yrs. But now some buildings stand either empty or half built; no more money. We saved the best for last, and after enjoying the spectacular fountain a few more times over dinner we headed to the Burj Khalifa. The entire experience was very polished; we walked from the Mall via travel-ators with videos playing towards the world’s fastest elevator. Whoosh we were at the top in record time, and really it didn’t even feel like you were moving so fast. You don’t go all the way to the top, just floor 124, so the building towers above you and below (200+ floors). The vast city stretched out all around and it was quite spectacular. As was watching the Fountain perform again to Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’, you could even hear the music all the way up on floor 124. Our holiday ended in an excellent fashion by being up graded on the flight home so from start to finish a very relaxing time.
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