Abu Dhabi and marina dinner cruise
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Yesterday was our Abu Dhabi day. I think most tourists in Dubai visit Abu Dhabi via a tour company, but Chad and I are pretty anti-tour when possible and my research said the bus was pretty easy to navigate, and would be cheaper.
Even though the metro runs down to the bus station we needed, we took a taxi to save our legs. And, as they say, taxis are cheap and plentiful here. Our taxi driver thought it was hilarious that we were going to ride the bus (he said only Indians and Pakistanis do) but I think he didn't get the whole Abu Dhabi thing, because the bus ended up being at least half tourists.
It took a bit for us to find the ticket line, which moved very slowly, but we ended up getting or tickets in time to make the bus we wanted (they only run every hour), which was lucky. Arriving in Abu Dhabi, we immediately grabbed a taxi outside the bus station and headed for the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, the 8th largest mosque in the world.
It was really impressive, huge and beautiful. All white with multiple tours and minarets (sp?). After getting out of the taxi, I donned my head scarf. I had also made sure to dress conservatively - ankle-length skirt and longsleeves. Other tourists had not quite succeeded and security personnel directed them toward a place where you can rent an abaya. That might have been interesting, but I'm glad I didn't have to. Just wearing the hijab was experience enough for me.
I don't have words to describe the mosque, but Chad took soooooo many pictures, so when we get home, we'll be able to show not tell. I know it holds 40,000 worshippers and was super-expensive to build. We need to look up the date, but it seemed new. Most of the money in Abu Dhabi, like here in Dubai, is fairly new, so it is likely the mosque was built within the last couple decades.
After the mosque we went to a couple other tourist sights, which were underwhelming. Emirates Palace is a grand hotel building owned by the government. Very swank (and they really did have a gold dispensing ATM, like the guidebooks said) but not our style. The other stop was a disappointing Heritage Village, which we decided to walk to, about which I can only say at least we got good exercise. We couldn't even find a taxi there to take back to the bus station, so we then treked to a "nearby" mall to have a juice and get a cab. I think Chad regrets we didn't work in any time for "real" Abu Dhabi neighborhoods, but from what I can tell of the guidebook, they don't really have anything like that like there is in Dubai. The bus station is in Abu Dhabi center city and that area was certainly just basic city.
Chad's favorite part of Abu Dhabi, it is safe to say, was the numerous billboards, posters and paintings with portraits of various sheikhs. The Sheikh of Abu Dhabi is the leader of the Emirates (Dubai's sheikh is VP and PM) and there was much more nationalism there it seemed. Lots of signs about the recent 43rd anniversary of UAE unification too, so it is unclear whether they always have so many sheikh billboards or if it was for the holiday.
We managed to time our arrival at the bus station just right to get on the bus we wanted back to Dubai. During the ride (90 minutes) we plotted what we want to see today, our last full day here. I like to leave the last day open when I plan a trip so we can go back to favorite spots or see things we didn't know about before we arrived.
After a brief rest and snack back at our hotel, we headed out for our evening adventure at Dubai marina. We started with happy hour at a bar called Aquara that overlooks the marina. Bars are few and far between here, so it was nice for that bit of normalcy. Then at 8 p.m. we went down to board our boat for our dinner cruise along the coast of Dubai. It was lovely and we got lots of good photos. Happily we were on the upper deck that was open so there was no obstruction to getting great photos.
Kelly asked about food, and the meal last night is somewhat representative. It was an international buffet and Dubai has so many immigrants that there is no realy typical cuisine. It had a lot of Indian dishes, some Persian, some continental. Spice is definitely a thing here, but not overly spicy. I think Arabian food is mostly grilled spiced meats, rice, bread, tc. Everything is good, but Chad and I aren't at all picky. That said, all the major American brands are here - fast food, Papa John's, etc. There are tons of Italian places around, and really every variety of food you can imagine. A lot of juice, which might be our favorite part. Nothing beats fresh squeezed juice.