I woke up on my first morning in Abu Dhabi a little tired, but mostly refreshed and excited to get out and explore this new city of mine! I stepped outside to my porch and took in my view. Not bad, huh?
We are located in the Al Bateen neighborhood, on the western part of the main island of Abu Dhabi. While only about 20% of the population is made up of local Emiratis, many of them live in the Al Bateen area. It is friendly, affluent, and quiet compared to the busy streets of neighboring areas. The luxurious villas with private gardens and ornate walls provide a beautiful backdrop to the wide, tree-lined streets. There are also palaces hidden from the peasants like myself. We chose our flat solely based on location. We are on a “quiet” street, within walking distance to a small grocery store and several other essentials, yet we are still close to the modern and trendy area called the Corniche.
The tall buildings you see in the background of the first picture are located along the Corniche. The Corniche is an 8km curved stretch of road that runs along the manicured west coast waterfront of the main island from the Marina on one side to the Abu Dhabi port on the other. You can find beautiful white sand beaches, turquoise water that rivals that of places in the Caribbean, perfectly designed pedestrian pathways, upscale restaurants served any type of cuisine at any hour, and some of the most glamorous hotels in the world.
We didn’t have coffee at the flat at that time because my fiancé was living like the ultimate bachelor. Seriously. One plate, cup, fork, and spoon were all that sat out on the counter and there were no pantry essentials to be found. Our first venture was coffee and tea at Jumeriah Etihad Towers hotel. You may have seen Vin Diesel drive a Ferrari through two of the buildings in the Fast and the Furious 7 movie. It’s spectacularly cosmopolitan and just, well, badass. We chose to enjoy our Arabic coffee out by the pool to enjoy some of the delightful morning sun. Keep in mind that the weather in February is extremely enjoyable and brings tourists from all over the world seeking the warm, dry climate. This particular day, I think the high was 30C (86F) and the low was 19C (66F). Perfect beach weather… for 2/3 of the year at least…
OH. Did I mention? We could have LIVED at Etihad Towers? We could have lived in a fully furnished and serviced apartment, with pool and spa access and everything. BUT NO! We had to be FOOLS and bring our cute and cuddly creatures, which makes it pretty dern hard to find housing.
After coffee, we strolled around the hotel a bit and then headed out to the magical land of Ikea. Every single time I go there, I swear that I’ll never return, but I don’t think I need to explain the urgency of this trip after I provide this photo:
We spent hours shopping, and I was all too happy to get back to the apartment to get ready for dinner! I didn’t know where Wade was taking me, but I found out as soon as the Uber pulled up to EMIRATES PALACE! Second to the Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque, this was the place that I wanted to visit the most. As a hotel and landmark that showcases the best that Arabic culture has to offer, it is the pinnacle of grandeur and luxury. The iPhone pictures below don’t do the place justice. It’s jaw-dropping and is a must-do when you visit Abu Dhabi. They even have a Gold ATM! Why is that necessary? Because we’re in the United Arab Emirates, that’s why!
We had reservations at Sayed, an upscale seafood restaurant. On Friday nights, they don’t have a menu. You simply walk in and choose from the selection of seafood brought in that day. The chef walks out and you tell him how you’d like it prepared. Once seated on the outdoor patio, we ordered wine (duh) and looked around. At 7:30pm, this place was empty. One thing that I've learned thus far is that the Abu Dhabi population is very nocturnal. As the last call to prayer plays throughout the city each night around 8:45pm, I know that it’s time for bed, yet I can see children riding their bikes on the sidewalk and families leaving their homes for dinner. It must be influenced by the heat of the summer in some way? Or maybe, Wade and I are just old farts.
Anyway, dinner was delicious: fresh, flavorful, and filling. The cherry on top of the meal, so to speak, was the complimentary chocolate seashell dessert they brought out after the table was cleared. It was the best treat for a confectionery nerd like me. I’ll have to learn how to do that one day!
After dinner we walked through the hotel to the Havana Club for libations and live music. We saw one glass of a 57 year old single malt scotch for 12,500aed (that's almost $3,500!!!!). I would hate to be working behind that bar lest I clumsily break something with that kind of value!!!! I should note here that hotels in the U.A.E. are a lot like those in Vegas in that each one has multiple restaurants, bars, and other amenities. Hotels are also the best bet if you’d like to grab an alcoholic drink, as most restaurants outside of the hotel only serve “mocktails” and nonalcoholic beer. Who has time for fake cocktails in life? Not this lady! Smelling like Cuban cigars and with full bellies, we left and took a cab home.
We had a pretty lazy day the next day, as I was at the height of my jet lag. We went to the grocery store, bought my new cell phone (most important thing, right?), set up a membership at this place called Gold’s Gym??? Never heard of it…
We had very tentative plans to go to the Abu Dhabi Air Expo that afternoon, which is apparently pretty cool. I’ll have to let you know how it is next year, as we decided to sit outside on our porch, have a glass of wine, as just relaaaax. I mustered up the energy to cook steaks for dinner before crashing HARD and waking up like sleeping beauty after the best night of sleep in my life!
My first weekend was an amazing introduction to the city of Abu Dhabi. This place is magnificent and has beyond exceeded my expectations. The next few years are going to be such an exciting adventure!
Do you guys have any burning questions so far? Anything you want to know about Abu Dhabi or our lifestyle here in the Middle East? I’m thinking that my next blog post will be an FAQ compilation, so go ahead and shoot.
(Goodbye in Arabic)