United Arab Emirates – Abu Dhabi

Monday, Jan. 6, 2013

Either too much Panadol or just a turn for the worse on the flu front made for a pretty crap morning for me. Poor James was trying to help any way that he could, but it was one of those times when all you want is to go home and go to bed and sleep it off. Not exactly an option, so instead we carried on with the plans for a three hour bus ride to Abu Dhabi.

Our Lexus taxi drove us to the metro, which we took to get to the bus station. We boarded the bus to Abu Dhabi. I sat in the front seat for easy emergency front door exiting, and although James tried to sit beside me, he wasn’t allowed to sit in the front so he was moved by the driver to the back.

The bus arrived in Abu Dhabi around 1 p.m. We hailed a cab to Cristal Hotel. Just 10 dirhams later we had a bellboy trying to figure out how to help with our backpacks. The staff were once again exceptionally friendly and sweet.

Our room was absolutely awesome. Pillows, towels, sheets. All these luxurious things making it impossible to decide if you want to watch TV, shower, or sleep first or all at the same time.

We were momentarily distracted by all of these pretty things until we realized it was raining and I still was sweating buckets with a flu that no longer seemed to be responding to meds.

After a bit of bumming around and motivational speaking to ourselves, at 4 p.m. we got a cab to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

Do you imagine that “one place” you will “one day” go? We all have one, some crazier than others, but most with no particular reason behind our motivations to one day find ourselves there. The place you keep in the back of your mind, or a picture you keep in that box of “junk.” But then we all have that tiny realistic bit of left-brain doubt – the “it’s never going to happen” thoughts that shatter the fantasy-like idea. You settle with the idea that this place will always be a dream. A picture. An idea. A top item on the bucket list.

This mosque has always been “that” place for me. And today was “that” day.

We arrived, and as soon as the cabbie slowed to stop I was jumping over James, which I am sure is not culturally sensitive or appropriate. After tumbling out of the cab and apologizing to the driver I booked it out of the parking lot.

I was so incredibly excited and all of the sudden had enough energy to realize what the heck was happening.  I swear things like this awaken the youth that can be squashed by boring trash we collect in our lives.

I quickly threw a scarf over my head, rolled down my sleeves and zipped right past the group of women sitting this attraction out because they chose to wear daisy dukes and tube tops.

On that subject: Seriously, girls? You are a guest in their country. Respect them, their culture, their tradition. Please don’t you dare show up at the most sacred mosque in their country with your pale butt cheeks oozing out of your booty shorts because you think you are doing them a visual favor. Its absolutely offensive. And I am so glad they hire a squad of about two dozen people to stop you from enjoying something as significant and sacred as a place like this because although the things busting out of your little number suggest otherwise, clearly you aren’t mature enough to understand the importance of respect. Okay, got that covered.

I can’t explain what it felt like to be at the Grand Mosque. The best I can do is say that it is that overwhelming feeling when you aren’t sure if you are in between a dream and reality, and you really don’t care which it ends up being. The feeling when you are in awe that you can’t speak so your throat swells up and you confuse it with the feeling like you are going to cry. Its powerful and crazy, and I absolutely love it.

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Call me a crazy high-fevered hippie, but the energy is completely captivating, consuming, crazy and real.

If I had to pick a moment on this trip that means most to me, this was it.


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Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2014

It was raining again, so we spent a few hours pacing around the room wondering if we should proceed and try to see Abu Dhabi or forget it.

Forget it.

By 2 p.m. we packed and got ready for our Emirates Desert Safari. We were going on a half day safari tour in exchange for creating videos and photos.

We were picked up at 3 p.m. and drove in our Lexus Land Cruiser 40 minutes to the desert.

At the point where the black pavement meets orange sand, the driver got out and released air from the tires. He put the beast into four-wheel drive and we warmed up to dune bashing.

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We were let out at a camel farm for a few minutes.

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Then we were back in the car and told to put on our seat belts.

We went dune bashing and it was crazy. I’ve done quad-biking and dune buggys, but mobbing around the raw desert in a freaking Lexus? At one point I turned to James and asked seriously, “Does he roll the car?”

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We ended up at camp where there was an abundance of things to do. Coffee, tea and dates were served while people enjoyed camel riding, quad biking, sand surfing, tradtional dress costuming, henna painting and shisha smoking. We ran around and did what we do – take photos and capture video.

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/85611199″>Emirates Tours</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/away2travel”>James McIntosh</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

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We had fun. This is what we love to do, and being able to do it for a company is a perfect fit for us.

It rained a bit, but not enough to spoil the tour. There was belly dancing at about 7 p.m. and just before 7:45 p.m. we made our way out of the isolated camp in the middle of the desert and back to the vertical city of Abu Dhabi.

We had big plans to see the Emirates Palace Hotel and get cocktails at one of their upity bars or lounges. In the back of both of our minds we knew we were in two nights time heading straight in the bowels of India. No more pillows, white towels, clean water. So we asked each other what to fill the evening with, both hoping the other would say “nothing but enjoy the hotel.”

Somehow we both got that impression, and that’s what we did.

We watched James Bond in arabic and drank tea all night in our massive hotel room and loved every second of it.

Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014

The bus took us back to Dubai, where we checked into our new hotel, Ibis. As much as we loved the Ramada, they were booked out so we had to cheat on them with these Ibis guys. They sucked massively.

Since the weather and hotel were crap, I took the excuse to go entertain myself at the Mall of the Emirates. I spent a few hours in the chair of a hairdresser in the mall getting a few inches of my lovely little locks chopped off before strolling around and heading back to meet with James.

James and I ended up heading back to the Mall of Dubai where we went to the grocery store and again got dinner (breakfast and lunch) supplies and then headed out to watch the fountain, four times.


We sat on the stairs and watched all of the rich tourists entertain us until midnight when we decided to head back.

Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014

We were up super late the night before emptying out our backpacks since we were headed to India and a massive climate change warranted a few kilo loss from our packs. We ended up shipping three separate packages home (for some reason you can only send 2kg packages at a time to the US from UAE).

We finished packing our 10kg packs and headed out to the metro to catch our 12:15 p.m. flight to Mumbai.

One thought on “United Arab Emirates – Abu Dhabi

  1. what did u guys do about the flu!! how are u covered for medical expenses etc, on your trip? just curious how this works! great pix 🙂

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