I had a little bit of time on the way back from Borneo and Singapore, and I decided to drop in and see a friend in Abu Dhabi. I hadn't seen her in four years, since we worked at the same hotel in the US Virgin Islands. I enjoy maintaining friendships no matter how far apart they may be, it is important for me to show that I care and that I am committed. Also, it's a good way to see the world! When you have friends all over the world, it's good to use that as an excuse to check out a part of the world you might otherwise not have. In this case, I was able to go to Abu Dhabi for a couple of days, and see an amazing person at the same time.
Upon arrival, the heat was effectual right from the start, you can feel the wall of thick hot air as soon as you walk out of the airport. The day I landed, the high temperature for the day was about one hundred and eighteen degrees (forty eight Celsius) and humid. As I strolled out of the airport I was surrounded by many men asking me if I needed a taxi, and what type I was looking for. This is where I made my first mistake, and I'm still kicking myself over it, I got ripped off and knew it the whole time. A typical taxi into the city should cost about a hundred AED at the most, but mine charged one fifty and put another person in the car with me after repeatedly saying he wouldn't. I don't mind sharing a ride, but only if it is going to discount my cost, it didn't and I was the sucker. Take a normal taxi if you can, just wave them down and don't get caught up with one of those swindlers. A ride back to the airport from town will be cheaper, usually around sixty AED depending on where in the city you are staying. The other thing to note is they don't have Grab or Uber there like they do in Dubai, cash only taxi's are all that is offered, or Careem which is an expensive limo app. There are ATMs right as you walk out of the airport, so stop here and stock up if you have fees for each withdrawal. The ride takes about forty minutes if you are staying downtown, and make sure to screenshot your destination just in case the driver doesn't know where your place is, or which one you are talking about.
One big piece of advice I will give you, something that is probably common knowledge but just slipped my mind, don't go here in the summer!! If you can, do a winter trip and knock out Dubai and Abu when the weather is a tad more pleasant, summer is brutal. When I first posted my pictures on social media, most of my friends had the same observation, no people in the streets. Yes, the silly white guy was the only one walking around taking pictures in this atrocious heat, everyone else was at the mall or home comfy in their AC. I spent about forty minutes walking outside, and that was a stretch, it was almost unbearable but I had to push on through with my limited time there. I walked through Heritage Park, and then on to the waterfront which was lined with desert dunes on one side, and fishing boats along the Persian Gulf. It was a different site for me, I had always wanted to be in the Middle East, and see the Persian Gulf, being here for real was quite breathtaking. I spent some time admiring the sea, watching boats go by, and taking pictures in a shady spot that I had found until I had enough. Once I was finished I walked back to the Corniche neighborhood where my hotel was, and found a supermarket called Grandiose which had the necessary snacks for my room. One thing I noticed at night was that people really come out when the sun goes down. The trails were full of bikers, joggers, and roller bladers, and the beaches were full of volleyball games, frisbee, anything outdoors once it cools a bit.
That night I was supposed to finally meet up with my friend who I had flown all the way there to see but we had a snafu in meeting up and we had to postpone to the next day. Luckily I had backup plans, although the first one I wasn't so sure I would be able to carry out. That plan was to buy a bottle of wine, and stay in my room and have a little wine and get some photo editing and writing done, but finding take home wine would prove to be tricky. The middle east is mostly a "dry" section of the world, with many countries not offering any alcohol whatsoever, others only offer at restaurants and bars but not to take home. I scoured the internet looking for some answers of what I could do, and I came up with a solution and decided to give it a try. I found a store next to the bar I wanted to go to that was called "high Spirits," my kind of place! They had a wonderful selection of beers, spirits, and a decent wine selection as well. There are very very few stores like this, and typically they won't sell to non-locals, so there is a little trick you can use to get passed that. If you tell them that you live there and work for the Embassy they will sell you whatever you want. I snagged a bottle of red from Italy for around twelve US dollars, and proceeded back to my room for the night.
I returned to my room and poured a glass, and proceeded to get to work. My other backup plan also materialized at the same time, and I had to bail on my staying in night, but I'm very glad I did. My brother had a friend from college that had been living in Abu Dhabi for the last five years, and he was able to connect us with the wonders of modern technology (Facebook). He was free luckily, and wanted to take e out and show me the nightlife that the city had to offer. He came to my hotel, and we walked to a "western" bar across the street called Rock Bottom (I used to work at a brewery with the same name, so it had a certain charm for me). This place had an American cover band, cheap drinks, and apparently a lot of women of "negotiable affection" if you catch my drift. We had one drink there, and he wanted to move on and show me the real Abu Dhabi. He took me to a bar called "Asia de Cuba" which was a very nice place right on the beach. A reoccurring theme started here, which was them not letting me in with shorts on. This town is extremely strict with their dress codes, even though it's unbelievably hot outside, no flip flops, no shorts, and some places even require long sleeves as well. This happened at a few places before he decided to just take the long trip out to the well known Irish pub called McGettigan's which could care less what you are wearing. This place was crawling with westerners, loud music, tons of space, and random sports on TV. We had a corona and watched Korfball, ever heard of it? I hadn't either, it's like a combination of volleyball and soccer, very strange, but entertaining at least. After a lot of talking, and many beers, we decided to go for a nightcap a little closer to my hotel, guess where we went? Yeah, back to Rock Bottom where there were even more women of negotiable affection at this time, and the music was better with a little help from Carlsberg, Tiger, and Coffee Tequila...
The hotel I stayed at had a brilliant breakfast buffet which was mighty helpful the next morning as I was in dire need of something close to the breakfast I have at home. After breakfast I was finally lucky enough to be able to meet with my friend who I had flown all the way there to see. She works at the St. Regis and we were able to meet at the mall that is attached to her office (there are malls attached to everything there). Right next to her was the Nation Galleria across from the beach which was full of shops and restaurants. We walked around for a bit, and decided on LOL for lunch, also known as Leopold's of London, fantastic food with an amazing view. Then she took me on a wonderful tour of the St. Regis hotel, if you have it in your budget I would highly recommend staying there, it is one beautiful place in an amazing location. In addition to the strict dress codes across the city, any form of public affection is also banned. So after not seeing each other for four years, and saying goodbye till who knows when, we were not allowed to hug, which was quite troubling but such is Abu Dhabi.
I had a late flight, so I decided to leave a little early and hit a few spots on the way to the airport. I went to Emirates Palace, Etihad Towers, Corniche Beach, and walked around that area a bit before heading to the airport. Once at the airport I was told repeatedly by many that I would not be able to board the plane in shorts, so make sure you bring some long pants and long sleeves in your bag just in case.
I was there for one reason, and that was seeing my friend, and I also wasn't there for very long. If I had some more time I would have done a desert tour with camel riding, sunset, and traditional dinner in a tent. There is also dune surfing, ATV riding, and 4x4 trucks you can rent and tear across the desert in. When I return at the end of this year I'm looking to attend most of those, and possibly even drive up to Dubai for New Years Eve which is a big deal apparently, and only about an hour and fifteen minutes drive if you are okay with driving on the left. All in all it was a great experience, and I'm returning because I want to see my friend again, and I would love to experience all that UAE has to offer from the beach and sea to the desert, and I will make sure to bring pants this time.