We were always curious to know what the United Arab Emirates would be like. Luxury and ostentation are the first things that come to mind when we think of this country.
So, we decided to take advantage of an overnight layover on our way to the Maldives to get to know the UAE capital: Abu Dhabi.
Our flight landed at Sheik Zayed International Airport at around 7pm. Since our next flight was only leaving in the early morning, we took advantage of the visa exemption to enter the UAE. We decided to rent a car so our schedule would be freer and so we could make the most of our short visit.
When we left the airport terminal, we were hit with an intense heatwave! Since the city is so close to the desert, it’s not unheard of for temperatures to reach 45ºC (113F) regularly.
The highway connecting the airport to the city center was clearly new and was almost without a bend, using only palm trees as separators between the two directions of traffic. It’s very easy to drive here.
Everything is new and built to impress. On this short route (which takes just 20 minutes), mosques, condos, resorts and private clinics are undoubtedly the architectural pride and joy of the city.
The Sheik Zayed Mosque is located halfway into the city center and it’s the Abu Dhabi’s most impressive landmark. Even if you’re just coming into the city to admire this view, it will be worth it. Tall white domes that remind you of the Taj Mahal and its astounding size make this the largest mosque in the Arab world. We were disappointed to not be able to visit its interior but the mosque was already closed at that time.
We continued on our way headed now to the Abu Dhabi marina and we couldn’t help but notice all the Ferraris, Maserati and Aston Martins that we came across on the road. This was the UAE just as we had imagined them.
Once at the marina, we had planned to have dinner at Vasco’s – a restaurant serving Portuguese delicacies with a name that honors the great discoverer Vasco da Gama. Unfortunately, the restaurant was close – but we ended up being pleasantly surprised the Arab restaurant next door!
It was Ramadan and, at this time, Muslims are only allowed to eat after sundown. For any restaurant, at that time of night, this meant they could expect a full house!
At the restaurant, everything left us feeling in awe. The entrance hall was decorated in a traditional décor with Persian rugs that created an atmosphere that reminded us of a desert tent. With some Arab music being played by a live band and everybody celebrating inside, we felt like we were back in Portugal!
Pita bread, olives with spices and lupins were our entrées. We then tasted a traditional dish with honey and a chicken wrap. We didn’t smoke shisha because we don’t particularly like it, though that didn’t stop the waiters from persisting with their impeccable service that showed their amazing Arab hospitality.
With our stomachs full and completely satisfied with our dinner, we walked around the city and headed to the Etihad Towers (the famous towers featured on Fast & Furious 6).
Right next to them is the Emirates Palace, an extremely luxurious palace that we wanted to stop at for coffee. Unfortunately, we were not allowed inside because André was wearing shorts and so we were a bit disappointed.
Nevertheless, we took some time to relax and returned to the airport feeling like we had lived a good adventure in just a few hours!
Abu Dhabi is a city in constant change. Here, everything is new – everything comes from nothing to transform into something amazing. We know that when we return, everything will be different and new attractions will be there for us to visit.
Have you been to Abu Dhabi? What was your favorite moment in this luxurious city?
honeymooners, Abu Dhabi 07/2015