I love being surprised when I travel, and that’s what happened in Abu Dhabi. Because before I visited there on my trip to the UAE I guess my only real impressions of Abu Dhabi were a) it’s where the final F1 race of the season takes place (former F1 widow) and b) it’s where one of the worst movies ever made was set. No not One Day. Or 50 Shades of Grey. I mean Sex and the City 2.
But as soon as we arrived in Abu Dhabi I was impressed. It’s so elegant, it doesn’t have the construction sites of chaos of Dubai and there’s a really good atmosphere.
The first stop on our itinerary was the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, and for this all the women in our group had to don the hijab; the headscarf and the long dress. I was slightly apprehensive about putting it on, because I struggle with the concept that women should have to cover themselves and wear black (!) in very hot weather, while the men can roam around in white. What surprised me though was that it actually feels rather nice, in a kind of Carrie from Homeland kind of way; the only challenge, though, is walking in it, as it is rather long, and also recognising any of the other women you’re with, because they all look the same from the back. I also enjoyed looking like a photo from National Geographic, as one friend put it (although you can see how hot it was – nearly 40F – that’s salt on my lips!)
The Grand Mosque is absolutely breathtaking – so much marble and intricate mosaics, a stunning carpet and fabulous chandeliers, and it’s absolutely massive. It was well worth putting on the hijab to experience it, and I’m very glad I went.
Following lunch (hummus for me) we went to the harbour to board the Yellow Boat Company rib boat ride around the coastline . It was absolutely exhilarating – very James Bond. Unfortunately, impossible to take photos when you’re going so fast.
And then we headed to the Emirates Palace hotel for afternoon tea, where everything glittered, including the drinks and cakes. Here’s my cappuccino…
…and here are some cakes. Yes, they are all sprinkled with real gold leaf. You couldn’t make it up.
My impressions of Abu Dhabi were definitely good; it’s somewhere I wouldn’t mind spending a bit more time. Maybe at the Grand Prix 😉