Today after my first flight touched down, I booked it to get through customs and put my carry on luggage in storage so that I could get a few hours in the Abu Dhabi! Subtle brag – all of these pics are mine, zero are stock photos. Of course the quality is probably due to a) my camera and b) how gorgeous the mosque is but not c) the skill of the photographer, but still I’m so happy with how crisp these came out.
Unfortunately, Ramadan started yesterday(like of course during my one free mini-trip). I don’t know the religious context specifically but Muslims don’t eat, drink, or even smoke during Ramadan(source: attractive French-Moroccan waiter who I used to work with). In Abu Dhabi, this is taken very seriously, and NO ONE can eat, drink, or smoke in public during Ramadan. This happens to take place for an entire month, an entire month that just so happens to be one of the hottest of the year. Today I was running around in 108 degree weather, and couldn’t drink water publicly due to high risk of arrest.
Aside from not eating or smoking, and being banished to the cesspools known as public bathrooms to get a drink of water, Ramadan presents one other issue. Most of the souks(local markets) and restaurants are closed during the day. I was especially sad about this because apparently Abu Dhabi has an entire souk designated to just different types of dates, and seeing as I was only aware of 2 kinds(of the Tinder variety and the type you consume) I found this especially intriguing. Apparently the real party starts after sundown, but unfortunately I had to be back through security at the airport by then. All of the fun stuff starts with Iftar, the feast that breaks the fast at sundown, and all the souks open up after nightfall during Ramadan.
But on a more cheery note, I DID get to see the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque(before it also close early for Ramadan), which is what I was really excited to do. Abu Dhabi doesn’t have very many tourist attractions right now, and the mosque has only been around since 2008, it was created to celebrate the unity of the different Islamic countries. And WOW it puts Jasmine’s castle to shame, it’s stark white and breathtakingly gorgeous.
Photo credit: MEEEEE! I’m super proud of this bad boy taken on MANUAL not auto, so let me bask for a moment
BONUS: Not only did I have to cover my head(which I had mentally prepared for and had a cute light pink scarf on hand for the occasion), I had to wear a ~fun~ full-body burqa type get up to cover myself provided by the mosque(I apologize for the political incorrectness, I don’t remember the proper word). So basically I was running around the mosque in a black hooded robe, very Harry Potter gone Bollywood.
The robe of shame.
I LOVE tea. And Abu Dhabi being a popular stop for many elderly British travelers, many of the 5 star hotels serve a mean high tea. I picked the Shangri-La Residence to pop into for tea and water after sweating out half my weight at the mosque, which also closed early at 2, another shout out to Ramadan. It really hit me that I’m not in Kansas anymore once again when I had to pay for a bottle of water instead of being presented with an oversized vase of icy agua. It is normally a slight faux pas to whip out your fat camera and start snapping pics in t 5-star hotel, so I tried to sneakily nab some pics of the decor.
I definitely stood out like a sore thumb, I was the only person under the age of 50 who wasn’t either a) there on business or b) a British citizen in Abu Dhabi on holiday. But I didn’t care, I lapped up my oolong and ice water like I owned the place. The hotel itself was something to see, it was absolutely stunning, and what I imagine Samantha and the other Sex in the City gals would’ve crashed in had they actually been in Abu Dhabi.
I tried to sneak a few incognito pics without making it obvious that I was an imposter, as I needed the valet to call me a cab still so that I didn’t die in the desert heat.
After having my fears confirmed by the valets that the souks were closed until sundown I put my tail between my legs and grabbed a cab back to the airport, where I currently am now. Shocking the Abu Dhabi during Ramadan during the hottest month of the year is a ghost town, really. In retrospect I could’ve gone to one of the malls, as they’re supposed to be insane(literally a couple have ATMs that dispense gold bars), but something about the word “mall” really turns me off when traveling. On the plus side, I was able to crank out this post STAT!
A side note about Middle Eastern countries, specifically in the United Arab Emirates – just because they are in the Middle East does not mean they are dangerous. When I told everyone I was popping into Abu Dhabi for half a day they were all “OMG DO YOU HAVE A DEATH I DON’T EVEN THINK WOMEN CAN SHOW THEIR FINGERNAILS IN PUBLIC” when in fact, Abu Dhabi was rated as one of the safest countries to travel to in the world. The poverty rate is extremely low, and this specific region of the Middle East houses some of the richest countries in the world. They don’t call it “Arab”money for nothing. As long as you respect their religion and customs, you’re gucci. And if that’s too emotionally demanding, you probably shouldn’t be traveling in the first place.
Also sad news, the McD’s in Abu Dhabi is pretty boring. Aside from a Snicker’s McFlurry & some other unidentifiable McFlurry, the menu looks American. I was expecting some kind of curry or veggie burger at the bare minimum. I usually check out McDonald’s in different countries for entertainment. In Paris they had macarons and “The Chicago Burger” which I still haven’t figured out because Chicago doesn’t have a signature burger?
Thanks for reading!