I apologize for the delay in publishing this post as I didn’t have much time to write and I knew this was going to be a long one. Anyway, here’s the second leg of our UAE trip last November. I wrote about the Dubai stretch in this post.
We made our way to Abu Dhabi by bus from Dubai. It was a dusty morning as usual, but the cool breeze made it bearable to stand in the queue. Since I had stayed in the UAE for a few months some years ago, I had anticipated that the females will again stand before the males when boarding the bus. I didn’t see that this time. However, there were still two queues: one for families traveling together, or individual females, and another for single males. We stood in the first line but that did not mean that we all went up the bus first. We were split up in batches so that people from both queues get to secure seats. Inside the bus, a man still could not sit beside a woman unless she is his wife or family, or if they are both Filipino (at least it certainly seemed that way).
I was surprised to find that there was free wifi on the bus and while I was tempted to browse the internet during the 2.5-hour trip, I settled on listening to my Spotify playlist instead. The stretch of desert land between Abu Dhabi and Dubai was almost gone, and replaced with industrial zones and huge billboards advertising soon-to-be-built hotels and resorts. As if they didn’t have enough.
Abu Dhabi is a lot different from Dubai. Not a lot of skyscrapers around and there is this provincial feel to it. I immediately felt nostalgic upon seeing familiar structures. We took a taxi from the bus stop to our hotel and then headed down a few blocks to rent a car. My sister still knows her way around after being gone for a couple of years.
Our first trip was to the Abu Dhabi Car Museum. It houses a collection of vehicles owned by the Sheikh – and boy was it a collection! Not a lot has changed since my first visit here a few years ago. The husband was overjoyed.
We then headed out to make our way to the famed Qasr Al Sarab Resort. It is literally an oasis in the middle of the desert and it was taking ages to reach it. The scenic route was lovely though – the color of the sand changed the farther we went.
Occasionally we would pass through a small town and then it would be desert again with hardly any people on the road, except a scatter of camels.
We saw the sign for the resort and immediately got too excited, only to find out we would have to drive another 10 kilometers into Liwa desert. At least we would still be traveling on paved roads. This was the first sign that we were close.
Another two kilometers and we were finally there! It was past 12 so we were famished, but had to marvel at the view. The sight was fantastic. It was how I would imagine an oasis would look like. I felt so blessed to be there.
It wasn’t so much as the inside of the resort that awed me but the fact that it was literally in the middle of the desert. It was a wild experience.
The sunset was beautiful of course. I had never seen the sun so big.
And sand so red. I was tempted to walk barefoot in it but was too self-conscious.
The long trip was so worth it. It felt like we were on a totally different planet. I almost did not want to leave!
The moon followed us on our way back to Abu Dhabi and it was eerie but still magical.
Our next trip was surprisingly only within the city but we never went when I was still working there. It’s the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque – and by grand it is definitely Grand. Since it is a mosque, the ladies were all required to be covered using the ‘abaya’, the word for cloak or over-garment in Arabic. Abayas are free to borrow, and there is no cost to enter the mosque.
The mosque was commissioned by the late Sheikh of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Zayed, to an Italian company. The design was mostly Persian-inspired and the construction materials were shipped from different countries including Europe and China. It is said that the carpet used is the largest in the world.
It was the last stop on our trip to Abu Dhabi and headed back to Dubai the next day. Between the two, I like Abu Dhabi better. I guess it’s because life is just generally more laid-back there.