Traveling the world, learning languages, and immersing myself in new cultures.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Abu Dhabi, UAE: New Year's 2013

Synopsis: I decide this year to go visit some family, who happen to be in the United Arab Emirates, with my parents.

Trip Overview:
Day 1: Flying out of Frankfurt on a 6-hour flight on Etihad Airlines, in economy class. Compared to every other airline, it felt like (almost) first class. I enjoyed the flight very much. We land at the Abu Dhabi airport to be greeted by Keith, the dad of my parents' godchildren, who hosted us during our stay. We drop our stuff off at the house and then head out to a golf course (where Tiger Woods is playing at in a few weeks) for dinner. There is live entertainment and the weather is amazing, even at night.

Thoughts: The family we are staying with are Keith, Jackie, Maya, and Darius (who is in college and didn't make it for Christmas). There is a lot of sand and nice cars everywhere. This is my first time in the Middle East, but my second time in Asia (Turkey).

Ready for takeoff


Where I slept in Abu Dhabi

Nice weather, nice food, and nice friends

Maya is still a ham

Day 2: Head to a brunch right across the marina from the Emirates Palace Hotel. This place is so nice and they have a chocolate fountain, crab legs, teppanyaki, steaks, and a bunch of other expensive gourmet food items, all in one convenient buffet. Time to make America proud. After immobilizing myself from excessive food consumption, we hang out for a bit, then head back to the house. Chilling out around the neighborhood and soaking up the culture and eating authentic Emirati food like Subway.

Thoughts: This is by far the most culturally shocking place I've been. This is also the second interaction I've had with a majority muslim country, but the first one where I got to experience the wealthy side of it.

Stop or ccccchkkkaaalaaallaama

Selling stuff at brunch

Beautfiul view and weather

Bout to get our grub on!

She begged me to let her take a photo with me with my camera and never see the photo again

Chez Phillips, where we stayed

They read from right to left

Jackie and Mom after a night walk

Day 3: After breakfast, we head to the store to pick up a few groceries. We then go pick up Maya's boyfriend, Raimundo, who hangs out with her the whole day. We head back to the house to drop off Maya and Raimundo, and then head to the Emirates Palace Hotel. We walk in and go around a bit and then after a brief scuffle with security, we end up getting a private tour of the entire hotel. Quite a hotel!  After we tour the hotel, we head out to the marina for a tour, and Keith sees a friend of his, who invites us on a yacht for drinks. All that was a full day tour, and then we head back to the house (unfortunately, not in a courtesy car).

Thoughts: Sometimes you forget where you are until you see a sign in a store that reminds you (see below). The tour of the hotel was amazing. It is ridiculous how much money is in one location! The marina was just an addendum to the excessiveness in the area. I did get to enjoy it though, so I aint complaining.

In the grocery store

Maya and Michael Yoûn… I mean Raimundo, her Italian boyfriend

At the Emirates Palace, they sell gold in a vending machine

Under the flag of the UAE

Veiw from the front of the Emirates Palace Hotel

Coffee with Head of Security

Floor upside-down L, please

Restaurant on the beach

Driver for our tour

Free camel rides on the beach

Sheikh Zayed's private entrace

Dad trying some exotic food

One of the 8 restaurants at the hotel

Time for the yacht tour
Inside the yacht

Night shot

My new Maybach (one of the hotel's courtesy cars)

Day 4: New Year's Eve and we head to Dubai. As we drive away from Abu Dhabi, the imported trees and grass disappear, as Abu Dhabi is the wealthiest emirate, and can afford greenery. We check into our hotel before going to a resort, where we enjoyed our new year's celebrations. We got a balcony view over the Persian Gulf to see the Burj Al Khalifa, where the fireworks show will be. We have access to a gourmet buffet with many delicacies, for the next 3 hours. Time to get fat!

Eating is all done, now time to enjoy the fireworks show. This thing is long! And amazing. Happy New Year 2013!

Thoughts: My new year's resolution is to become a sheik!

Me and Maya P


What fruit is that?

The party go-ers

Our view of the Burj Al Khalifa, where we watched the fireworks

A chef in front of his masterpiece

Day 5: Wake up and go enjoy breakfast before checking out and then heading to the Mall of the Emirates. We drive by the Burj Al Khalifa that we saw last night during the firework show. In the mall, we see a fully functional indoor ski resort, complete with tubing and skiing and snowboarding. Amazing, I'm sure, for people who only see sand year round and very limited rainfall. After hanging out at the mall, we head back to Abu Dhabi and the house. The rest of the day is a lazy day and we eat a few times. Then sit in front of the tv and watch some college bowl games and relax and hang out before going to bed.

Thoughts: Again, I am resolving to be a sheik! Dubai is a really nice place to visit, but not sure if I would want to live there. Outside the major metropolitan area, there isn't much to see or do. Plus, it is fairly expensive, so until I'm a sheik, its probably not a financially feasible place to stay.

Just a few of hundreds of skyscrapers

The 7-star Burj Al Arab

You can ski inside the mall!!!

Day 6: Flying home after a great vacation.

Thoughts: A full day of flying, yay. Etihad makes it less painful, though.

Flying home

Final Thoughts: Definitely a unique vacation and a unique place to visit. I really enjoyed the stay, and the Phillips were excellent hosts. The uneven distribution of wealth is typically apparent in every country, but I didn't see much of the have-nots on this trip. However, the wealth here is much more apparent, via physical things like cars and houses and yachts, than I've seen in most European countries. Now, to research how one goes about becoming a sheik.

Location: Abu Dhabi - United Arab Emirates


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