Abu Dhabi is the capital of United Arab Emirates and second to Dubai as the most populous city of United Arab Emirates. It is the largest of the seven Emirates of UAE and that made me interested in visiting Abu Dhabi.
After the exhilarating skydive in Dubai, we took a road trip to Abu Dhabi. You can take the public bus, cab or the most expensive way of getting to Abu Dhabi via a private helicopter. Thanks to my bestie who drove us to Abu Dhabi, this probably is the cheapest way to go there.
We stayed at Aloft Hotel. It was a huge hotel located at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre. It is near airport as well so if you are in Abu Dhabi for business, this is one option where you can stay.
Aloft has a rooftop bar with a spectacular view of the city. It is best to have a beer or wine there at night.
The swimming pool is up to 10 PM so you can also have a night dip before heading up the bar to cool down.
Our very first agenda in the city is to visit the world renowned Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. This is the biggest mosque of the country and can accommodate 41,000 worshippers.
You will be directed by the guards on the process going inside the Mosque. You will pass through stringent security system. Bags are to pass through the xray. Men and women enter separately. They have available Abaya especially for people who are wearing shorts and sleeveless shirts. But in respect to the religion, one should wear modest clothes if you plan in going there. The Abaya’s available at the dressing rooms can be borrowed free of charge. I wore jeans and shirt that day but i wanted to experience wearing the Abaya.
You can explore the whole mosque by foot. There is a designated place for you to leave your shoes.
Here’s a photo tour of the Grand Mosque.
The construction costs 2 Billion Dirhams or 545 Million USD. It has intricate wall carvings and designs. I was in awe looking at the whole mosque.
The place was immensely beautiful and solemn. There were a lot of tourists when we went there but everyone was so respectful and well behaved. It added to the solemnity of the mosque.
Our next stop was to have a hearty lunch at Applebees. It is an American food chain. What i love about UAE is that they have so many food chains that can’t be found in Cebu and Applebees is one of them. It is so good to have some of my comfort food; Burger, Fries and Pasta. Prior to this day, we were binging on Middle Eastern food in Dubai for almost 3 days so this meal made me happy.
Desert Safari is famous here in United Arab Emirates and most people would do it in Dubai. But on our part, we did it in Abu Dhabi via Emirates Tours & Safari. It was ranked number 1 for outdoor activities. Though now, it has landed number 3 spot but they have the most number of reviews. It is an Abu Dhabi based travel and tours company which offers a whole lot of packages for those wanting to explore the city.
Part of the tour is the pick up and drop off at the guest’s hotel. They arrived on time at Aloft Hotel. Our adventure started at 3:30 PM with a first stop at the Camel farm where we got a close encounter with these huge yet gentle creatures.
And then they took us to Dune Bashing! Their driver was highly trained and even played cool music to make the adventure more intense. It was such a joyful and at the same time a nerve-wrecking experience. The driver skillfully maneuvered the 4×4 at the desert. It was extra fun because they do it in groups. We were around 12 cars doing the dune bashing and you’ll see the other cars do the dune bashing right before your naked eyes. Another item off my bucketlist!
Witnessed a beautiful sunset at Al Khatim Desert.
They then took us to the Arabic Camp.
We were welcomed with unlimited treats of Arabic Tea, Dates and Coffee.
The best dates i ever tasted! Fresh and warm dates, i think ate more than enough because it was really delicious. I was so full!
There are various activities that you can choose from when you are in the camp: Camel Riding, free usage of Arabic Costume, henna tattoo and Shisha smoking.
I roamed around the camp wearing their Arabic dress. It was so fun dressing up in a real desert.
My second favorite activity of the Desert Safari is the the Camel riding. Another first for me. We were ably assisted by the camp staff and the experience was really magical. Imagine riding a camel in the desert with an enchanting sunset as a backdrop with the love of your life plus some kind stranger offered to take your photos. Isn’t that perfect? 🙂 My heart was so full of gladness.
The camp is well-organized with specific booths for all the activities. Their staff are all helpful as well. They encourage everyone to experience what the camp has to offer.
At around 6:00 PM, buffet BBQ dinner was ready to be devoured by the guests. They serve delicious Arabic food.
While we had our dinner, we were entertained by a very beautiful Belly Dancer and a Tanoura Dancer. It made the experience more enjoyable. It was my first time to actually witness an authentic belly dancer and tanoura dancer.
We all enjoyed the night with unlimited food and drinks (except alcoholic drinks which are sold separately).
We ended the night with star gazing at the camp. They turned off all the lights and all we could see above us are the stars shining upon us.
They took us back to our hotel feeling very satisfied. It was a very memorable experience and truly one for the books. So many firsts!
We checked out early the next day since our agenda is city tour and head back to Dubai. It was more of a free day to explore more places in Abu Dhabi.
Our first stop was UAE Heritage Village. This is a beautiful village recreating an Emirati Village and their Bedouin lifestyle. Here you can experience the culture and history of Abu Dhabi prior to the oil boom. They have museum which interests most tourists as it features ancient memoirs of Abu Dhabi.
The handicrafts souk is very interesting. Each room offers different kinds of merchandise from copper, weaving, paintings, glass, silk, carpets, silver and my favorite genuine leather wallets, purses and bags. It was where i spent the most time checking out their hand bags. The leather smells so good. 🙂
At the back part of the village is a long stretch of white sand and turquoise beach. You can find several traditional dhows there. These are ancient two-masted boats used for trading.
There are restaurants in the vicinity too. This place is perfect for family outing. There is also a desert environment which mimics the Arabian Camp and with a camel as well. So children and adults alike can really enjoy too.
Entrance at Heritage Village is for free.
We took a short break at a local chain that we really like, Taza. They even have kabayan meal! Filipinos working in middle east are referred as “Kabayan”. During this trip, we met a lot of Filipinos working here. It is always nice to see your fellowmen anywhere in the world. I salute all of them working hard for the families they left in the Philippines. They truly are the Bagong Bayani’s.
We also had a quick visit at Emirates Palace, we intended to have a coffee break here. We heard the cafe here serves coffee with gold dust. Emirates Palace is a 5 star hotel where some scenes of the Fast and the Furious 7 movie were shot as well as The Kingdom movie. Christina Aguilera performed at this venue too on her Back To Basics Tour in 2008 which was attended by 15,000 people.
The coffee shop was full so we went to a mall nearby mall, Mushrif Mall to shop for Galaxy chocolates and have quick coffee and ice cream break before heading to Yas Marina Circuit.
In Yas Marina Circuit, if you are lucky, you might be able to see professional race drivers practice but not us. We plan to have a dinner here with a view of the Marina but all of us were still full. We just enjoyed the view and took a short walk around the vicinity. Such a relaxing place!
We headed tp The Last Exit to have dinner. It is a gourmet food truck fare with wide selection of food. There is also another exit at the other side of the road if you are going to Abu Dhabi. Both sides actually have this, to and fro Dubai or Abu Dhabi. We had authentic arabic shawarma to fill in our tummies and i failed to take a photo of it. Anyhow, it was really delicious and really different from the shawarmas in the Philippines. It has a more distinct arabic taste.
My Abu Dhabi adventure was truly memorable. As what i have said in my Instagram post a few days ago that what i enjoy most in writing blogs aside from helping friends and virtual friends in their travels is the fact that i get to re-live all the beautiful and bloopers of my trip. It’s like going back to the place again and reminisce and this time it is for free LOL. I would always end up stopping for a while and having a silly laugh all by myself. I hope all of you who are planning to go to Abu Dhabi will get to enjoy the place and the food and the people the way i did. Buzz me up if you need help in your trip, i might just give you dirham-saving tips. ♥