I can still remember exactly what I was doing and what I was wearing when I heard the news. Every time I think of that moment, I get goose bumps and all the tiny hairs on the back of my neck stand on edge. Hearing that I would finally get to visit Abu Dhabi was a dream come true. I had been saving for this trip for quite some time because I knew that a trip to Abu Dhabi would not be the typical discount vacation. As you can imagine, I started packing right away and completed the task with weeks to spare!
Abu Dhabi is the capital of the group of countries known as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and is one of the most exciting places I have ever visited. While many are more familiar with its more flamboyant neighbor, Dubai, Abu Dhabi is the most populated country in the UAE. The population currently stands at little under 1.5 million people. It is often regarded as a playground for the rich, since many of the world’s wealthiest people call this city home. The boom in oil prices resulted in significant economic growth and many extravagant construction projects throughout the early 2000s.
While the country is still rather conservative, the current ruler has done much to relax regulations that would discourage tourism.
Why Abu Dhabi
I’ve always longed to visit this country because Abu Dhabi is one of the most tourist friendly destinations in the Middle East. Additionally, although the native language is Arabic, the representatives at most restaurants and attractions speak fluent English. This certainly made my life a lot easier. I was only able to master the basic greeting, “as-salaam-alaikum” and thank you, “shukraan.” Regardless of how little I knew, I was happy as a lark to show off what I had grasped.
I must admit that Abu Dhabi is not your typical destination. I was rather fascinated to see women and men in the traditional attire which covered them from head to toe. It was also shocking to see tourists interspersed among the locals dressed in their typical relaxed denim outfits. This one area where this country has encouraged tourism, since this type of attire was not always permitted. One rule that is still in force prohibits public displays of affection. Many find this hard to abide by but please be warned that this law is enforced very strictly.
There are also restrictions that seem to discourage the use of alcohol. This was a sore point for me but it did not ruin my trip. A special license is needed to purchase alcohol. Additionally, it is illegal to have alcohol inside a moving vehicle; it must be stored in the trunk until you arrive at your destination. Pork is also viewed as unclean and is thus not readily available. Again, this was not a major issue for me, but I can think of a number of my friends who would have serious reservations.
Observing the architecture was the most fascinating and exciting part of my trip. One unique feature of this amazing country is that no two buildings can look the same. The heat can become rather unbearable so great emphasis was placed on creating green spaces. Plus, there is a waterfall at each major intersection.
There are also many attractions to suite various pallets in Abu Dhabi. When I wasn’t distracted by exotic sky shiny scrapers, I visited the Emirates Park Zoo, the Murjan Splash water park, a few shopping centers to get souvenirs, and various high-end restaurants. The highlight of my visit was my desert camping trip to the Arabian Nights Village. We spent most of the night under the stars observing the wonders of creation. It was unlike anything else I have ever experienced and felt like I was in the middle of a very glamorous movie.
As you should know, Abu Dhabi is featured in many popular movies. Another exciting aspect of my trip was visiting the locations where a few of these movies were filmed. I have enough photos of iconic landmarks to brag all through winter. Some of these iconic locations include Etihad Towers, the Al Bahar Towers and the Al Jahili Forte.
It was also very exciting to be able to ride on a camel for the very first time. As you can imagine, I was a nervous wreck because these animals are pretty big. Thankfully, with a little help, I was able to mount the animal without any major incidents. For the record, riding a camel does not feel anything like riding a horse. If you are too scared to give it a try, you can opt to ride a horse instead. Camel racing tournaments and camel festivals are also popular attractions.
Visiting one of the wealthiest cities in the world certainly had its perks. I was finally able to visit the great Ferrari World! This one of a kind, theme park is filled with rides that were inspired by the glamorous vehicles. Imagine me smiling from ear to ear and screaming at the top of my lungs as I was finally able to ride the world’s fastest roller coaster; the Formula Ross.
In summary, a trip to Abu Dhabi is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. It may cost a little more than the average vacation, but it is unforgettable. You can visit the sites featured in many popular movies and perfect the art of riding a camel on the same day. There may be a few restrictions you would not experience elsewhere but these are minimally invasive and learning about them only adds to the intrigue of your trip.