Caroline Visits Abu Dhabi
The first week of April, Caroline Wacker came to visit me here in the UAE, taking advantage of a break in her studies and an opening to book her on my VIP Gold Tour of the UAE. I was able to upgrade her package to the VIP Gold Princess Tour, so we were able to get the better hotel amenities.
Our first day was Sunday, with a guided tour of the Grand Mosque (see my earlier blog on the Haislip visit). As we all do when we visit this national treasure, Caroline was impressed with the architecture, the craftsmanship and the overall grandeur of this world landmark.
After a nice lunch at the Ritz Carlton (the property overlooks the Grand Mosque) we were off to the Falcon Hospital. I missed this opportunity on the last VIP Tour; this is a unique place to visit see and a real part of the UAE culture to see first-hand. This is the medical facility for the world’s hunting falcons. To say these beautiful birds are pampered would be a real understatement and you know this as soon as you enter the “waiting room” and see 20 or so falcons on their perches wearing their hoods. We saw a procedure on an anesthetized bird (general checkup, talons and beak trimming) and Caroline volunteered to feed another falcon. By feeding I mean perched on her arm while he crunches up a prepared quail. Quail is the main diet for the falcons as it turns out (there must a lot of quail farms around here).
Sunday was finished off with an elegant meal on the terrace at the Emirates Palace Hotel (highly endorsed by food critic L. Haislip of Monkton, Maryland).
Monday was off to an afternoon and evening trip to the Desert. The large dunes are truly beautiful and driving up and down them in a caravan of 4X4s is a roller coaster ride. After that thrill ride somewhere we came to a large camel farm and with it multiple photo ops (who doesn’t love camels?). Caroline found a friend who I think thought we might buy him (unfortunately zoning laws in Monkton do not allow). See Photo Album to see what I mean. The trip ended at a camp with camel rides (more camels) and an Arabic buffet dinner and belly dancing entertainment. Although a little “touristy” this is a must do trip when you come to the UAE.
Tuesday and Wednesday we spent in Dubai, staying at the Le Meriden Beach Resort on Jumeirah Beach. We started off the first day with a power boat cruise form Dubai Marina around the Palm Jumeirah (the artificial island shaped as palm fronds) which is most famous for the Atlantis Hotel, and from the ocean view is even more impressive. Then, of to shopping, Middle East style, at the Spice and Gold Souks along the original Dubai on Dubai Creek. See the Photo Album to see what I mean by Middle East style. After walking through most every alley and a stop for lunch we were able to actually buy a few things, spices, coffee and such and a few gold trinkets for the VIP Guest to take home. From what I can tell from visits to the gold Souk, beautifully done gold jewelry is less expensive then home simply because the labor cost is so much lower even though the price of gold (they use by the gram here) is consistent everywhere.
Our stay at the Le Meriden was very 5 star. Our rooms were elegant and hi tech at the same time. Tuesday evening had a special VIP Gold Tours extra with a Lamborghini ride for Caroline before our dinner. I have a colleague at ENEC who lives in Dubai near the hotel whose other car happens to be a powder blue 500 plus horsepower race car.
We took a beach day on Wednesday just enjoying the ocean breeze and the service (and a little time at the Spa just to maintain our pampered status). Dinner that night was at the Ossiano at the previously mentioned Atlantis Hotel. The attraction there is the dining room is surrounded by floor to ceiling windows to the aquarium. Interesting to order seafood as you watch sharks and rays swim by your table!
Thursday afternoon included a visit to the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, with its spectacular view from the outside observation deck on the 148th floor. The building actually has 163 floors. The VIP visit takes about two hours with plenty time to walk around two observation floors and shop as well. On the way out we had a late lunch at the Armani Hotel balcony and caught the Dubai Fountain show. As the Burj Khalifa is attached to the Dubai Mall, a little mall shopping was in order before we went the Mall of the Emirates to have dinner and to see Ski Dubai, the inside ski slope (see Picture Album). Mall of the Emirates claims to be the world’s biggest shopping mall, and with its own ski slope inside, I would suggest it meets the claim.
On Friday we woke up for our kayak tour of the mangroves and it was actually raining. It had rained several times this winter and this time in the early spring, rain here is such a rare occurrence, all of last year when had one day where it rained just for an hour. As it turned our it worked out great as no sun shine and cooler made our guided tour in the mangrove islands that line the shore just east of Abu Dhabi even better. Caroline and I applied our crew rowing skills (mine much more ancient than hers) to paddle among the beautiful trees and out to a small island during our 3 hour adventure.
Following lunch, a shower and a nap we were off to Yas island, home of the new mega mall (Yas Mall) and Ferrari World. Ferrari world is an inside amusement park just past the new Formula One racetrack. Caroline got to drive a new red Ferrari California convertible (with a real female Italian race car driver as an instructor). Oh, yeah with me crammed in what is called a back seat. They provided photos and a video (front and back) to take home, certainly a very unique experience.
Our last day, Saturday, was taken with a trip to Al Ain (see the Haislip Visit previous blog). For this trip we visited the two museums Al Ain is know for: The Sheik Zayed Palace Museum and the Al Ain National Museum. The nice part about visiting Al Ain is the contrast with Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Lots of green and older, low rise buildings. This is what the UAE looked like before the great building boom of the 1990’s through today in those two cities.
Sunday found Caroline off to the airport for the 14-hour flight home and me back to the office. Her comment card sent to VIP Gold Tours after she got home gave high marks in all categories and she highly recommends the trip.