My good friends from Maryland, Carol and Larry Haislip, visited me the first week of March. I assumed my role as owner operator of VIP Gold Tours, LLC and we had a terrific time. We had talked about them visiting before Laura and I left
last year and I am so glad they were able to make it happen.
They had an excellent flight over on Etihad (World’s rated No. 1 airline) and stayed their first night at The Jumeirah at Etihad Towers on the Corniche, and then stayed at the
Emirates Palace Hotel the rest of their stay. The Emirates Palace lived up to its reputation as one of the world’s finest hotels (see photo album for some of the exquisite luxury features in this amazing hotel).
We did some local tours in
Abu Dhabi including the heritage village, the Marina Mall and Yas Island and on Sunday took in the Grand Mosque. They got to go to the Falcon Hospital while I was diverted for a must-do work item. As always, the Mosque impresses everyone who sees
it, a truly beautiful architectural wonder. Carol and Larry highly recommend the Falcon Hospital tour and I plan to go myself soon. This a unique facility and caters to the Falcon owners around the world. In some case the birds are brought
in on business jets or Business Class on Etihad to receive treatment!
Monday was our day in the desert, and all day trip deep into the Liwa desert, one of the largest in the world, with 100-300 meter sand dunes, and completely isolated except for the
occasional oil-drilling site. On the way out we stopped at a car museum started by a wealthy Sheik years ago. There is no way to describe this example of incredulous personal wealth. In one section he had a series of Mercedes, one of every color
in the rainbow, bought for one of his wives! One of those you-have-to-see-it- to- believe-it places. After a number of hours, close to Saudi Arabia, we had a roller coaster ride in the Land Cruiser up and down the dunes finally ending up at a small
As we returned from the Liwa we went by the Qasr Al Sarab Resort to take a look for a possible future visit. This is a 5 star resort completely alone way out in the desert. It is a true get away from it all location with amenities
upon amenities and famous for the sunsets and the stars in the blackest of night skies.
That evening we had a nice Dinner cruise on a motorized dhow to see Abu Dhabi from the water. When you see this beautiful city along the water, you always
have to remind yourself that none of it existed 40 years ago, most of it not even 15 years ago.
Tuesday we were off to Dubai. A beautiful day started with a crewed motorboat cruise from Dubai Marina to the Palm Jumeirah artificial island (shaped
like multiple palm tree fronds) where the famous Atlantis Hotel commands a total view of the Arabian Gulf. Along the way we got a close up of the Ruler of Dubai’s private yacht, 3rd longest in the world and his new palace, equally impressive.
The cruise was capped off with a view of the Burj Al Arab Hotel, built in the shape of a spinnaker sail on its own island and a run on the canal behind the Jumeirah beachfront buildings. Here was a close up view of the innovative and unique architecture
that buildings in Dubai are famous for.
Next was a must stop in Dubai, the Spice and Gold Souks (markets). They are located in the old part of Dubai, along Dubai Creek. A shopper’s bonanza, as long as you are ok with haggling
over prices and willing to enjoy the art of bargaining. As it turns out, Larry loves spices and incense and he found all he could want including frankincense and myrrh with great expectations of recreating the fragrances of churches in his family room.
Carol found (and successfully bargained for) some nice pieces of gold jewelry for their daughters, and I found a good deal (?) on fresh Arabian and Turkish coffee beans. After a very relaxing lunch at an Indian restaurant on a back street we were off
to Dubai Mall to see among other things, the ski slope inside the mall (yes we were in the UAE).
On the way to the mall we stopped at the Dubai Museum. This is a very well done museum, simple and unassuming; the exhibits tell the
story of the early history and rapid development of Dubai and the UAE. After the mall visit and some driving around Dubai center to see more examples of innovative building architecture we returned to Abu Dhabi and the luxury of the Emirate Palace Hotel,
ending a wonderful tour day with brandy and cigars at the Havana Bar.
Our last full day, Wednesday, included a trip inland to Al Ain (the Spring City), which is the original city of the old pre-UAE with an oasis and palm tree farms. Before
the UAE was founded, the families generally travelled from Al Ain to Abu Dhabi twice a year, the winter in Abu Dhabi for fishing and pearl diving and the summer in Al Ain for farming and some relief from the intense heat.
Al Ain remains in the
pre boom style, no big towers and monster malls. A much simpler live style is evident there. There are some excellent museums in Al Ain and we spent some time at the Sheik Zayed Palace Museum. This is was the palace of the founder of
the UAE, Sheik Zayed, from 1936 until 1962. The grounds are tastefully done, and all of the buildings are understated, it is more of a functional home then an exorbitant palace.
A nice, very local, lunch we just found off of a side street
(“this looks like it might be ok”) was followed by a trip to the other side of Al Ain to the last remaining camel farm in the UAE. We all just loved this visit, camels and more camels, including newborns and racing camels. The local
wranglers were helpful and set up some nice photo ops for us. After our return to the hotel we enjoyed a late dinner on the beach, with impeccable service and views of the city and the Presidential Palace across the bay.
Carol and Larry left for
4 days on the Seychelles off of India while the owner operator of VIP Gold Tours; LLC uploaded pictures and prepared for the next adventure.
They came back through Abu Dhabi for one night where we had dinner at their hotel, the Viceroy, which
sits over the Formula One race circuit on Yas Island. Our review of their trip indicated that it was an outstanding success, and in fact, there was serious talk of returning next year!