After a 13 hour flight, Mindy and Ligeia arrived in Abu Dhabi. It didn’t take long to already experience kindness. After searching for the local bus to take to our hotel (Crowne Plaza), we discovered that we needed the A1 bus and it cost 3 Dirhams each. We got this information from a very friendly Sri Lankan who when we realized that they wouldn’t give change for a 20 Dirham bill…(you may want to sit down for this next part)…GAVE us 6 Dirhams so we could ride the bus! Unbelievable!
We learned several things right away. 1) The air is humid (and not dry as we anticipated with the dessert being all around). It turns out that Abu Dhabi’s proximity to the Gulf makes it humid. 2) Arabic is not the first language of the UAE; instead, it’s English. With 78% of the population being foreigners, mostly from Southeast Asia, everyone opens a conversation with English as most do not speak Arabic at all. Ligeia’s little bit of Arabic came in handy at immigration but that was about it.
Jetlag hit us rather strongly so we spent much of the first day awake at night and sleeping during the day. We did manage to walk around the town a bit, including at the Corniche which is right on the water. Along the way, we passed this entrance to a park:
The next day, we took a desert safari which spanned the afternoon and evening. We drove for about 45 minutes outside of Abu Dhabi and our first stop was at the edge of some dunes when the drivers let out some air out of the tires and opened the hoods to cool off the SUVs:
Our caravan first stopped at a camel farm. Many people in this region eat camel meat. Our driver, from India, said he does not like the taste:
After about an hour of what is called Dune Bashing, which was a bit like a roller coaster ride, we arrived at a beautiful place in the desert for pictures:
Having already tried on an abaya many times (she actually owns one thanks to a Saudi Arabian friend and former student) Ligeia really wanted to try on the men’s clothing. The man dressing everyone’s first response was “this is only for men”. When Ligeia insisted that she knew but wanted to try it anyway, he then said, “It is not allowed”. The third response was “If I allow you to try it on, all of the women will want to do it” to which Ligeia responded (always with a friendly smile), “wouldn’t that be wonderful”. Eventually her persistence paid off and she was allowed to try on a variety of tradition Arab men’s clothing. She felt like a prince: