I didn’t expect much coming to Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Big buildings and fancy things don’t impress me much…. so I thought. I stayed with Arianne, my old roommate from Vegas. It was so nice to see a familiar face and catch up. Driving through Abu Dhabi reminded me of a major US city but cleaner and with less traffic and less people.
We went into Dubai the next day and ate lunch by the beach. It was a beautiful little spot decorated in white and blue. We talked about the last three years of our lives that we spent apart. It is crazy how so much changes, but friendships can pick up right where they left off. Arianne had to work that night, so I decided to explore her neighborhood. I found a cute fruit and veggie store and loaded up for the week. I spent about $10 here for what I would have spent $50 back home at Whole Foods. I really need a garden!
The next day we relaxed and went to dinner with Arianne’s friend, Alex. We met at the St. Regis, a beautiful resort, and walked along the beach to the restaurant Beach House. The sand was cold between my toes and the beach breeze even colder. It reminded me of winter back home, and I was sad to be missing the entire season. Sometimes I look forward to getting cold and long to play in the snow. Dinner was delicious, and I noticed how friendly the staff is everywhere I went. They were attentive, friendly, and always offered suggestions and options. I was definitely out of Africa!
Arianne and I visited the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque the next day. I kept telling Arianne how peaceful this city seems, but the mosque took it to the next level. The white tile floor set the tone for the patterns, pillars, and the temple built on top of it all. The blue sky gave he perfect backdrop for the white mosque and somehow made it appear even whiter, brighter! Prayers were played on the speakers throughout the temple as we roamed around inside. My favorite part was a wall, which the many names to describe God. There is one left blank in the middle to represent another name that we can’t even fathom to describe God. This really spoke to me as I reflected on all that God is to me.
That night I went to grab dinner by the beach and work on my blog. I Skyped my family, smoked some hookah (very big in the Middle East), and wrote away. On my way out, a gentleman stopped me and apologized for his friends being loud. He introduced himself as Jim and made small talk for a minute. I was heading to where Arianne works and so were these guys. Jim was from Lebanon and lived in Texas for a few years. We chatted about the states and the Middle East. He and his friend, Wassim, offered to take me to a nice Lebanese dinner the following night since I had never experienced authentic Lebanese food. I was skeptical, but I agreed to meet them.
They picked me up the next night, and we headed to eat. We went to a lovely place by the water and sat on the patio. They ordered a bunch of food I have no idea how to pronounce. Some of it reminds me of Mediterranean food (hummus, olives, grape leaf wraps, kebabs), and some is unlike anything I have seen or tasted. Jim dished me up and told me what to dip in where. Lebanese food might just be my new favorite. It was close to the best meal I’ve ever had. Jim and Wassim are really down to earth guys, and offered to show me around when I got back from Dubai.
I met up with my friend Ita (who lives in Dhabi, but I met in the states) after dinner to head to Dubai for two nights. He was living in Dubai but came to Abu Dhabi for the International Dance Festival. Yes please!!!! We went to the top of this beautiful hotel and saw all these people in salsa attire. I danced with so many amazing people from all over the world spinning me, teaching me, and moving all over the floor. Dancing frees my soul. Music speaks to me and I can’t help but move. I could have danced all night, but around 3:00 am we decided to make the hour drive to Dubai.
The next morning, Ita showed me all over the city. I’m not a big mall person, but their mall is pretty amazing. It has an ice-skating rink, a waterfall, an aquarium, a ski slope, and a kids adventure land. We later had lunch at Atlantis on The Palm (a man-made island that looks like a palm tree from the sky). Everything is grand there. He took me to several hotels just to see the picturesque pool, elegant lobby, or beautiful water fountain entrance. I am not one who is impressed with fancy things, as previously stated, but I was in awe of this place. Every place we went was majestic. The staff everywhere was overly friendly and professional, and every place was so clean! I literally felt comfortable dropping my gum on the floor and putting it back in my mouth, but this is also coming from a girl who eats sun-heated street food. We swung by the world’s tallest building and finally sat down to dinner where I had the best scallops I’ve ever tasted. This place was growing on me. Out of everything I saw, my favorite was a street with all the trees wrapped in lights. It’s so romantic…. fountains, twinkling lights, and great weather.
Jim and Wassim were heading to Dubai the next morning to go shooting with a couple of their friends and offered to give me a lift back to Abu Dhabi. I thanked Ita for everything he did for me. He was such a gracious host and really went out of his way to show me Dubai. The guys picked me up, and we headed into the desert to go shooting. We, of course, ate an amazing Lebanese seafood dinner (on the twinkling light street) after being at the range. I was supposed to go out with Arianne’s roommates that night, so we booked it back to Abu Dhabi.
I went out with the girls to some club and danced for a while but was really worn out from lack of sleep and being on the go. We left the club and went to relax at another friend’s place. I was sitting on a chair when a guy walked in the door that I had briefly met at the club. He gave me a strange look, walked over to me, and grabbed my hand. He said he had something for me, and his hand was very warm as he began to tell me things about myself. His hand kept getting hotter as he spoke, and he dropped my hand to shake his out before asking me if I wanted him to continue. I told him yes. “Are you sure? I know some personal things,” he replied. I nodded. After that he stated some very specific things he had no way of knowing about me. He told me emotional and physical issues, one being something with my stomach. He gave me a little advice, and then turned to his friends as if nothing had happened. I wrote his words down so I could remember and also to see if what he said was true. Some was, but I guess time will tell the rest!
The next few days consisted of exploring with Arianne during the day and eating dinner with Jim and Wassim at night. Abu Dhabi is a little gem. As I mentioned earlier, it is just so peaceful. I could walk around in the middle of the night alone and be perfectly safe. It felt so freeing to wander around aimlessly after being in Africa where I couldn’t. I spent this time going to the waterfront and planning my trip to Jordan and Israel. I hadn’t booked anything yet when my friend, Cynthia, mentioned I should visit her in Singapore. I looked at flights and booked one leaving in a couple days.
My last night in Abu Dhabi, I went to the beach to watch the sunset. Arianne kept telling me about how huge the desert sun is there when it goes down and somehow I kept missing it. I walked on the beach and thought about what my life would be like if I moved here. It is actually a place I wouldn’t mind being if the right opportunity came along. I wouldn’t want to live there long term, but it was something to think about. The bright orange sun reflected in the ocean as it sank into the earth. I said goodbye to Arianne at work, and Jim gave me a ride to the airport.
See you in a few weeks Abu Dhabi! Next stop, Asia!