Abu Dhabi – do!

We have been frequent visitors to Dubai – maybe a dozen times in the last decade – and when our 15th wedding anniversary was on the horizon we managed to cash in some BA Miles for free flights back to DXB.  However – we felt we needed a change, so we asked our lovely Travel Counsellor Michelle for some options hotel-wise- and she came up with 3, one of which was the Emirates Palace just down the road in the different Emirate of Abu Dhabi.  So we decided to go for it!

This meant I was able to tell my favourite joke for weeks leading up to our trip:

“Do you know they don’t show the Flintstones in Dubai?
But Abu Dhabi do!!!”

Whilst everyone *may* have mocked my joke, it did get us a mention and anniversary best wishes from Chris Evans on BBC Radio 2 when my sister emailed in to tell him where we were celebrating when he told the same *fabulous* joke on air!!!

Anyway – back to the trip.

As I said, we cashed in the BA Miles and turned left onto the plane to fly to Dubai.  However, as we were due to begin our descent we were told it was incredibly foggy – less than 100m visibility – and so planes were being held in a holding pattern above the city as they were having to leave much bigger gaps between planes landing.  We had enough fuel for 2 hours – otherwise we’d have to divert to Muscat to refuel!!  Having slept for most of the actual flight time, this did give me time to watch a film!  And if you’re going to have a delay in landing – then lying on a flat bed is the way to do it.  Thankfully we didn’t have to divert to Oman – and landed JUST within the 2 additional hours.

Michelle had arranged for a driver to collect us from DXB to take us to our hotel.  Mr P was asleep before we were out of central Dubai.  I managed to stay awake a little longer – but there is only so much sand / scrub land / building work you can look at – and I nodded off too.   We’d both woken up once we were off the highway and the arrival at our hotel was impressive!  It stars in the film Fast and Furious 7 – but was even more impressive in real life.

As it was our 15th wedding anniversary – we’d pushed the boat out and booked a suite – and it was ENORMOUS!  We were really impressed.  We’ve stayed in some lovely hotels around the world – including the Burj Al Arab up the coast in Dubai – but this is definitely the best suite ever.

The whole hotel is huge – and feels really empty in the guest areas.  (The lobby area is always busy because it’s a feature on all of the tours of the city!  Although the dress code is strictly enforced so don’t try and get it wearing shorts and flip flops.)  My husband tried to claim he’d booked the hotel for our exclusive use – but I’m not that gullible!  But it has been nice not to have to worry about racing to get sunbeds in prime position on the beach or by the pool!!

On our first full day we did a tour of the city and it was BRILLIANT.  Our guide, Vera, was from Mexico (one of the 84% of the population of the UAE who aren’t Emirati) but has lived here for 7 years and so was very knowledgeable.

We did a couple of museums covering the history of Abu Dhabi and the UAE as a whole.

We then did a drive by of recently opened Louvre.  Having been into the original Paris gallery recently, we didn’t feel compelled to go inside this one.

Then we went to Ferrari World – again, we only went as far as the shop – but when we return with our kids we can see this being top of the places to visit.

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We then popped round the corner to the Yas Marina circuit – where the final race of the Formula One season is held each November.  You can access loads of areas (way more than you could at Silverstone) and you can drive the circuit in a selection of very fancy pants cars.  Again – this is on the list for when we come here again with the whole clan.

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After that we drove to see the Sheik Zayed Mosque – started by the eponymous founder of the UAE but not completed until after his death.  I knew the basic rules of clothing in the UAE from going to Dubai – and covering knees and shoulders – but the dress code here in Abu Dhabi seems to be far more strict, and at the mosque stricter still.  The lovely Vera had bought an abaya I could borrow – and I’d thought to pack a headscarf – but less organised people can hire suitable attire at the entrance to the mosque.  The husband’s shorts had to be pulled down so his knees were covered at all times.

Once inside it was truly stunning.

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Everything is intricately carved with different coloured stones and metals to ensure it doesn’t weather or fade and it looks out of this world.  The husband did notice that the tiles weren’t grouted (you can take the builder out of Birmingham and all that…..) but it turns out that’s because there’s a below floor cooling system so that the marble doesn’t get too hot when the weather is 40 degrees plus in the summer. The cold water under there keeps the marble cool to the touch so that the worshippers can still kneel on it to pray.  The outside courtyard can have 30,000 people praying at any one time – whilst inside can house 20,000.  During Ramadan there would not be a single spare space.

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Inside was just as impressive – with chandeliers with ladders inside so that they can be cleaned and the lamps changed (I’m not allowed to say bulbs – although that is what I would normally put – but I get ranted at by my husband that bulbs are what are planted in the ground and lamps are what emit light).  The carpet holds the Guinness World Record for the largest single piece of carpet.  It was made in situ and weighs over 65 tonnes.  It has clever ridges in it so that people praying can line up exactly.

It was an amazing place to visit – and definitely feels like one of the wonders of the modern world.

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As the afternoon tea in our hotel is legendary – it had to be done!  My only regret is that I hadn’t starved myself for the day beforehand, and consequently couldn’t finish it – and felt ridiculously full for HOURS afterwards!

We managed the cappuccinos with gold on them – but didn’t go as far as the camelccino (cappuccino with camels’ milk!!!)

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All in all, we love Abu Dhabi – and will definitely be back with the children in tow.  Someone had described it to me as ‘Dubai’s older more sophisticated sister’ and I think they’re spot on.  It has the great service you expect of Dubai – but feels a bit calmer and slightly less ‘crazy fake bubble’ – although particularly in the Emirates Palace, if something sits still long enough it will be coated with gold leaf!!

But definitely consider it as a holiday option.

Whilst we were away my Auntie told my (slightly deaf) Nan that we were in Abu Dhabi – to which she replied ‘Oh, I love Aberdovey’.  Maybe we’ll save that destination for our next big anniversary …….

 

 

 

 

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Finding E…….

This is like Finding Nemo or Dory – but with less fish and far more stressful for us!!

The other morning we’d all ventured down to the beach at our hotel in Dubai – not something we do that often – we’re more likely to be found by the pool – but everyone (me included, in fact, me especially) had been persuaded to brave the sand!

(I also had a stress about whether the swimsuit was Roxy or Quiksilver – which, let’s face it, wasn’t exactly the most important issue right at that point – but it’s amazing what’s racing through your mind.  The husband had told me subsequently that he was thinking about having to move to a cheaper hotel if we had to stay here for months looking for her – and he calls me the drama queen!!)

The boy and I were swimming in the sea whilst the husband and daughters played on the sand.  But as we came out of the sea the husband was waving frantically.  Our 6 year old, E, had gone to wash her hands in the showers – about 50 yards from where we were camped out on the beach – but she’d not come back.  At this point she’d been missing for just less than 10 minutes.

He’d not wanted to leave the 5 year old alone on the beach, so the 13 year old had done a full check of the route to and from the showers, and then checked around the pool to see if she was there – but no luck.  She then headed up to Beit al Bahar where our villa is situated to check that E hadn’t gone back up there and to alert the staff (who started checking the CCTV immediately, they were great).

I stayed put – frantically scanning the beach – whilst the son went one way on the beach and the husband headed off to the pool area.

I remembered I’d just taken this photo – and envisaged it being shown on Sky News

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The boy came back and couldn’t see her on the beach towards the bridge to the Burj – so I left him in charge of his littlest sister, with strict instructions not to move in case E headed back.

I ran up the beach (apologies to anyone who witnessed that – not pretty, and I was so stressed I didn’t even put my cover up on so was just in a swimming cossie which is unheard of for me!) asking people, staff and sunbathers, if they’d seen a 6 year old on her own – no one had.  People kept telling me not to worry as it’s a really safe hotel – but all I could think of (although thankfully didn’t shout at anyone), was ‘I bet that’s what the McCanns said’.  We were actually on the Algarve 15 minutes up the coast with a daughter 6 weeks younger than Madeleine McCann when she went missing – so it’s always been closer to home than I would like.

I decided to try some of the toilets – as the 13 year old had once got locked in a cubicle there – but no sign.  However – as I came out THERE SHE WAS – walking with an enormous man!  She wasn’t crying – although there was a bit of a wobbly lip when I scooped her up – and I thanked the man profusely but then ran off to let the rest of the family know she was ok – and to stand the hotel staff down on their searches.

Turns out E had washed her hands – but walked down onto the beach in a slightly different place to where she’d walked up –  I suspect onto the private Burj Al Arab section rather than the Jumeirah Beach Executive Pool section (can’t fault her aspirations!) and got confused when she couldn’t see us.  She said she’d looked for a bit – but then found a grown up to help (we’ve had a subsequent conversation about it being a member of staff in a uniform should she need help in the future).  The man had spoken to her in a different language (and when I’d spoken to him his English was very accented – I’m guessing he was Russian?) but she’d explained where she was staying and he’d offered to walk her back.  She’d also told him she was from England, and that she was on holiday with her parents and 3 siblings – and no doubt loads more!  The poor bloke probably had his ear bent for 10 minutes. We tried to find him afterwards to buy him a beer (or maybe a vodka if my suspicions on his nationality are correct) but haven’t found him – but we are so grateful to him.

It was such a huge relief that she was ok – and so sensible (whilst the rest of the family were being completely overdramatic) – and has prompted lots of conversations with her and her siblings about what to do if you get lost in the future.

The husband and I celebrated her safe return with pots of tea (as it was before midday and so no brandy was available!) which then got sand kicked over them.  Another good reason to stick to the pool!!

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Dubai – 2 days in!

We are in Dubai for a few days – and whilst we are regulars here, we’ve never been in August before – and it is proper hot!!  Thankfully not as humid as Florida this time last year – but still in the 40s.  Even with flip flops on it’s too hot to walk on the sand, and going in to the sea feels like someone has been weeing in there for days #gross

** disclaimer – I don’t think they actually have, it’s just super warm **

Dubai afternoon

Anyway – couple of totally random things to brain dump so I’ve got them saved somewhere.

We were at Wild Wadi, the water park attached to our hotel, yesterday afternoon, and I was chatting to a fellow Mum in the kids’ pool – I was in a swimsuit, she was in a burkhini, and we chatted about the kids / weather etc – turns out she’s from Small Heath – about 3 miles from where I grew up in Birmingham!  #smallworld

Then, as I’m trying to get out of the wave pool at the same water park the husband announces (ever so slightly taking the p*ss) ‘Ooh, you look like Halle Berry’ to which the 11 year old responds ‘Why does Mum look like Mary Berry?’  I was not eating cake at the time I promise!!  (And clearly the husband totally resembles Daniel Craig at all times!!)

I am sure there were more things I wanted to record, but I’m struggling to remember – probably the heat!!  Therefore expect further updates in the coming days.  I’m off to finish reading Red magazine in the sunshine with a complimentary glass of champagne!

 

 

 

The Photo Gallery Week 234 – Buildings

Now this is a topic that I could provide multiple photos of, as it’s my day job! We run a building company and so are dealing with buildings day in and day out. I actually posted on our company Facebook page the other day how much I love these warehouse photos of a building we refurbished

Warehouse

But we’ve just spent half term in Dubai where the buildings are AMAZING. So I thought I would use 2 of the most iconic buildings of that city – although both are also family shots.

The first is the husband and I in a selfie in front of the Burj Khalifa – currently the tallest building in the world:

Burj Khalifa

The second is the 7 star hotel the Burj al Arab. This is not where we stay – although our villa did look out over it – but it is one of the most recognisable buildings in the world – although probably not often photographed from this angle.

Burj Al Arab

In this shot my very handsome son is doing footie tricks in front of it – and I adore this picture.  I think he might need it on the wall in his bedroom.

These are my entries for this week’s Photo Gallery over on the Sticky Fingers blog – do go and look at other people’s buildings too.

Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery

The Photo Gallery Week 31: Landscape

Whilst I love the green and pleasant land in which we live – I suspected there would be lots of beautiful British landscapes on show this week (in fact Tara and I often end up posting photos of the same local woods) – so decided to go foreign!

We are regular visitors to Dubai – but these were from our first trip there over New Year from 2008 into 2009. We did a trip out into the desert (I always struggle with spelling that and wonder if I’m talking about pudding instead?!) and the landscape was so different to anything we’re used to and so breathtaking. (I also felt violently travel sick driving up and down all of the dunes!)

Desert 1

The trip was in the evening – so we also got to see the sunset.

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Desert 2

The photos don’t really do it justice – but it was utterly amazing.

This is my entry this week for The Gallery over on the Sticky Fingers blog – do go and see other people’s amazing landscapes.

Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery

Light – The Photo Gallery Week 217

The theme of The Photo Gallery this week is ‘light’ – and I immediately thought of this photo of the light going down on 2014. We were lucky enough to spend the New Year in Dubai – and this was the sun setting on New Year’s Eve from our balcony. There are no filters involved – I’m not clever enough to do anything like that!

It seemed such a perfect picture to end the year with (well, before the ones involving alcohol and dancing in the run up to midnight anyway!!)

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This is my entry for this week’s Photo Gallery – do go and see how others have interpreted light.

Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery