The flight wasn’t delayed, the food was good and the whole thing relatively painless.
I had no seat in front of me and no-one next to me. I watched two and a bit movies: Now You See Me 2 (again), Money Monster (which wasn’t bad), and a little bit of Deadpool (which I had seen, and I knew I’d run out of time so I started it).
We got picked up from the airport by A’s aunt, L and her daughter, Av (A’s cousin). We drove to their (very nice) house, got the tour (and our own rooms!) And ate very delicious dinner (pho), made by T, the husband.
We chatted a bit with L and T and then I had a great shower and went to bed (a bit late, but my body was still on UK time).
Day #2 we used as a relaxing day. I woke up early, turned the air conditioning on and then went back to sleep.
I woke up at about 9.45, chatted to the family, had breakfast and then used up a few hours by doing not much (the internet seems to suck up time like no-body’s business).
I had 2 flatbreads, a boiled egg and hummus for lunch.
T took A and I for a drive around the island, showing us the main sights of the city.
It was super weird not to see people walking around – it seemed quite barren and lonely. I’m not sure if there were no people because of the weather (although there’s people walking around in Melbourne weather like this), or the places we were driving.
We picked the kids up from school and came back to the house. I did some hand washing and wrote a little bit (something that might be coming up here soon).
L came back from work and I joined her and A downstairs. We chatted for a bit and then had Sheppard’s pie, with sides of broccoli and cabbage, for dinner. It was really good!
L and Av follow the UK X-Factor so we watched it after dinner. We ate some lemon and like cheesecake, made by Av, which was really good! We also watched multiple Leona Lewis videos, courtesy of L’s love for her.
Showered and went to bed (late again).
Day #3, had a little bowl of gross cereal and a piece of toast with peanut butter for breakfast.
T took A and I to the shops – we needed an ATM and a pharmacy. We got what we needed and wandered into the supermarket to look around.
Suddenly loud music starts playing over the PA system. We find the source – members of staff had choreographed dances as a celebration for their 21st anniversary. We watched for a bit, found T and then went back.
For lunch I had flatbread, hummus and olives.
Packed my bag, got ready and left. One minute in, T asks us what we’re wearing in our feet (thongs and sandals) – and he says to do quad biking, we need closed shoes. We turn around, race back inside and grab what we need.
He drops us off by the bus – and we find our leader – Glycer. She was a very excitable and happy person.
We spend the next 2.5 hours picking people up and driving towards the place.
When we arrive, Glycer gives us a quick rundown of all the activities we can do and we’re off!
First things first: we pour karak tea, get a free soft drink out the fridge (I have sprite); and then I sit down to get henna-ed.
We chatted while it dried and then it’s our turn for the dune bashing, aka sitting in the back of a 4×4 whilst being driven through the dunes like a maniac.
We stopped on one of the high dunes for sunset photos.
The dunes at sunset
Me on the dunes at sunset
It was fun, although the combination of the heat and the constant turning (kinda like a rollercoaster), made me feel a bit sick.
Once we arrived back, we had more tea, and sat down for a falcon show.
They had a dead/fake (not sure), falcon tied to a fishing rod; and they rode a (live) falcon on a quad bike to the top of a high dune.
The man below – with the fishing rod falcon, starting waving it about and making noise. The live falcon flew to try and catch it. They’re pretty incredible birds: very swift and skilled and determined.
Falcon with cute hood!!!
Me holding the falcon ((with some others))
Next, we were going to go quad biking, but had to wait for a group of annoying Irish girls.
Instead we went sand surfing. It took us a little bit of time to find (because it was pitch black), but we eventually spotted the board (over the hill from the camel poo).
A went first and it was so slow. But he’d essentially made a path for me, so mine was fun, especially at the end. It was a bit of a struggle to climb back up the steep dune with this heavy board in my hand.
Next stop: quad bikes! They were super fun!! We rode up and down the dunes in the darkness, with only headlights to see about 1.5m in front of us. I accidentally went down a steeper dune – the quad bike was a bit nose first for my liking but it managed and I didn’t fall off!
Post quad biking, we had dinner, sitting on traditional cushions outside.
For dinner, there was a range of things, but I had little bits of: hummous, baba ganoush (so good!), fried noodles, tandoori chicken, battered fish, beef, yellow rice, vegetarian curry, pickled salad (with pickles) and Greek salad.
For dessert was this liquid with what tasted like bread and raisins and apple (cooked) in it. It was quite nice, except the liquid was very sweet.
Post dinner, we all sat around a big screen in the desert and drank karak tea (passed out by then this time), and watched a short video on how the UAE came to be etc.
Then we were invited to sit in a traditional tent (reminded me of the Bedouin tents in Israel).
Selfie in traditional seating area
We were bussed back to the drop off point and took a taxi back.
Day #4, I chatted to my sister for a bit and once again had peanut butter on toast for breakfast.
At about 11, we left the house – I had my bathers on and my phone and wallet in a Ziploc bag: we were going kayaking!
T dropped us off, we got life jacket-ed up, and the four of us (A, myself and a German couple) – plus our leader (Ernesto), were off!
We kayaked for about an hour and a half straight. It was pretty fun, although I bumped into everything and everyone, especially in the narrow channels.
I managed to get water everywhere, so by the end, I wasn’t only wet, but very salty as the water has a very high salt content.
Part of where we kayaked
T fetched us, and we went back to the house, via picking up his kids from school.
Once back, I chatted to my parents for a bit and then A and I went to the compound pool. I was feeling lazy and just lounged in the warm, but shallow pool.
Post pool, we went back (the long way), and showered and cleaned up from all the salt (and now chlorine).
We left the house at just past 6 and taxied to our destination:a Guy Fawkes celebration.
As a snack, we shared popcorn and chips (crisps), and then were moved, saying the fireworks were going to start. Forty minutes and a Sprite later, they did. They were quite incredible and I’d never seen some of the firework designs and noises that went off.
Post fireworks, A and I chatted to L and T, and then we had the ‘BBQ’ dinner: steak and chicken and Asian noodles and rice and potato gratin and corn and broccoli and bean salad and coleslaw and gravy.
We chatted for a bit more, and then at about 10.30 we left. A and I taxied home with L and T went with his children and the friend.
I had a headache from the sun and not drinking enough and my lenses being in for too long so I went to bed pretty quickly.
Day #5, peanut butter toast for breakfast (again).
I m didn’t do much in the morning, and at 12pm we left the house and Rove to the shops.
There, we bought lunch and snacks.
From the shops, we drove to the marina and sat in the members lounge whilst we waited for the boat (Mariah) to be refuelled.
Once it was ready, we all got in and we were off!
We had a very choppy section of water to begin with: lots of jumping up and down in the boat. We boated along the Corniche – the left side of the island.
Cityscape across the water
We stopped the boat and ate our (pie) lunch – I had a steak pie that was very delicious.
We floated around a little, then headed towards Al Maya Island through one of the scariest/choppiest sections of water. It was like being on an insane rollercoaster and there was definitely a bit of fear there!
We arrived at the island and it was gorgeous! The boat was anchored and the kids (and a friend), and L, and A and I jumped off the boat. We swam around for ages – and covered the friend in sand (and pretended she was pregnant/having a baby); and helped M make a sand mansion.
Nose of the boat//island
We all then climbed back into the boat and ate the snacks we bought: sea salt lindt chocolate, billtong, grapes, watermelon, cantaloupe, olives, stuffed bell peppers, Cheetos (it was my first time trying them and they’re too spicy!), Fritos and artichokes.
Selfie on the boat
At 5pm/sunset, we tried to leave but the boat wouldn’t start! We tried again and again and eventually it turned on.
The path back was less rocky, and once back at the marina, we got off the boat, into the car and drove home.
For dinner, we had takeaway Indian: butter chicken, lamb Rogan josh, onion balls (I always forget the name but they’re so good), chickpea curry (so good), naan, roti and rice.
After dinner, we watched Tallulah – a film with Ellen Page and Allison Janney about a young girl that kidnaps a baby. It was quite good.
Another headache, another early(ish) night.
Day #6, L very kindly made us crepes do breakfast and I had mine with nutella and banana.
Crepes for breakfast!
I chilled and packed in the morning, and then L took A, Av, M and I to the top of the Etihad Towers.
Foyer of the Etihad Tower
It was very beautiful with all the sand and buildings and water.
View from the top
View from the top #2
We shared 3 cakes and had a drink each.
L-R: cheesecake, honey cake and caramel grand opera cake.
Red Velvet mocktail: strawberry and peach puree with fresh fruit
Post Etihad Towers, we went to Manarat and saw an exhibition about the development of Saadriyat.
We weren’t there for long, and drove from there to Emarat Park for the markets and food stalls.
Emarat Food Stalls
We walked along the craft stalls and I bought a cutesie chameleon felt pin for myself.
For dinner we had SALT burgers and chips. I had one of each kind of burger – L and I swapped.
Burger 1 – waygu beef, jalepenos, lettuce + brioche bun//Burger 2 – waygu beef, pickles, cheese and a brioche bun
We drove home, and watched Dear Frankie, a beautifully done film about a kid who receives fake letters from his father (written by his mother).
Day #7 (last day!!), I had yoghurt and banana and bits and honey for breakfast, dressed, packed my bag and our car arrived.
It took about an hour and a half to get to Duabi, and once there we wandered around for a bit trying to find the Gold Souk.
A was convinced it was the area we were in, but I thought it’d be more market-y. Turned out I was right when we eventually found it!
Apparently it’s all real (and reallll ugly)
We did the Gold Souk, continually being harassed – ‘Want a copy bag or watch? Louis Vuitton and Chanel?’ – where I bought a small bowl for my friend and beautiful Picasso-esque pillowcase (where I haggled and got the price way down).
The guys were both super annoying and kept asking if we wanted more more more.
We walked to the Spice Souk (where, on the way, some guy heard up talking about trying to find it and led us there – but it wasn’t the souk, it was his store).
After more annoying men, we took the abra (wooden boat) across the water and did the Old Dubai Souk, with the most annoying men of them all: those who put scarves on you.
They held onto one side because I had the idea to just walk off with them (instead I angrily shrugged it off).
For lunch, we went to a recommended restaurant: Bayt Al Wakeel.
I had a strawberry juice and mixed sambosek (mixed savoury pastries with cheese or spinach or meat in them) for lunch.
The sambosek were just a starter and I wanted something else, so I ordered the mixed Arabic pickles.
Lo and behold, it turns out THEY WERE NOT PICKLES, BUT PICKLED CARROTS AND PARSNIPS which were absolutely terrible terrible. I shoved some down, but couldn’t do more (and was in mourning for potential pickles).
We left, and I bought overpriced, but yummy camel milk ice-cream (because when in Dubai and also to cheer myself up after the non-pickles) and we abra-ed back to the first side.
We managed to find our way back to the main road (via A buying a bowl for himself), but we couldn’t find the shop we were meant to meet our driver at. We called him and walked around and called him again – eventually we found him! Turns out we went the wrong way at the crossroads – right instead of left.
Our driver drove us to Dubai Mall, the largest mall in the entire world with over 1200 shops. Insane, and definitely unnecessary (but we were there, so why not?!).
First stop: the aquarium! There is an aquarium – complete with a shark – in the shopping centre. Across from here, there is a rad and very delicious lolly store called Candylicious with incredible popcorn (Garrett’s), and sweets from every place you can think of. They also had the largest Hershey’s Chocolate, weighing at 2.26kg!!
Me at the aquarium inside the shopping centre!
Candylicious speaks true words!
Section of Candylicious
We walked around for a bit: to Muji and Gallery One (super nice art store), and West Elm and past all the super fancy unaffordable shops. We saw the ice-rink, and the waterfall with the really cool sculptures.
The waterfall and the diving sculptures (also inside the shopping centre!!)
We sat in the food court for a break, and then went outside to see the Burj Khalifa – the tallest building in the world!! It was quite impressive (and hard to get the whole thing in a photo).
The Burj Khalifa
Once back inside, we went to the supermarket and I bought some Karak Tea sachets, and walked around a bit more. At 5.40pm, we went outside to wait for the fountains to start dancing. It was a bit hard to find a place, but at 6pm, all the fountains started dancing to loud music! It was pretty cool and quite beautiful.
We squished our way through the crowds of people to go back inside and went back to Muji and West Elm for potential T and L presents. On the way to Galeries Lafeyette, A thought to get them Garrett’s popcorn, which I thought was a great idea. We went back to Candylicious and bought the popcorn (I wish I could’ve bought but they didn’t sell small packets and I was leaving the next day).
We went back to Waitrose, where I bought a zataar bread as a snack and flowers for T and L. We met our driver in the parking lot and drove back to the house. Paid and thanked him, and gave T and L their presents.
For dinner, we had really good lamb stew that T made us, and I said goodbye to Maddy. Av, L, A and I tried to watch the X-Factor (but it wasn’t working), so we watched Carpool Karaoke videos instead and Pink Panther clips. I said goodbye to L and Av and A and I drank Karak tea.
On my last day, A and I walked to the mosque in the morning – where I had borrowed L’s abiyah to cover up, and I had a sarong to cover my head. The mosque was incredibly beautiful and we were also allowed to go into the prayer room (not sure if it’s used) – to look at the stunning walls and floors and beams.
Mosque from the outside
Dressed for the mosque!
We taxi-ed back, and I finalised packing (aka stuffing my sarong in my bag), ate lunch and was dropped at the airport. A and I said a quick goodbye (and of course took photos).
I went through easily, and waited on the other side for a bit.
My plane flight from Abu Dhabi to Doha was 38 minutes – the stupidest plane flight I have ever been on (not even enough time to watch a movie – but I did start The Secret Life of Pets).
Doha Airport was incredibly boring (plus my phone was dying and none of the chargers were working). I did get a response from A (whom I’d written a letter to saying thanks etc.), which made me cry in the middle of the airport.
I bought hot chips at the only restaurant there (other places included a tiny duty free and a cafe and that’s it), and then spent way too long surrounded by small children whilst I was waiting.
Good hot chips!
We had our bags scanned as we went through. I was unfortunately in a middle seat, but still managed to sleep (for 5 hours!!!) and watch a ton of movies. I finished The Secret Life of Pets, and watched: Bad Moms, The Shallows and Aquamarine. I also watched about 40 minutes of Deadpool.
My bag took forever to come through, border security was way easier than I thought it would be, and my parents were there to pick me up! After all that flying, I was very excited to be back home.
We took some time to find the car, but eventually located it, and drove home. Happy to see my sisters and my dog and my guinea pig!
My sisters and her friends made me a sign