We are on our way for yet another adventure. Last minute, not to Abu Dhabi, but to Australia! But that’s for the next post.
From Brussels to Abu Dhabi is a 6-hour flight. We leave on the 31st of December and what we hoped for comes true: not too many people fly out on the last day of the year. Unfortunately we have less luck with the check-in lady. 7 kg hand luggage is 7 kg with Etihad Airways. Not 7.1. No. 7. So we have to change a bit of our luggage, but we manage to get it done.
When we arrive in Abu Dhabi at 22.30 PM, we thought we’d had to wait for over an hour at customs (Dubai experience), but we are out in just 5 minutes … We didn’t count on this luck, and already booked a hotel at the airport since we leave Abu Dhabi the next day in the evening for Sydney. This is a New Year’s Eve at the airport. A new experience 🙂
The next morning we’re up and running a little bit earlier than we expected and we take a bus to the city center. The bus fare is quite cheap in comparison to a taxi, and although we don’t have a decent map or Google Maps we get where we want to. We buy a top-up card for 15 Dirham which should get us to the city center.
First stop is the Sjeik Zayed Grand Mosque. From the bus stop, it still is a fair walk, but in Winter this is nice (not sure about summertime though). We don’t see many people walking around and wonder if the mosque is open (it is New Year’s Day after all …). But when we finally find the entrance it becomes clear. Everybody comes by car 🙂
The founder of the United Arab Emirates had a bit of a bombastic taste. The mausoleum (what it actually is, since the Zayed dynasty is to be burried here) is huge and marvellous! Take that literally: you need sunglasses to not get blinded by the marble! The building is listed as UNESCO World Heritage. It is possible to take a free tour and see the inside as well, but we only have a day to visit Abu Dhabi, so we have to be time-wise.
We walk back to the bus stop after an hour or so, and decide to go to Saadiyat Island: the Louvre has opened a new museum recently and there has been a lot of advertisement about it. We want to see what the fuss is. It takes a hell of a time to get there by bus (time-wise remember …), but when we finally arrive we enjoy what we see: a modern yet moderate museum building. The museum itself is closed (1 january) but we like the quiteness here. It is surrounded by water (the harbour is just around the corner) and swallows.
By midday we go back to the city center. We want to see the highest towers of Abu Dhabi: the Etihad Towers. We have to top up our ticket but with this we should be able to go back to the airport as well. Forget our time-wise thing. It takes forever to eventually get to the Towers! We see a lot of Abu Dhabi in the meanwhile, like the Qars al Hosn fortress, which is the residence of the current ruler of the UAE. To get to the top of the highest tower is too expensive (see Observation Deck at 300), but the towers are photogenic.
And they are located opposite the Emirates Palace (which is a hotel) and the Capital Gate. We decide to walk to the beach along the Corniche, which seams not too far on the one map we have. In the end, we walk and walk and are glad we have enough water with us. The map is nog really scaled we find out. With that in mind, we time our stay at the beach a bit more strict.
We still have to find dinner for tonight, go back to the hotel and get to the airport in time. By the way: there are free beaches, and beaches where you have to pay an entrance fee. Those are a bit quiter, but we don’t think there is a whole lot difference. And you can take pictures: with your smartphone, not with your camera.
We want to take a bus back to the airport, but after half an hour waiting, it seems busses don’t run here that punctuous at rush hour. So we hold a taxi, ask for the price first (although it is metered) and end up at the hotel/airport after a wild ride. The driver held on to the price 🙂
We change clothes, re-organise our hand luggage (7 kg remember!) and are perfect on time. The one misjudgement this night? Eating after customs at T1. On our way back home we find out there are lot’s of restaurants at T3. Within walking distance of T1 … And don’t buy drinks at the airport if you’re boarding a plane to Australia. You have to hand it over. Although the security control is not that strict: I accidentally left my (oversize) sun screen in my hand luggage and no one noticed.
Abu Dhabi is the capital of the UAE, but Dubai is more interesting to visit. We felt very safe and the country seems liberal in terms of dress-code. Public transport is cheap, but not always the best mode of transport. Taxi’s are not too expensive, so if your budget allows it, that’s probably the easier way to get from one place to another. We didn’t see the AD Heritage Village, which we thought looked too artificial in the brochures, nor the Al Ain Oasis. Fans of Formula One should definitely go to Yas Island but we let this one pass by 😉