Today was a good day on a tour to Abu Dhabi. Not great, but good. My driver picked me up at 8:30am and there was one other tourist in the van. She was a 40-something Swiss woman traveling by herself and apparently didn’t want to chat. She was sat in the front seat and had headphones on the whole time. We then picked up a Chinese mother and son (I think), who didn’t speak any English, and lastly picked up an Indian couple. They weren’t really up for a chat either, but they did cram next to me in the second row while there were two empty rows further back in the van. That annoyed me and was really uncomfortable, so when we made our first stop to take some pictures, I moved to the back to have some more room in my own row.
Our first stop in Abu Dhabi was at Ferrari World. I knew we weren’t going inside, but I thought there was going to be a bit more to see there. We went into the lobby entrance where you could kind of see inside, but not really. We were there for about 20 minutes and I just spend most of the time walking around the little mall inside because there wasn’t much else we could see.
We left Ferrari World and went to our next big stop of the day which was the Louvre. Abu Dhabi built their own version of The Louvre in 2017, and it couldn’t be much more different than the original. As expected, everything is super modern, and it doesn’t seem like they know exactly how they want it to be yet. It was very confusing to walk around in. There were very few signs that showed you which way to go next. All the walls were just white, so it was easy to get turned around and go back on yourself. There were little hallways in between rooms, but it was never clear if that was the way you were supposed to go, or a shortcut to skip rooms. It wasn’t very well laid out, or sign-posted.
We had a couple of hours to spend at The Louvre before we had to meet back at the van. It’s apparently so safe here that the driver left the van running for the whole time with the A/C on so we could go back and wait in the van whenever we wanted. I can’t imagine leaving my car running while I’m a few hundred yards away and can’t even see it, but it was fine here. Our next stop was at a middle eastern buffet restaurant for lunch. This was a very strange situation too. There were six of us on the tour, yet they didn’t put us all at one table, they told us to sit wherever we wanted. I went up to the buffet first and sat down at a large enough table for all of us. The Indian couple left immediately, I guess they didn’t want to eat at the buffet. I never saw the two Chinese people, so they much have left as well. And then the Swiss lady went and sat at another table by herself, with her headphones in. What a weird group I was with. So I ate the rest of my meal and then went back to the van to wait for everyone else to get back from who-knows-where.
Our next stop was at a shop. I had a feeling this was coming because this is quite a common thing on tours. They bring you to a restaurant and a shop and the driver will get a kickback on anything that we buy. According to my driver, this was a government owned-and-run shop, and it is a law that all day-tours must stop at a government shop. I don’t know if it’s true, but it wouldn’t really surprise me.
Our next and last stop of the day was at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Center. I was very happy that my driver saved the best stop for last. This mosque was amazing! We had to park quite far away from it, so it seemed and entered the visitor center through this big glass egg. There was a small mall when you got inside, and then you had to follow these long walkways through security, fill out an electronic form, and then pick up some clothes to borrow if you weren’t well covered enough. It seemed like there were quite a lot of people there, but then I saw the zig-zag lines that are sometimes full and realised that this was a very quiet time to visit.
After a series of walkways, you emerge through another glass egg right next to the mosque, and it is very impressive. It’s all made of white marble, it’s surrounded by palm trees, pools, and grass. All the colors really popped with the bright white mosque as a backdrop. This was very well laid out with lines to follow. You first walked around the square, there were little boxed off areas you could walk onto the square to take pictures, but you couldn’t just walk wherever you wanted to. Then you came into what seemed like a lobby area with an incredible flower chandelier, and the walls had vines and flowers on them, but all made of marble. Everything was marble. From here you could see into the main prayer area, but we were not allowed inside. There was a separate entrance for anyone coming to pray, but tourists were not allowed inside. This room has the largest carpet in the world, and seven massive chandeliers imported from Munich that were just incredible. It really was a sight to behold.
Of course, I was faster than everyone else on my tour, so as I was exiting the mosque, I saw the rest of my group entering, and I knew I had a lot of time until they came out. Our driver was waiting for us just inside the visitor’s center and told me I could go wait in the van, which was left running, but I had another idea. I noticed on my way in that there was a Cinnabon in the little mall in the visitor’s center, and since I can’t get a Cinnabon in the UK, I wasn’t going to miss the chance here. I got myself a big bun covered in icing and enjoyed the heck out of it while waiting. I finished before they even got back from the mosque, so I walked around until I saw the rest of the group and headed back to the van. This was the end of the tour, and we had an hour and a half drive back to Dubai.
We got back to Dubai at about 5:30pm, which was a lot earlier than I had expected, so I decided to fit in another item from my itinerary tonight. I got back to my hotel, took a shower, and then got a taxi over to a mall called Festival City which has my favorite international restaurant, Hard Rock Cafe! I got there at about 8pm which was perfect because I had time to order my food, and then enjoy the live band Big Mouth when they started at 8:30pm. I enjoyed my time at HRC and then got a taxi back to my hotel at about 10pm. I’m quite tired after such a long day but have quite a chilled one planned for tomorrow, so I’m looking forward to that.