15th – 22nd November 2017
Abu Dhabi, Al Ain & the Rub’al Khali desert.
19th November 2017
A 2hr drive to Abu Dhabi from Al Ain. We took the longer but more scenic route back to UAE’s capital. It was a tough one due to the speed limit. The empty highway tempted me but I did not cave. #AchievementUnlocked
During the drive, we realised we had inadvertently planned our trip in a progressive manner. LOL. We started with a desert camp, upgraded to a suburban hotel in Al Ain, and now, for our last stop, Rosewood Abu Dhabi, a 5-star city hotel. It was a splendid way to bookend our holiday.
Just before we entered the city, we stopped by a petrol station. Lo and behold! Our first sighting of MacDonald’s & Starbucks! hahaha! We were instantly teleported back to our modern world. As if an answer to my prayers, MacDonald’s sold karak chai!! Throughout the entire 1.5hr drive, we did not make any stops. Yet, the one stop we did make was, literally, my cup of tea. This is kismet at her best. In 10 minutes, all 3 of us fuelled up, ready to brave the peak hour traffic.
Checked into Rosewood in the evening, which coincided nicely with Nic getting off work. For their hi-tech rooms and facilities, close proximity to great restaurants and an underground connector to The Galleria mall, SGD 350 / night was a steal!
Had dinner with Nic at (where else) the mall. After which, we checked out his rented apartment which had a pretty good view of the city skyline (almost 270!). Really spacious too. Located on Al Maryah island, Kenny and I chose Rosewood as it was close to Nic and Reeta’s apartments. Basically, we had a sneak preview of Abu Dhabi’s upcoming financial district!
Due to the difference in time zone and Lombok’s occasional blackouts, it was eminent that Kenny & Nic had to play FIFA since there were no longer any hindrances. While the men were being boys, the exhaustion from driving all day started to set in and within minutes, I fell asleep on the couch.
20th November 2017
Woke up to this city view from our hotel room. Such a stark contrast to the desert morning.
On Reeta’s recommendation, we had breakfast at Nolu’s. Oh man! We had breakfast there every day until we left!! LOVE LOVE LOVE their food and smoothies. Located below the hotel, we could even order up to our room as well! Tried their lunch/dinner mains too. YUM YUM YUM. THANKS REETA!!!!
We had an ambitious day ahead; trying local restaurants and checking out key city spots. Drove down the Corniche stretch from Rosewood to Emirates Palace. Parts of the popular beach walk was under construction but we could visualise a semblance of it – Similar to East Coast Park but a lot more scenic. Popped by the Emirates Heritage Village just to see if it was any different from the ones we had experienced and we were greeted by a swamp of Chinese tourists. Having been to Al Ain & the desert, the ‘live’ exhibition here paled so much in comparison. We also noticed the ‘village’ was deliberately made to look dusty, perhaps to create some sense of authenticity for the common tourists. LOL. We jumped back into the car less than 15minutes later, essentially using the ‘village’ as a piss stop.
Could not enter Emirates Palace because Kenny was not wearing the proper pants. Unbeknownst to us, only to find out from Reeta the following day, we could have gone for our gold flake cappuccino if we had mentioned that we had a reservation at one of the restaurants. LOLOL. Well, shitting gold is a luxury we can afford another time.
Had all the local food places loaded on our Waze and Google maps app on top of the car’s GPS. At this point, anything is helpful because Abu Dhabi’s local stores’s information were not updated online. True enough, we did not find a single local eatery. Only to find out again from Reeta, the next day, that we did find one but the shop’s name was listed differently – ‘Lebanese Flower’ on Google vs. ‘Zahrat Lebnan’ on GPS. Turned out the latter name was the arabic version of the former. ZOMG. LOL. #ImportanceOfBeingMultiLingual
We practically spent half the day driving around, searching high and low for local food. Had none of those but lots of exposure to small roads and shops in the heart of the city. We even had the opportunity to drive through a school lane. The kids were definitely not taught to look left, right and left again. That, we have the Singapore education system to thank. The amount of times I had to check my blind spots 360 around the car was insanity. Just when we thought it was safe to go, these tiny young ‘uns appear out of nowhere. Almost out of the school zone, again we thought we would be in the clear, an Indian man dressed in office wear, stepped out in front of our car (!), begging for money!! I had to honk him, firstly for coming out of nowhere, and secondly, to shoo him away. Talk about a fast track immersion into Abu Dhabi city life!
Managed to check out Madinat Zayed mall and the Gold Souk. Felt like we were in the old buildings of Chinatown (i.e People’s Park). We even drove to Zayed Port to find an Iranian souq but ended up at the flower & gardening section of the port. HAHA! Tired from all that city driving excitement and HUNGRY as well, we decided to head back to the hotel and indulge in some comfort food – Italian!
Fine dining at 4pm in the afternoon was awesome. We were the only ones in the restaurant, which totally helped us to decompress back into the chill state of mind.
– crispy dough base topped with beef carpaccio, wild rocket parmesan shavings and black truffle
A glass of Negroni for Kenny & a Yakuza Old Fashion for me.
Located beneath Rosewood, Roberto’s served a delectable array of our favourites – risotto, pasta & pizza. That’s right! We ordered 1 of everything!!
Fettuccine Al Pesto Di Basilico 2.0
– Liquid nitrogen basil pesto prepared at our table + homemade fettuccine pasta
2.0 all right. It tasted twice as good as it looked in the video, my friend.
And below, my all-time favourite:
Roberto’s Risotto Bosco
– wild forest mushroom risotto with shaved black truffle
Mixing the risotto in the cheese wheel was unexpected! After that exquisite meal, we went back up to the hotel for some shisha:
Flying camels. LOL.
After the first 5 days of fast-paced travelling, this was exactly what we needed – Eat good food and do absolutely nothing. We had plans for Ferrari World, Al Forsan Club, the Falcon Hospital and even Sir Bani Yas island, but we figured we will come back and tick those off the next round. This time, the priority goes to the newly-opened Lourve satellite museum!
21st November 2017
Yesterday’s rest gave us an energy boost for the whole day at the Lourve Abu Dhabi. Got our breakfast fix at Nolu’s and we were off!
We were really lucky because the Lourve had only just opened (to the public) 10 days ago, on 11th November 2017. The museum is closed on Mondays. Naturally, it would be crowded on a Tuesday morning. However, it was not packed to the extent of narrow walking spaces.
(parked next to a brother. yay! and free parking!)
We spent 3 wonderful hours exploring all 12 galleries, without taking a break. Kenny and I enjoyed ourselves tremendously, feeding our inner geeks with both new and refreshed knowledge.
It is so apt that they displayed, in chronological order, key artifacts and art pieces from both the east and west, spanning from prehistoric to modern times, right here in the Middle East! An example of their presentation can be seen in the video below:
This was taken at Gallery 4: Universal Religions. Displaying the Qu’ran next to a statue of the Virgin Mary & Jesus and Guanyin on the same table is, I dare presume, a subtle nod to the notion that all religions, despite its diversified forms, teaches the same end goal – peace, compassion, good; essentially, how to live well with yourself and with others.
What really enhances the experiential learning is the expanse of each gallery. The openness of the museum’s interior design sets an inviting mood, to all visitors, to want to discover and understand more about the various cultures and histories of our world.
I was fascinated by this bronze statuette as I do not recall seeing such a small dragon one before. Anyway, what I wanted to highlight in the video was the ‘openness’ I had mentioned earlier. Within 10 steps of the Chinese dragon, you can see the Greek statues behind it and Egyptian sarcophagi on its right. Reliving the journey of the human race and our civilisations does not get more immersive than this!
This was the most enjoyable Lourve experience I have ever had. As of today, Abu Dhabi beats my Paris one. Kenny has not been to the original Lourve; maybe its time to take a trip back there!
Before heading back, we had a quick bite at the museum cafe, which had a tranquil view of the water and city. Took us 10-15 minutes to get back to Rosewood (and from!). Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Cultural District is so convenient from our hotel. I think 2 more museums are slated to open next year in 2018!
8pm. Reeta picked us up for dinner. Been such a long time since we last saw each other. Nic met us directly at the restaurant. It felt like a Malaysian-Singaporean homecoming of sorts. LOL! Over dinner and shisha, Reeta and Nic educated us aplenty on the social, cultural and economic aspects of Abu Dhabi. It was a real eye-opener. Unfortunately, I am unable to elaborate on our fervent discussion here. But the one thing I can say is that, Abu Dhabi is the true power behind the United Arab Emirates. Whenever anyone mentions ‘UAE’ or ‘Middle East’, Dubai would easily be one of the top 3 cities to come to mind and that is accurate because it is the tourism focal point of the country. However, the real driving force behind Dubai and this progressive nation is the lesser known, quieter and more chilled out brother, Abu Dhabi. Nic used a good analogy in his explanation – Abu Dhabi is like Lombok; Dubai is like Bali.
After dinner, Reeta introduced us to the correct part of Zayed Port, which sold dates and karak chai!!! We were all pretty tired so the night ended early. So much for making plans to go a dingy bar. ‘Til next time, Reeta! We will definitely party!
22nd November 2017
Packed our bags and checked out of the most luxurious city hotel we have ever stayed. With 5 hours to kill, we decided to have another go at finding a local eatery. Before that though, we returned to Port Zayed, to the very same shop Reeta introduced us last night, for my last dose of karak chai. The ‘kiasu’ Singaporean had emerged with a vengeance. LOL.
(city gate restaurant FTW. THANKS REETA!)
Drove about 30mins to Al Muneera island where we (finally!!) found a local eatery, Meylas! We were so happy. Kenny and I like to immerse ourselves in the local lifestyle as much as possible whenever we travel so this was a major win for us!
(exterior of meylas – cool breeze & nice view of the private beach)
(interior of meylas – reminiscent of a time past)
Our last meal in Abu Dhabi was simple but out of this world! Meylas serves authentic Emirati food which follow unique recipes prepared by Emirati mothers and grandmothers. This was what we ordered:
Rgaag – traditional flatbread with a chosen egg filling
Shorbat Harees – slow cooked beef harees broth with vegetables and lemon
Machbos – braised yellow rice mixed with Meylas special Emirate spices and dry lemon with chosen lamb meat
Goes without saying, we went with our favourite local drinks!
Kenny wanted a last smoke before flying off so we inquired about a nearby spot. Meylas’s manager told us to go over to the next island, Al Bandar, as shisha was not permitted on Al Muneera. A 5min drive got us here:
Al Bandar & Al Muneera are residential & retail complexes. Built on artificial islands, these residences are most probably catered to the upper tier of expats (whites, singaporeans, malaysians and educated asians) with facilities like a marina, clubhouse, shopping and dining options to lure them to work in UAE.
At Pacifico Tiki, we had the best shisha of our lives!
They blended different molasses to create a whole new flavour. It was smooth and soothing even!
(i became a puffing machine)
As the desert sun set on Abu Dhabi, the moon lit our way home. What a superb end to our holiday.
Took us about 15minutes to get to airport. Returned our stallion to the stables. Boarded the Dreamliner and we were homebound.
Hasta la vista, UAE.
We’ll be back!