Abu Dhabi: Deeper into the Desert

The adventure continues in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain…

After Cory finished work for the week, we drove to Abu Dhabi and jumped right into sightseeing.  I must share first that we told the kids we would have a late night and everyone needed to nap on the short drive from Dubai.  We gave them sleep masks to help and they slept like champs!  

Tonight we had a Desert Safari scheduled with “dune bashing” to begin the fun!  If you’re not familiar, basically you ride in a Land Cruiser (with a roll cage) and drive wildly over the sand dunes sliding and bouncing all around.  There was so much giggling coming from our vehicle.  Luckily, we had the kids’ booster seats too as the driver did it up right for us!  Our ride continued to a camel farm where we saw lots of camels including a couple of calves…and one male doing a funny dance to impress the ladies. Then all four of us got to ride camels in a camel caravan; girls on one camel and boys on the other.  Well, I’ve gotten on and ridden a camel before but never when the camel was in a seated position.  It was not what I call a smooth transition; you better hold on!  We were now at a desert camp where we also got to sand sled.  If you’ve never done this before, the hardest part is carrying the sled up the hill.  The kids each tried it then momma and daddy were done.  We tried one of everything at the camp; Bea and I got henna tattoos while Cory took Teddy to hold a falcon.  We sat on Persian rugs and pillows for a delicious mixed grill supper while we watched the entertainment.  First came the belly dancer and Bea joined her to learn some moves.  Last was a Tanoura dancer; I wasn’t familiar with this but what I saw was quite impressive.  He twirled the entire time (roughly 6-7 minutes solid) while twirling his skirt(s) around him or twirling them around his head as well.  I still cannot figure out how he didn’t fall over!  We capped the evening off with some star gazing.  What a relaxing time!  It was late when we got back to the hotel so we dumped kids in the bed.  Baths will have to wait until the morning.   

We started our Saturday off with another delicious buffet breakfast and friendly Marriott staff at Kuzbara.  Today was all about riding the Big Bus around Abu Dhabi to see the sights and figure out where we want to explore further the next day.  We’ve said this before; but, if you’ve never visited a city and only have a short time somewhere, we always take a day for a hop on hop off bus ride.  We were able to snag front row seats up top and see the beauty of Abu Dhabi.  The kids can only sit so long so we hopped off for lunch at the WTC Mall.  Many of their good eateries are in malls because it’s where everyone escapes the heat in the summer.  Their temperatures here can swell to 120 degrees…plus humidity!  

The kids had been so good on the bus that we treated them to kunafa and a playground.  Hazim, a colleague of Cory’s, told us about Al Aqussa…the best sweet place in the UAE.  We can confirm he was correct; they were delicious!  We also tried a few other sweets with cheese or cream filling like a danish.  Yum!  Cory found a non-sand (they’re hard to find outside the US) playground that we took the kids to and what a treat this turned about to be as well!  Bea and Teddy were welcomed onto this neighborhood playground by local kids and had the best time playing with them.  It was so fun that Teddy cried when we said it was time to go.  The children were so friendly and complimentary of us all; afterwards, we talked about how we want to always make sure to do the same when we’re at home to anyone who is an outsider.  They were a delight!

After early bedtimes and the kids getting over 12 hours of sleep, we were ready for another fun day!  Our first stop was Sheikh Zayed Heritage Center to see some UAE history as well as the Sheikh’s favorite personal items and gifts from dignitaries he had received over the years.  We saw two stuffed lions, a stuffed leopard and a zebra skin, a few of his favorite cars and more.  We also tried Arabic coffee which tasted like a mix of coffee and herbal tea.  The men managing the center invited Teddy to sit with them.  Next we drove on to the Emirates Heritage Village which is a replicated village from years past.  The kids’ favorite spot was helping a craftsman work his loom.  One more stop for the day was visiting the Qasr Al Hosn (fort) which is set up as a museum now showing the way life was for the Sheikhs and their families over the years.  Cory loved seeing this museum’s blend of analog pictures married with incredible digital projected murals all in a clean, minimalist space.

Tonight, we were most excited to tour the Grand Mosque; it was only built in 2007 and is what I would imagine the European cathedrals might have looked like in their early days.  It was pristine with in-lay flooring, huge chandeliers, gold-topped columns, the  largest Persian rug ever crafted, fifty-two minerettes (domes) and marble as far as the eye could see!  We all wore long sleeves and pants and Bea and I wore scarfs over our heads out of respect.  We came at night so we could see the sunset and to hear the 5:58pm “call for prayer.”  This wasn’t the first time we had heard the call for prayer but definitely the most picturesque.  The call for prayer was announced on our flights to the Middle East and again from loud speakers around Dubai and Abu Dhabi.  The evening was magical!   

Since yesterday we did mostly adult touristy things; today was all about the kids.  We drove to Al Ain on a beautifully paved highway with manicured trees and flowers all along the way.  Cory’s favorite part of this was the speed limit…160 k/hr (aka 100 mph)!  We first drove up to 4000 feet above sea level to the Jebel Hafeet Mountain to see the city, golden dunes, jagged rocks that looked almost Martian and the crazy green oasis below.  Oh and it had a playground for the kids at the top; perfect!  Next the Al Ain Zoo was even better than expected.  Not only do they have an amazingly expansive zoo but also a safari!  On the safari, we fed carrots to a giraffe out of the top of our Nissan Patrol.  We saw Arabian oryx, zebras, wildebeests including a two month old baby wildebeest, tortoises, simotaur bucks, impalas and two one-week old baby impalas.  We also fed elands out the side window and we drove no more than 10 feet away from three (very large) rhinos!  That’s when I rolled up my window!  Next, we took a golf cart tour around the zoo to see hyenas, hippos swimming, sand gazelles, chimpanzees, baboons, macaques, a reptile house full of slithering things, meerkats, white lioness and her sons (one had climbed in a tree to get a stick to play with) and cheetahs.  I mean this zoo had it all!  I cannot wait to take them on a safari in Africa one day…in a few years.   

After we got kids down for bed, we repacked (it’s a common theme when you hop around to different cities) into one suitcase so we could travel light for our next destination to India!  Since we’re staying at the same hotel in Dubai as before, they allowed us to leave the rest of our belongings with them.  That was a huge help!

Now, on to New Delhi and Agra, India! 

Also, feel free to follow us on Instagram @gowithdaddy

Sweet kiddos wearing masks to sleep in the car

Sand sledding

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Qasr Al Hosn (fort where Sheikhs and their families lived)

Al Ain Zoo and Safari

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