Free Day In Abu Dhabi

Published August 16, 2010 by Christa Maurice

I have to say the free breakfast ADEC provided was a stroke of genius. Take a bunch of anxious teachers who are alone (or feel alone) in a strange place and offer them free food. Finding the restaurant was a little tricky though. I went to the third floor and followed the sign. I found a hair salon, the pool and a screen. Circling back around after ogling the be-you-tea-ful pool, I found the restaurant hiding behind the screen. At first I was seated by myself, but Karen at the next table asked me to join her and her daughter, Shelby. They’re from Kansas. Then Doug who I had been talking to at the airport arrived. Doug is from California, but spent most of his career teaching at East Coast prep schools. I also met Angela and her husband who are from somewhere in England and a couple of other people whose names I have forgotten. We chatted for a while and Karen and Shelby left so I went over to talk to Lorna who is from Scotland (Fife to be specific.) The Joe (Manchester, Eng) turned up and we chatted with him.

The breakfast was also amazing. Everything you could possibly want for breakfast up to and including fish and salad. Oh and chocolate sauce for your pancakes and/french toast.

Anyway, the breakfast was closing up so I went back to my room for my sunhat and camera, planning to take pictures of the environs of the hotel (and mistakenly believing that I could walk – well, anywhere from here.) In the lobby, Karen came rushing up to me and announced, “I’m going to rent a car and drive around the city.” I said, okay. What else do you say to a statement like that coming out of left field as it did? Then she said, “you want to split it with me?” I said, “are you driving?” She said she was and while we were getting everything settled, we bumped into another lady with a little girl. She was only known as Hannah’s mom because we couldn’t remember her name later. She was originally from California, had lived for a while in Morocco and had come to Abu Dhabi from North Carolina.

We took off with no particular destination in mind, which helped since we immediately got lost. In the meantime, we stumbled across a building that we decided looked like the lamp from A Christmas Story. Then we got stuck in a loop around that and it seemed like no matter which way we turned we couldn’t get out. Then we did the same thing at this grungy auto repair/construction supply/guy zone. We stopped at a little grocery store that smelled amazing. The aisles were narrow (like turn sideways narrow) then milk was unpasturized and there were six guys just hanging out in the store. Hannah’s mom wanted to get something for Hannah to eat because at two Hannah is well under the age where she has to observe Ramadan restrictions. Karen and Shelby bought bottles of pop that we debated if it was okay to drink in the car. They did, but I’ve since learned that it’s not okay. I erred on the side of caution. We dropped into the Abu Dhabi Mall too. It was weird because almost everything was closed, but I was gratified to see a Mexican place going into the food court. Everything was heavily decorated and very pretty.

Then we found the World’s Largest Mosque. We had seem it from the bus in the dark on the way from the airport and it looked like something out of a Disney movie (Aladdin to be exact.) Karen pulled up tot eh first gate we found so we could take some pictures and as I’m snapping out the front window and Hannah’s mom is snapping out the back, a guard steps out of the guard shack carrying an AK-47 and looking mean. Karen started to panic because he had his hands on his gun in a very businesslike manner. I thought we might be in a little trouble, but since I’d seen guys roaming around with serious weapons in other places I knew we weren’t about to be shot. Then Hannah’s mom rolled down her window and started talking to the guy in Arabic! She said she spoke a little Arabic from living in Morocco, but she carried on a conversation with very few pauses. The guard dropped his hands from his gun, started smiling and gave us directions to the front entrance of the mosque. Note to self, learn more Arabic.

After the mosque, we decided to head back to the hotel (once we found it) and rest for a while. Then we were going to meet in the lobby at 5:30 for more adventuring. So at 5:30, rested and hydrated, I went down to the lobby.

And nobody was there.

So I hung around for a few minutes. Ran into Carmella (from Texas) who was supposed to meet a group for dinner at 6:30 and thought she was late. Then I bumped into Lorna who had been at the beach with Joe, but decided it was too hot. Being me, I ventured out into it to see for myself. During the day it had been hot but the humidity was low. With the evening coming on the humidity went up and the air was like soup again. I walked around the front of the hotel hoping I could find a way down to the street so I could walk somewhere, but there are no sidewalks and I wasn’t about to attempt the driveway. No way out up front, so I headed around back and walked along the marina to the private beach. You know you’re in a nice hotel when it has its own marina.

On the way back in, I ran into Shelby who was looking for me to see if I wanted to go with them to the Marina Mall for dinner. Heck, yeah. I feel so American. I was in two malls in one day.

So we went to the Marina Mall for dinner. We’d lost track of Hannah and her mom, but picked up Cindy who might end up being my supervisor. It was just Iftar (the final prayer before Muslims are allowed to break their fast for the day) so the restaurants were just opening and there were lines. We had to wait for a table so Shelby and I went exploring. The Marina Mall is right next to the Emir’s palace and contains the nearest Carrefour (Walmart equivalent.) It has a bowling alley and an ice skating rink as well as tons of shops and restaurants (and the Carrefour.) We ate a Fudrucker’s. I know, not only did I hit two malls in one day, but I ate at a very American style restaurant for dinner. Seriously, I have yet to eat local. I’m working on it.

At Carrefour, we perused abayas. The ones we saw elsewhere were over $100, but the ones at Carrefour were closer to $30. I didn’t buy any because I’m waiting to see what the lay of the land is in the school.

I didn’t get back to my room until 10 and the day felt about three days long.

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3 comments on “Free Day In Abu Dhabi

  • I think it must be really hard to move here during Ramadan. I’ve heard that they give people information at the airport to tell them that they can’t eat/drink in public etc.; is this true?

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