I got the chance to go to the 6 star Emirates Palace for the weekend. Have been to Dubai very briefly as a stopover from Brisbane, but never Abu Dhabi .
The flight to Abu Dhabi is just over 6 hours, a little longer than any of the European destinations but the weather tends to be considerably warmer. Even in February it was mostly in the high twenties although the first morning was very misty and somewhat cooler. Of course this was the day we chose for our Big Bus Tour.
the first tip I would give is that taxis are very cheap and apart from the mosque which is quite a long way out of the city, most other places are only about £2 in a cab anyway so getting the tour didn’t prove to be good value.
If you do opt for the tour, a good tip is to get on anywhere except the mosque or Marina Mall. They don’t have a desk anywhere else so they can only issue the tickets where they have a desk. We got on at Emirates Towers and our first stop was the Sheikh Zayed Mosque.
The mosque was only built in 2007 but must surely rank as being one of the worlds top “must do’s”. It truly is an awesome sight. It is one of worlds largest mosques, a huge structure built in marble with beautiful mother of pearl inlay, mosaics, glass, clever lighting, flowers made from polished natural stone and huge bejewelled chandeliers hanging from the ceiling weighing several tons. Not forgetting modern technology, there are clocks built into the design displaying the time in several cities. A tip for the. Osage is that you must wear a long flowing dress or skirt, long sleeves and a headscarf or pashmina so you should take one with you.
We did plan to do all the sights on the first day but got off at the corniche and walked to the central soukh. This wasn’t far but then we couldn’t find the central soukh stop. These are not marked and neither the literature nor the app gives you that information. By the time we spent around 15 minutes looking for the stop which bore no resemblance to the map, we saw it on the other side of the road with no hope of catching it.
We got a cab back and it was at this point we realised how little cabs cost in Abu Dhabi. While we were in the central Soukh, we noticed a restaurant calked Tabouche which served Middle East meze so we got. A cab back in the evening. It was inexpensive but the food was average.
The following day we took a cab to Heritage Village which was even less traditional than we hoped, really just a tourist trap. There was some very heavy propoganda for the much revered Sheikh Zayed in the form of many posters throughout the complex. We left the complex only to discover we had just missed Big Bus so we took another cab to Marina Mall and to use our free ticket for Sky Tower.
Sky Tower is a complete waste of time. It is free but half covered by a canopy and the top is an overpriced cafe. A complete waste of half an hour. The mall is a decent place to shop and electrical goods are very cheap but we wanted to catch the bus back to Etihad Towers if only to say we had actually managed to get another ride on our 24 hour ticket
With the bus ticket we got a half price ticket to Observation Deck at 300. This cost around £5 with the now expired Big Bus deal, but even at the full pice of £10 much better value than the “free” Sky Tower. The Observation Deck is on the 74th floor of Jumeirah at Etihad Towers. This completely dwarfs Sky Tower which looks like a dolls house down below and you have an impressive view of the city and all the developments and islands surrounding the city.
After much googling we discovered a Lebanese/Armenian restaurant at the Sheraton. This is at Sheraton Corniche (not Sheraton Khalidya). The restaurant is called Al Mayass and the Sheraton itself seems a good mid range option with plenty of nice bars and restaurants on site.
We spent most of our last day just chilling by the pool and enjoying the beautiful private beach in front of the hotel.
If you are interested in a short winter break in Abu Dhabi or a stopover on your way to or from Australia or New Zealand please feel free to give me a call on 020 3432 4740 or email cathie.odea@ travelcounsellors.com