Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

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Day two: I hopped outta bed at 8am, ready to take Abu Dhabi day two by storm. Although jet lag had kicked in the previous night (and was not working in my favor), it was overpowered by my shear excitement to explore more of the city the next morning. After getting ready and having a quick breakfast, I was introduced to my driver at 9.30, and we were already on our way to the Grand Mosque before 10am.

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The Grand Mosque- there really aren’t words to describe it. Definitely one of the most beautiful buildings I’ve ever seen. Breathtaking. The pure white in contrast with the pure gold detailing and bright blue tiles, it looks so clean and refreshing. The driver had brought me an abaya to put on, as women are made to cover everything except for the face. He then gave me about 45 minutes to explore the religious site. Now, I could bore you with details about the architecture and the history, but I’ll spare you and skip all that.

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So next we were off to the date market. I freaked out when the guide informed me of this, because strangely, I LOVE DATES. Most people I know hate them or think they’re gross, but I don’t know what on earth they are talking about. They’re seriously delicious. I was maybe the happiest girl to have ever visited the date market, because they let me test out the different kinds- did you know there are over 90 types of dates? Yup. And they all taste so different. Anyways, I was really really enjoying myself at this date market.
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Once a sugar rush had hit due to date-overload, we headed over towards the Historical Village. This is an area of the city which depicts how the Arabs used to live, prior to the industrialization of the UAE. Honestly, I’m not sure quite how they did it because, although beautiful, it was so darn hot. Like, 110 Fahrenheit, and that’s on an average day. There were all types of artisans at work (glass blowers, carpet makers, to name a few), an agricultural community, and living quarters. The end of a tour and a trip that I will never forget.

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Xx,

Tash

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Arabian Desert Safari

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Update: I’m moving to the desert. I love it. Its beautiful simplicity intertwined with the Arabian culture is absolutely breathtaking. The colors of the sandy dunes shining off of the bright blue skies without a cloud in the sky is one thing that everyone needs to see in their lifetime. Oh, and also, this place is made for Instagram. Everywhere you look, every angle you position your camera- BOOM! Quality insta right there. I had a fantastic experience on my desert safari, and so I’ll give you a little recap.

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I was collected by my guide at around 4:30pm, and after picking up another family of mother, aunt, two young children, and a friend (who all live in Abu Dhabi), we drove 45 minutes out into the isolated area of clear skies, camels, and sandy hills. First thing on the menu was the safari around the sand dunes. This consisted of about 15 safari cars speeding and bouncing up and down the dunes. The vehicles were doing all sorts of things that I thought vehicles shouldn’t be able to do. Terrified? Yes. Having the time of my life? Yes. On the way back we stopped at one of the camel farms just to watch them gaze and do their thang for about 15 minutes.

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“No pictures, please.”

 

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the two little boys!

 

Then, we were headed back to the desert camp. Here, all groups from the 15 cars joined in a big area with access to refreshments, henna painting, smoking from the midkwah (Arabian tradition), sand boarding, camel riding, and just about every cool Arabian cultured activity that comes to one’s mind. This is where I really connected with the family I was on the trip with- I felt like they had adopted me into their little family for the day. I enjoyed their company and they enjoyed mine as we bonded over the different areas of the world that we came from- each so fascinated by the other’s culture (I learned so much about the UAE from them!). At around eight o’clock, we were greeted with a vast buffet of Arabian classics. I’m talking hummus, barbecued meats, more barbecued meats, different types of rice and salads, all topped off with a local rice pudding, muhalabia.

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Henna art

 

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Traditional Arabic food

 

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Muhalabia (Arabic rice pudding)

 

Post dinner, meaning post food coma, was the entertainment of the night: Belly dancing! I had never before seen a professional belly dancer, and she was amazing. She balanced swords in places I didn’t know possible, moved her stomach in even stranger ways, and ended with a traditional Arabic dance. Winding down this spectacular evening, all lights were shut off, and all guests laid on their backs for star gazing. It was truly the perfect ending to the most perfectly imaginable day in the Abu Dhabi desert.

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my adopted family for the day 🙂

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Xx,

Tash

Arrival in Abu Dhabi

This past week, on route to Australia, I stopped in Abu Dhabi for a couple of days. So it was me, for two days, in Abu Dhabi, ALONE. Pretty cool. The closest I had come to Abu Dhabi before this trip was the Dubai airport when I was traveling to Tanzania a few years ago. And man, even that airport was like a mini vacation in itself!

Since the moment the flight attendant told me to open my window blinds in preparation for landing, I was astonished at how beautiful this place was. I mean, I had no idea the sky could be so many shades of blues, oranges, pinks, and yellows, all at once! My eyes were paralyzed on the view for a good 75 minutes— no joke.  (due to amazing view + me being delirious from the 13 hour flight) I landed at about 7:30pm Abu Dhabi time (8 hours ahead of NY), sped through customs, security, baggage claim, and met my driver for a short 20 minute drive from the airport.

On my arrival I was greeted by a multitude of gentleman and was treated like a Princess. After being checked in, I was brought up to my room, where I was given a mini tour and settled in. At this point I was in utter awe at how amazing this place, this hotel, and these people are. I felt as if I was literally in a whole different world. Men and women walking around in their traditional Arab dress with the headpieces and everything. Of course I have seen Sex and the City 2 a million times, and it was actually just like that (to give you a better idea). Let’s just hope I don’t pull a Samantha and get kicked out of the country.

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Amazing lobby

 

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Quick shower, and an ever quicker unpacking job, I was starving and ready for my first bite of Arabian cuisine. Who knew that a hotel could have so many restaurants? I mean this one has at least five— all different and all delicious. So I ordered a seafood salad with some of their local dressing, cuddled up in bed with an (unknown) movie, popped a sleeping pill, and that was the end to my long first day.

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View of the Grand Mosque top right corner!

 

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This morning (day two) I woke up to my alarm at 9am. First thing I thought was this is just not gonna happen— I hit snooze, and fell back asleep until 11am. I rushed out of bed, went to the gym for like a minute (have you ever been to a gym with the perfect view of the Grand Mosque? I have!), then laid out by the pool. When I say “laid out”, I mean sat there uncomfortably drenched in sweat after 2 minutes because it was 100 degrees. No exaggeration. I then came to a sudden realization that i hadn’t had my morning brew yet. What! It’s already 12:15, and I haven’t had a sip of caffeine (even with this jet lag)!? So I headed to the oh-so-fancy Chocolate Lounge where I had a couple (or a few) cups. And that’s that.

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Where the chocolate-making magic happens

 

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Lounged there while writing 🙂

 

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This afternoon I am going on a Desert Safari organized through the hotel. I don’t know why it’s called a “safari” because since it’s in the desert, we will be seeing absolutely no animals (except Camels!). But, even better, I will be camel riding, sand boarding, watching belly dancing, henna painting, and feasting on an Arabian Desert- Barbecue. I literally can not wait! More to come…

Xx,

Tash