I contemplated not writing about this because I actually took this trip over a year ago, but hey, somebody might be preparing to go to the UAE, and want to know a little som'n some'n about my experience. So...here!
It was on Christmas of 2014 that I was fortunate enough to snag one of the crazy Etihad deals during the "glitch." I booked the trip for April 2015 in celebration of my birthday. I had no other friends who were able to book for that time so this was going to be my first solo trip abroad. I can't say that I was excited about the trip. I was experiencing FOMO (a dumb acronym for "fear of missing out"). I was thinking "everyone else who booked this deal is going to be having the time of their lives with a group of friends whilst I'm walking through the streets kicking around tumbleweed and dead scorpions." I couldn't have been more wrong.
As I've mentioned in other posts, any time there is a huge sale or glitch, and a large number of people book a trip, there are Facebook groups that are started for groups of people traveling to the destination at the same time. This was no exception. I joined a group and the planning began.
Let's get into the meat of the trip, though. *Pulls up Evernote to look at the itinerary I saved*
I split my trip into two halves. The first half was in Abu Dhabi, and then I sojourned to Dubai to end the trip with a bang.
I used AirBNB to book this amazing room at the Jumeirah Etihad Towers. This was my first time using AirBNB so I was extremely skeptical. When I saw the picture of the buildings I'd be staying in, however, I was simply amazed. The towers are even more breathtaking in person than they are in photos or how they were captured in the Fast & the Furious 7 movie. From my room, I had a view of the Emirates Palace and the new Presidential Palace. To say I was overwhelmed with excitement, would be an understatement.
Since it was pretty late in the day and I was tired from a long day of travel, I just planned to head to the Grand Mosque. It was such a quiet and solemn place. Everything was so...well, it's hard to describe. Just look at the pictures below, and then book a damn ticket and see it for yourself.
Pro tip: The best time to go would be a couple hours before sunset. That way, you can see the mosque in all its glory in daylight and at night.
On Day 2, I spend the majority of the day at Saadiyat Beach. Can you tell that I used my time in Abu Dhabi to chill? Anyway, the water was crystal clear and the vibe was very relaxed. The water was extremely warm, so I didn't spend too much time acting like I wanted to get in the water, but being apprehensive for fear that my balls jump up through my throat.
After spending the day laid out at the beach letting my iTunes Random playlist entertain me, I caught a cab back to my apartment and got prepared to meet my college friend for dinner. She is now a resident of Abu Dhabi, so I knew she'd have a great place in mind for food, as I wasn't too impressed with the cuisines for the duration of the trip.
Before dinner, we went to the World Trade Center to shop at the souk. I purchased a couple head scarves, Turkish coffee and spices. She then took me to a placed called Lebanese Flower, and we opted for outside seating. I let her order for me, and I am happy I did. She ordered the Mixed Grill, and it was more than enough for us to share. We also ordered shisha (hookah) and I believe we chose the grape mint flavor. I don't really smoke hookah, because here in the U.S., we seemed to have overdone making it the "cool" thing to do, and also because I read up on the health implications on it, but hey, when in the UAE, I'm doing it. The cool thing about smoking shisha there, is that the servers keep replenishing it until you are ready to leave. They aren't overcharging you and skimping like they do in the U.S. That night, she also turned me on to Turkish coffee. It's delicious!
For my last day in Abu Dhabi, I woke up and felt royal. So, what did I do? I sauntered my ass over to the Emirates Palace and had a $30 breakfast of just bread and cappuccino with real gold in it. That's right...real gold! Why? Just because I wanted to! That's a perk of traveling solo. As I was having breakfast, and taking in my surroundings, there was a pianist keeping me and the few other guest entertained.
I then met up with a couple fellow Nomadness Tribe members at Ferrari World. They were a fun couple and the wife was pregnant with her first child. We rode a couple rides and took a few pictures, but I'd be lying if I said that the theme park was extremely fun. Take a picture of it from the outside and keep it moving. Save your money.
That night, I met back up with my college friend to have drinks back at the Emirates Palace, and a couple of her friends joined us. Once the happy hour at the Havana Club (inside the palace) was over, we all decided to keep the party going, and headed over to the Rosewood for dinner, drinks and shisha, overlooking the water.
There are many ways to get to Dubai from Abu Dhabi, but luckily my friend volunteered to drive me there! I stayed in another AirBNB apartment that was located right by the marina. After checking in, I walked over to a fellow travelers' hotel (met her in the Facebook group) and we were picked up for our desert safari.
On our way to the desert location, we made friends with the travelers who were in the van with us. They were visiting from Nigeria on business. When we arrived, we hopped in a jeep and went dune bashing. This was followed by camel rides and then an epic buffet dinner with live entertainment.
That evening, we met up with our new Nigerian friends and went to the Barasti Beach Club. Pro Tip: This club is the most fun on Friday evenings. Plan accordingly. The evening was filled with drinks, loud music, live bands and flashing lights. Trust me...go!
Saturday, was probably the most fun I had while in the UAE. I met up with about eleven other travelers who were apart of the infamous Facebook group, and we chartered our own yacht (using Groupon), and we sailed the Persian Gulf. We all came with a liquor of choice and the captain gave us the aux cord to the sound system, so the turn up was real. It was funny, because we were looking at all of the other boats on the water, and they were super chill. Most were just laying out and tanning, or enjoying glasses of wine. Cut over to our yacht and you see us with the music on blast, and drinks in the air as we dance until our thighs hurt, while trying to capture the moments on our camera phones.
For the remainder of my trip, I spent my time alone, except for when I met with my frat brother (and his girlfriend who actually lives in Brooklyn, like myself) who's now a resident of Dubai, for a beach kickback and dinner later that evening. Before that, however, I went to the Miracle Garden and Butterly Garden. Those places are great for taking pictures and just admiring the beautiful surroundings. I lucked out and went during the time when the flowers were in full bloom.
I left the gardens and hopped in a cab, and headed over to the Dubai Mall. Mind you, this is the biggest mall in the world, and it is almost impossible to see everything in one day. I walked around the mall, feeling broke as hell because of all of the high-end stores, and waited for the sun to set so I could go outside to see the water show and the Burj Khalifa in all its splendor! The Burj Khalifa, which is the tallest building in the world, is a sight to see! It's also hard as hell to take a selfie with it in the background!
On my last day in Dubai, I went back to the mall to try and conquer the parts of it I didn't see on the first day I went. This was also a way for me to burn time before meeting up with some new friends at the Burj Al Arab (the only 7-star hotel in the world) to celebrate my birthday and participate in one of the most bourgeois-est things I've ever done...a high tea at sunset. We stayed there for hours (to get our money's worth) and consumed endless teas, coffees, and finger foods. Our table was overlooking the Persian Gulf, and when our time was up at the table, we moved to the bar area and kept the party going. I should note that you can't even get on the grounds of the Burj Al Arab unless you have reservations, either for a room, dinner or tea. Plan accordingly.
I would provide some profound summary here, but this post is long enough, so I'll just say, "If you want to go to the UAE, BOOK THE TICKET!" if you have any questions, drop them in the comments section below. I'm happy to give more info.