Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

We arrived on the island of Abu Dhabi around dusk. The city seemed a lot smaller than Dubai but huge in comparison to Doha. However, like Doha, there is a lot of construction going on.

In the evening we had dinner at popular restaurant – Lebanese Flower. We were starving after a day on the road and it was quite comforting and delicious, we had lentil soup, falafel, fattoush and grilled lamb and chicken. After dinner we took a walk by the Emirates Palace which is beautifully lit up at night.

The following day we decided to follow the ‘Big Bus Tours’ and do a round trip of the city.

  1. Marina Mall
  2. Sheikh Zayed Mosque
  3. Eastern Corniche
  4. Abu Dhabi Mall
  5. Carpet Souk
  6. Iranian Market
  7. Abu Dhabi Corniche
  8. Al Hosn Fort and Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation
  9. Markaziyah Park and Gardens
  10. Public Beach
  11. Heritage Centre


We started first at the eastern part of the corniche – there are marshes here off the main island, and plenty of flamingos enjoying the wetlands.

We then drove past Abu Dhabi Mall, towards the port/fishing area where we had hoped to stop and have look at the Iranian markets. It was just a street lined with stores selling Iranian pottery, knick knacks such as plasticware…and not much else. So, we drove past and continued on.

We decided to stop off at the Emirates Culture and Heritage village and have a look around. From here you could see the full view of the city skyline and surrounding it were beautiful white beaches which crystal clear water. Next to the Cultural centre was the famous Abu Dhabi flag pole – the highest in the world at

Nearby is the Marina Mall and Sky Tower. We headed to the top of the Sky Tower – to a coffee house where we took a break, had some coffee and icecream and enjoyed the views of Abu Dhabi.

After that we headed to the Emirates Palace and this time went inside to have a look see. Full of fanciful restaurants and a five star hotel.. it wasn’t as impressive inside (so I thought anyway). However, a highlight was the gold bar ATM (for withdrawing gold bars as opposed to cash!).

Emirates Palace at nightEmirates Palace entrance gateSonya with mangroves in the background
UAE Heritage VillageDucks at UAE Heritage VillageKhanjar Dagger and Arabic Teapot
Sonya and some ducks at UAE Heritage VillageTwo Khanjar Daggers at UAE Heritage VillageAbu Dhabi skyline from Abu Dhabi Theatre
Marina MallEtihad TowersSonya with portraits of Sheikhs at the Emirates Palace
Under the Emirates Palace domePalm trees in one of the Emirates Palace hallsYes, an ATM that dispenses gold

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Lastly, we did a stop at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. I had to put on an abaya here, as women are not allowed to be photographed without one on. The mosque itself is huge (it can accommodate 40,000 worshippers) and extremely beautiful with lots of pillars and intricate Islamic art.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque view from southSheikh Zayed Grand Mosque view from west main entranceSheikh Zayed Grand Mosque domes
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque decorated doorSheikh Zayed Grand Mosque domes and archesSheikh Zayed Grand Mosque domes and arches
At the entrance to the court of Sheikh Zayed Grand MosqueSheikh Zayed Grand Mosque inside courtSonya wearing a Abaya at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque inside courtSonya wearing a Abaya at the Sheikh Zayed Grand MosqueOutside Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque


United Arab Emirates weekender

Last weekend Sonya and I had an opportunity to visit the United Arab Emirates (UAE) over the weekend. We had previously visited Dubai, so thought we would check out Abu Dhabi instead.

I met up with Sonya who was already in Dubai for a course on the Friday (the start of the weekend in the middle east).

We hired a car and for the first day we thought we would explore the UAE. UAE has very close ties with Oman, as it should, as the two countries are geographically interspersed together. We decided to visit Dibba, situated on the northern-east of the UAE, located at the Gulf of Oman it politically shares parts with both UAE and Oman.


From Dibba we drove to Hatta, Hatta is located in the central-eat of the UAE, to reach Hatta we actually crossed into Oman, and then back into UAE.

Diba Al Fujairah MosqueDiba Al Fujairah Marina MosqueDiba Al Hisn Port
Sonya with the rental carAl Hajar MountainsSonya with the Al Hajar Mountains in the background
Power lines in Suwaydan desertDonkeys in Al MalaihaHatta Fort Roundabout
Painted flags on the mountain in HattaUAE coat of arms and Arab teapot on doorPaintings depicting traditional Arabic life
Paintings depicting traditional Arabic lifeNazwa desertNazwa desert

In general  there really wasn’t much to see in the northen UAE, a few camels and interesting bits and pieces, but not too much.

From Hatta we drove to Abu Dhabi reaching around 6 pm.


Dubai – our introduction to the Middle East

After an extremely long sixteen hour flight from Los Angeles we arrived at Dubai. We had heard that Dubai was a relatively liberal city compared to the rest of the Middle East but still strictly abides by Islamic law so we were anxious about visiting there.

It was an interesting experience riding in the taxi to our hotel, all the sandy coloured buildings, Arabic writings and mosques.

Our first night we had our first taste of Arabic cuisine, with dishes of lamb, hummus, chickpeas and olives.

Day 1 – Desert Safari

The next morning we where introduced to another Arabic culture, the dawn Islamic Prayer (Fajr), which is signalled via a ‘call to prayer’ (adhān) via loudspeakers. It also didn’t help that the mosque was directly outside our window.

We had booked a desert safari in afternoon which gave us the morning to start exploring Dubai. We walked along Dubai Creek towards the Gold and Spice Souks in the Deira district. We spent all morning looking for a clock tower which was somewhat of a disappointment on arrival.

The desert safari we booked with Oasis Palm Tourism via our hotel. The tour included dune bashing and more ‘traditional’ activities including a meal at a camp for 270 Dirham per head. The activities all gave us some pretty unique photos. The dune bashing, which was a convoy of SUVs driving up and down the dunes at ridiculous speeds, was a blast.  Many times I was concerned the car would roll, fortunately it didn’t. I don’t think any of the drivers got bogged once. At one spot we were given a chance to ‘sandboard’ which was literally a five second affair sliding down a dune.

On arriving at the camp which was reminiscent of a Bedouin camp, we were greeted by two camels who we could ride, this gave us some nice photos. Inside the very large camp were many areas for eating on the outskirts of a larger performance area for belly dancing, and also an area to try the tradition Arabic clothes (the male thawb and female jilaabah),  Henna painting, which Sonya later found out she would be displaying for a month and Shisha smoking of apple flavoured tobacco.

Dinner was a selection of barbeque meats, salads and breads.

Travis at dinner with a complimentary saladSonya at dinner with a variety of Arabic dishesSonya at the north side of Dubai Creek
Outside the Dubai fish marketsDeira clock towerTravis on a sand dune
Sonya and some sandSonya and with the Oasis Palm desert safari vehicleConvoy of vehicles
Many vehicles dune bashingTravis attempts sand-boardingA remote camel farm
CamelsSonya and a camelDunes at dusk
Sonya and Travis riding a camelSonya and Travis in the traditional Arabic clothesSonya getting Henna painted
Sonya's HennaBedouin esque campTravis smoking a Shisha

Day 2 – Downtown Dubai and Burj Khalifa

This day we spent exploring Downtown Dubai which includes the Burj Khalifa, Dubai Mall and Dubai Fountain.

On arrival to the over-towing Burj our first thoughts were ‘wow, it’s big’. Out of pure luck we happened to be in Dubai a few days after the official opening and managed to go all the way up to the observation deck. The views on the observation deck were amazing, and it was a very surreal feeling overlooking all the other skyscrapers.

For the rest of the day we browsed the adjacent Dubai Mall, one of the largest malls in the world. The mall had a multi-storey indoor aquarium, waterfalls and even an ice-rink. The mall had all the western shops including luxury brands. We finished the day off with another visit to the gold, spice and perfume souks, before our flight back to Perth, which sadly concluding our holidays.

Dubai Creek with the skyline in the backgroundSonya and the BurjSonya and Travis and the Burj
Burj KhalifaBurj KhalifaSonya and the Burj in the background
Hotels surrounding Dubai FountainLuxury chocolatereExtravagant lobby
From the earth to the skySonya at the Burj observation deckTravis at the Burj observation deck
Looking down at the rest of Dubai's skyscrapersTravis with models of the construction stagesBurj escalator
Hotels surrounding Dubai FountainSonya and the Dubai MuseumSpices at the Spice Souk