Abu Dhabi, UAE: What to See in a Day

During my three-month stint in the United Arab Emirates last year, it so happened I had to celebrate my birthday in the Middle East. I didn't have any big plans, but I knew I wanted to keep this tradition of traveling somewhere on my birthday. While I’m not sure how it will go this year 2020, given the COVID-19 situation and travel restrictions for tourism, let me go back a bit in 2019 when I went to Abu Dhabi!

Most people are mistaken for Dubai as the capital of the UAE, but it's really Abu Dhabi. I had been to Abu Dhabi before, but only inside the Abu Dhabi International Airport during my trips to and from Europe. This time, I was looking forward to travel from Dubai, which is around 160 km away and 3 hours by land travel.
With Dubai as my home base, going to Abu Dhabi was sort of a last minute plan. One night, while on our bunk beds, my housemate Millet just came up with this idea that we go to Abu Dhabi after seeing a Facebook ad of a local travel agency. The next day, I eagerly walked from our apartment in Al Rigga to the agency's office near Al Basaam Center to book and pay for our tour. It was a pretty good deal at 89 AED per person, which is an organized group and day tour from Dubai to Abu Dhabi.

We went to Union Metro Station on the day of the tour. To my surprise, the entire group was composed of Filipino travelers, including the tour operators. By that, I can just imagine how thousands of Filipinos OFWs live and work in Dubai.

Before heading to Abu Dhabi, we had a quick stop at The Last Exit, which is a fancy Instagrammable food park along Sheikh Sayed Road in Dubai. It's a really nice place and the unique toilet inside is, believe it or not, the coolest of them all. Haha.
As first stop in Abu Dhabi, we went to Ferrari World, which is famous for the fastest roller coaster in the world. This indoor amusement park is part of the whole Yas Island that's basically surrounded by different shops, restaurants, and hotels. It’s like Disneyland if you’d ask me. 
Next, we headed to the Louvre Abu Dhabi. It’s a museum that houses an array of Emirati and global artifacts. As I walked around, I was somehow reminded on how more grand and luxurious-looking the Louvre in Paris was (I went there in 2018!). While Abu Dhabi’s version has its own style (simplistic, in my opinion), I personally find the first Louvre in France better. 

At lunch time, we dropped by Marina Mall to take a break. While wanting a good place to eat (since it was my birthday, right?), Millet and I funnily ended up at McDonald’s because that was the only place that could serve fast! Anyhow, at least I enjoyed the harbor view outside of this shopping mall!
One of the attractions in the area is this huge Ferris wheel, called Marina Eye, which reminded me of Mall of Asia in the Philippines. They look very identical to me!

On the way, we passed by the Emirates Palace and Etihad Towers. They're also Abu Dhabi attractions, but due to limited time, we didn't really get the chance to go down, take some photos, or even enter. I'll save them for the next visit though!
For the final stop (where we spent time the longest), we went to the most famous attraction in Abu Dhabi: the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Also called as the white mosque and grand mosque, it’s the largest, and perhaps the most beautiful, mosque in the UAE. It’s named after UAE’s ruler for 30 years, Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. When Sheikh Zayed died in 2004, his son Khalifa Al Nahyan and now UAE’s president, took over leadership of the country. 
Entrance dome / door to the mosque
Dome-shaped door to the mosque 
When the bus dropped us across the mosque, I realized the entrance was really at the opposite side. As we entered this dome-shaped door, it surprised me we had to walk across through an underpass (it was longgg walk actually) to reach the mosque.
Since we were visiting an Islamic religious site, all women were required to wear an abaya. It's a garment that covers the head, knees, and elbow of women, a practice that's actually mentioned in the Quran (Islamic bible). For visitors and non-Muslims, there's a cloak area to borrow the abaya for free.
Seeing this huge mosque up close was an amazing experience. As a fan of massive architecture, of course, this mosque has got to be one of my favorites. The walls, pillars, and flooring that are mostly painted in white and gold truly make it very elegant. Again, I didn't have any cakes, parties, nor big dinners during my birthday, but letting myself travel is the best gift I could ever receive, and that truly makes me happy.

I also created a vlog of this trip! Check it out:

Have you ever celebrated your birthday abroad? Where and what did you do?

Abu Dhabi, UAE: What to See in a Day Abu Dhabi, UAE: What to See in a Day Reviewed by Shelly Viajera Travel on 6.8.20 Rating: 5

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