My bonding session in Abu DhabiBy Rebecca Papprill
I visited my parents in Abu Dhabi over Christmas. They’re both in their 60s, well actually I lie, because Mum’s in her early 70s, but you’d never know because she looks and acts younger.
I think it’s because they’re living in another country. Gives them a sense of adventure, fills them with new experiences or maybe it’s because they’re secretly enjoying being away from their kids. (might have to have a word with them about that…)
This is their fourth year in the Gulf, so I thought I better scrape together all my savings and head off to see them before they headed home for good.
“Bonding session” was what I called the trip. A good old bonding session with the parents and I tell ya what, for their age, they tired me out! With Mum enjoying trekking me around the numerous shopping malls and Dad proudly showing us the cities major attractions, my feet were starting to look like a true ballerina, blistered, achy and in serious need of rest.
Now there are two things you need to know about Abu Dhabi before you leave, pack lightly, because believe me you’ll want to shop – actually, just take an empty suitcase.
And secondly, invest in a good pair of walking shoes.
I thought about writing on one particular outing in Abu Dhabi, but there is so much more of the city than that. For instance, it’s hard to believe that 40 years ago, Abu Dhabi was just a desert, home to a few nomadic tribes and villages where the economy was based around pearl diving, fishing and date palm cultivation.
Now when you step into the warmth of Abu Dhabi you’ll find a buzzing modern cosmopolitan city encompassing an eclectic population of 1.6 million where Emirate citizens make up nearly 20 percent of the total population; the other 80 percent are expatriates from Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe and North America.
With the leadership of the late UAE President and ruler, His Highness Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, oil and gas was wisely invested transforming the place.
It has been this transformation that has made Abu Dhabi, the richest country and one of the most fascinating places to visit.
Abu Dhabi’s culture is firmly rooted in Arabia’s Islamic traditions, but there’s a twist of modern influence dictated in the Emirati’s clothes.
You’ll notice peeking out the bottom of the women’s black abayas sparkling three-inch heels, on their arms high fashion handbags, such as Gucci and in their hand an IPhone, when it comes to the men, in their white thobes, sandals and chic sunglasses, you’ll probably find they drive a large, very large, jeep with extremely dark tinted windows.(Even though the law says that over 30% tint is too dark).
Dad told me his friend had hired a car to drive to Dubai and had only driven a few metres before he had to turn back and replace it with a car he could actually see out of.
Along with wearing an abaya and tinted windows I’m not surprised that the local newspaper ran an article about many Emirati woman lacking Vitamin D due to little exposure to the sun. Considering that in summer temperatures can exceed 45 degrees, (Dad calls it being ‘fan baked’) it could be hard to believe, but it’s true. Winter is friendlier to the locals with temperatures falling between 20 – 30 degrees.
Abu Dhabi has numerous malls scattered around the city. Mum and I unashameably visited most of them. It’s so easy to grab a taxi and the cost is more than reasonable.
Oh, expect to think you’re about to have an accident, it’s just they way they drive there, it’s called honk the horn and get out the way.
I thoroughly enjoyed the Mandinat Zayed Mall. It’s one of the less commercialised places where you’ll see most of the locals and bargaining for your purchases, such as Arabic perfume oil, lamps, rug and jewellery, meets with great fun.
You’ll find that Arabic is the official language, although English is widely spoken.
Abu Dhabi has invested lot into tourism, such as:
Talking to the Camel Owners at Al Ain· Desert Safari. The package includes dune bashing, camel riding, Falcons, henna design, an Arabic meal finished with an Arabic tea around a bon fire – Mum refused to go because she didn’t like the sound of the word “Bashing”, but I told her during on of our crazy taxi drives that she didn’t miss out on much.
· The Corniche is a great place to soak up the sun and go for a swim.
· And if you want to venture to other cities, Dubai and Al Ain are two hours drive away.
But, do you know what? Going to the local supermarket, called Lulu’s will kept you filled with great sights to see. The selection of olives, fete cheeses, dates and the melting pot of people that shop there.
See, can you see why the end of my three-week trip tired me out? But the exhaustion was worth it because I got to bond more with my mum and dad in the wonders of Abu Dhabi.