Friends of ours living in Abu Dhabi, convinced us to come visit, and with persistence, we finally gave in. Aladdin was one of my favourite stories as a child. Picturing all the scenes from this adventure, made me excited to explore and make our own adventure a reality. Soon we would experience our own Arabian nights holiday.
The flight was not too long, only eight hours from Cape Town to Dubai. Our friends were kind enough to pick us up at the airport in Dubai, then we traveled by car to their home on Al Reem Island in Abu Dhabi.
While traveling to Al Reem Island, I was amazed by the amount of construction happening. One sky-rise after the next.
We arrived at their apartment building, and wow, breathtaking the architecture. Every building a master piece.
Our first day was a quiet one. We were exhausted from traveling, as sleep was not a priority. Excitement got the better of us
Our friends took us out on a river, on round floating boats. This was actually very relaxing. Then after that, we had dinner at the Yas Marina Abu Dhabi. Right next to the world famous Yas Marina Circuit. We could hear the formula 1 cars racing around the track.
Alcohol is only served at certain places in the UAE. With the country being Islamic, we didn’t realize how strict the rules actually were. Do your research first. This one we missed.
The next day, we went shopping at the Abu Dhabi mall with a Tim Hortons coffee as a start. We didn’t want to do too much, as we had a planned event that evening. One flashy car to the next. Never have we seen so many high valued cars in one area before.
The Desert Safari
Now, this was something I was really looking forward to, and at the same time quite nervous. Didn’t know what to expect really.
We were picked up at 3pm at the apartment in a Land Cruiser with another couple and their teenage children from the USA. We left the magnificent city scenery behind and off we went on our desert adventure.
We drove for about a half an hour until we reached the desert. Tires were deflated and we were off. My goodness, did I panic? Dune bashing was like a roller-coaster ride. I was screaming out loud, up and down the dunes, at high speed. All you saw was sand and the 4×4 vehicles in front of you going down, these steep dunes. I thought it would never end. With Heinie laughing, it made me relax more, and I ended up laughing at myself. This was an incredible adrenaline rush.
We had a quick stop at a camel farm to take some photos and walked around and had a quick refreshing cold drink. After 10 min we were off to the camp.
As we arrived, it was beautiful to see what an oasis actually looked like. One only sees something like this in the movies. A low square stage and pillows scattered around for everyone to sit on.
The sun was just about to set, and I was standing in the queue for a camel ride. Heinie started getting impatient, as he insisted we walk up a dune and watch the sunset there. I agreed finally, so we walked, seeing the desperation in his eyes.
As we arrived at the top the sun was setting on the horizon. Heinie grabbed me and said how much he loved me. He went on one knee and popped the question. Tears of joy started streaming down my face, as I responded and said YES! How romantic is this man?
We sat for a moment together and watched the sunset. My head on his shoulder. After a while, we decided to go back to camp and take our seats, to watch the bellydancers take to the stage.
As we walked around the camp, we saw a man with Gahwa (very bitter Arabic Coffee) and Fresh dates, he insisted we try, so we did. We didn’t want to seem rude. Heinie doesn’t eat dates, and he was forced to here. It would be an insult if he didn’t. Believe me, the coffee is so bitter, the date was actually needed.
The theme was ancient Arabic, from eagle demonstrations to enjoying Shisha (Hubbllee Bubblee), watching the live Belly Dancing and a fire show. Then the lights went out and we laid back and did stargazing under billions of twinkle stars. This was definitely an evening we both would never forget. Just as we started becoming really hungry, dinner was served. It was a BBQ buffet dinner, with various different Arabic dishes and dessert.
There is the overnight option, which we opted not to do. We both were really excited and wanted to get back and share the news with everyone.
Now, I tend to think I am an adrenaline junkie, but this took the cake. We started our day with breakfast at Ikea, then arrived at Ferrari World. Situated on Yas Island, this amusement park, promising heart-pounding adventure.
The first ride we attempted, was the Formula Rosso. Acceleration: 0-240km/h in 4.9sec, 0 -100km/h in 2sec. Heinie insisted we sit right in front. As we took off, I started screaming. By the time I got off, my whole body was shaking, and tears were rolling down my face. Heinie asked if I was ok, and I could hardly get the words out of my mouth. He wanted to go again, and I refused. Once was enough for me.
The second ride was the Flying acres. Entering the ride, they had the most incredible display of world war II. This is the tallest loop in the world at 52m with a steepest cable lift at 51 degrees. Traveling speeds of up to 120km/h. Now, this ride was not fast, but it was the scariest for me, because of the zero gravity experience. The downhills felt incredibly steep. I prayed that this ride would be over very quickly. Just as you think it is slowing down, it starts accelerating again.
There were many more rides, but this two, where definitely my highlights of the day.
Dubai Miracle Garden
Never had I ever thought Id find flowers growing in the desert, and here we discovered a miracle, to say the least.
Over 72 000 square meters of a garden which was launched on Valentine’s day in 2013. Flowers everywhere you look. We took many photos of heart shaped arches, to an Emirates aeroplane covered in flowers. Ostriches covered in flowers, houses, all art with flowers. Definitely worth the visit.
Burj Khalifa, Dubai Aquarium & underwater Zoo
Burj Khalifa the tallest building in the world, with 211 floors. We booked to go up floor 125. In order to go up to level 145, we needed to wait till 7pm. We decided not to wait, as we had a whole day of exploring planned. As we entered the building via the Dubai mall entrance, downtown Dubai, we saw a remembrance wall of all the construction workers, who fell to death during the construction.
The view from level 125 was phenomenal. It’s believed that you can see the sunset twice. From the ground level, and then again on 145th floor. You could see Burj Al Arab and Palm Island in the distance.
Dubai Aquarium & underwater zoo the largest suspended aquariums in the world. From stingrays, to sharks to many colourful fish. Through glass tunnels, you could view the underwater life and experience the sea, like nobody has before.
If you want to go shoe shopping, this is the place to do it. A shoe-lovers dream come too. As you walk into the shoe area, all the brands you can think of displayed. Exquisite displays of shoes, with many cushioned seats to try on all the variety of shoes.
This mall has over 1000 retail stores. Be careful not to get lost, and make sure you remember were you parked. It is equivalent to 50 football fields.
The highlight of this day, was the light and water show, set at the Burj Khalifa lake. Music plays and the water jumps to the music and the lights. Performance is free, and can be seen all over, but the most popular spot, is at the waterfront promenade. We sat at a nearby restaurant, watching the sun set is most definitely a highlight.
This waterpark is fun and for every person seeking something different, whether you seek the adrenaline rush, exciting adventures, or just having fun in the water and sun. The highest rides are Jebel Drop & Hamlool’s Humps and the fastest is the one where the floor opens from beneath the feet and into a closed tube called Liwa Loop. The Slithers Slides are a collection of 6 slides and tunnels which are all designed like giant fanged snakes – these use single and double tubes. We had so much fun here with these snakes. One becomes so dark you cannot see where you are going, then all of a sudden, you get thrown around in a circle, and screams eco the tunnel.
Be aware, that when visiting UAE, make sure you respect their traditions. Don’t hold hands in public or kiss in areas they don’t allow this type of behaviour.
On the way to Global Village, we had a quick stop at E! 11 LAST EXIT. Trailers with all different kinds of street food. Definitely a must, and go hungry.
Global Village is the best shopping destination ever. With whole world at your feet. Explore all cultures and entrainment for the whole family. Flat shoes ladies, and remember to cover your shoulders and legs, as you will not be allowed inside, if your legs and shoulders are visible. Respect their culture.
Sheikh Zayed Al Kabeer Mosque
The largest mosque in the country, where many gather for Friday prayer or Eid gatherings. Its archways are quintessentially Moorish and its minarets classically Arab. Inspired by Persian and Egyptian mosques, its design and art, tons of shining marble uniquely constructed.
Our last day
How could we not stop at Etihad Towers where Furious 7 was shot, and see for ourselves how they jumped from the one building to another, right apposite Emirates palace. Golden sparkle, exquisite and breathtaking.
This day was quite a quiet one, and bitter sweet. So much we saw, and so little time.
We leave with sad hearts, yet very happy. Looking forward to our future together, with so much still to come. Take a deep breath and let it all go.
This is a huge thank you to both Marnus and Lize for their hospitality, thank you for being part of our journey.