Cross-Emirates Road Trip

May 5, 2011

Taking advantage of the fact that we both had a day off, my friend Frances and I decided to go for an adventure! Despite having lived in the United Arab Emirates for a whopping 17 months, we'd yet to visit the capital city, Abu Dhabi.
After a bit of research we found our way to the bus station, where we purchased our tickets with the assistance of the overly eager employees. Our first adventure began when we decided to make a quick trip to the washroom before boarding. We stared at the hole in the floor squatting stalls, contemplating whether we were capable of waiting 2 hours. I opted to wait and refrain from drinking too much water, while Fran had no choice but to experience the local culture.
We got our seats on the bus and began the journey. It felt as though we were barely moving as cars sped past us on the highway. The bus was ridiculously slow, but eventually we made it to Abu Dhabi.
I really wasn't sure what we were expecting, but when we arrived we found ourselves lost as to where to go and what do to. We'd spontaneously decided to go on this road trip without any knowledge of the city. Seeing as how we were at a large bus station, we figured somebody inside would be able to give us some advice. We were met with blank stares as we explained that we were from Dubai and would like to go see the tourist attractions. Okay, so maybe this wasn't going to be such an exciting day. Finally, we found somebody who actually spoke fluent English. He suggested that we start at Marina Mall. In typical fashion of this country, the highlight of the city was a mall. We hailed a taxi and set off for the mall, relieved as we entered the more modern area of the city. The bus had dropped us off in somewhat of an industrial area, where we'd stood out as the only westerners. Once we finally reached the mall our stomachs were growling and we set out in search of lunch. We chose a cafe and stuck with salad for a healthy start to the day. One thing that struck us as odd was the fact that in the middle of the public mall, smoking was permitted. I've been around the world a time or two, and most places in that I've visited have banned public smoking in recent years. We shrugged it off, although slightly annoyed at the fact that our clothes would smell like cigarettes once we'd left.
We figured that our best bet for seeing the city was to take the Big Bus Tour. We'd be able to hop on and hop off wherever we desired, although we only planned on getting off once due to our limited time. We forked over the cash and got on board, sitting on the upper level in the open air. Despite the breeze as we were driving, it was ridiculously hot under the desert sun. Summer is just around the corner, and it won't be long before outdoor activities become non-existent once again.
We took photos as we drove past the Presidential Palace and other random spots. Aside from far more landscaping and greenery, the city wasn't much different from Dubai.
At the Grand Mosque stop, Fran and I hopped off the bus. It was an amazing building, perfect for taking many photos. Inside, we were directed to a changing room where we donned the mandatory black gown and an abaya to cover our heads. This of course led to giggling as we took photos of ourselves dressed like locals. I must say, the local women can pull off the look far better than I can. We wandered the mosque, photography it's many columns and tiles until we heard the call to prayer and were forced to leave. Back on the bus, we drove along the beautiful coast, taking in the sunset over the water. The bus stopped at a carpet market, and a market full of all sorts of random household goods. The strange looks and staring men were enough to convince us to stay on the bus.
Both of us were feeling quite sleepy by the time that we'd reached the mall once again. We filled up on a delicious curry dinner and then caught a taxi back to the bus station.
The bus ride back was 2 hours of torture, as an extremely annoying family in front of us filled the otherwise silent bus with irritating noise. The children crunched on a massive bag of chips and the baby cried, while the father shouted into his phone that rang every 5 minutes. I was extremely tired, but each time that I drifted off to sleep I was awoken once again. As if this wasn't enough, there was a horrific smell from somebody who clearly had gas issues. The lights of Dubai were a great relief. Fran and I fled the bus at the first stop, catching a taxi back to our apartments. It had been an extremely long and tiring day, but we can now say that we have seen Abu Dhabi!


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