What an awesome day we had! First when we got off the ship, we found out that we are the first cruise ship to arrive here this season – it is just the beginning of the season for them. So we were greeted by music and dancing.
We met our guide, Mujeeb, early in the morning. There were 4 groups going out into the desert for the off road experience, and we had Mujeeb to ourselves, the other vehicles all had 4 people in them.
First a bit more about this area of the world. As I mentioned before, there are no taxes and all health care and education are free. Once you are given your land/house, utilities are free too. You can have up to 4 wives, but as Mujeeb put it, if you give one a Lamborghini, you must give the same thing to all – equality! Once your third child is born, the government gives you a bigger house.
There are security cameras all over Abu Dhabi. Crime is low, there was one murder last year and they caught the man within an hour due to the cameras.
The Grand Mosque here is modeled after the Taj Mahal, very beautiful from the outside, we didn’t go into this one.
Camel races are big – but they don’t use jockeys any more because they have to be so slender it was said to be cruel. So they use electronic jockeys – an electronic kind of whip that keeps the camels running. I think that might be thought to be cruel to the camels but so were the whips the jockeys used, I guess.
The other side of this fence is a track where they train the camels for racing.
Mujeeb is originally from India but came here because jobs are scarce in India. He has 3 children, the oldest is a daughter who is 13. Girls here marry at about 18, boys at 22 and most marriages are arranged.
We were in air conditioned Land Rovers for this excursion – very welcome in the heat and kind of a surprise.
First we stopped at a camel farm where we loved these animals. They were females and so very gentle. Every time we stopped, they had to open the hoods of the vehicles to keep the engines a bit cooler.
We then went off road – after all the drivers stopped to let air out of the tires. What an adventure – climbing high dunes, riding across the top of them, and sometimes sliding down sideways.
Then one of the vehicles got stuck at the top of a dune, and one of the others had to get a strap out and pull them off!
After an exhilarating trip, we stopped at a desert camp for refreshments. The bathroom here was nicer than the one at the mosque in Muscat, although the rest was very rustic! People come here to watch shows at night, have dinner and some stay overnight.
On the way back to the city, we saw some huge and unusual buildings. The one called the pineapple building has a kind of shade on the outside that looks like the skin of a pineapple. These contraptions open and close from the outside, when the sun is on the on the one side, they close and the other side opens, etc. Very ingenious, I would say.
We got back to the ship with lots of sand all over us, and had a nice shower and rest before our dinner at the Emirates Palace Hotel. You can’t go into the hotel unless you are a guest or attending an event. We were picked up in these stretch limos:
The hotel cost 3.5 BILLION dollars to build and it is really elegant. There are fountains all along the outside entrance.
It was white glove service all the way – delicious appetizers, wine and dinner.
And of course, I always take pictures of rest rooms.. this one was spectacular.
There is a Rolex clock at the entrance.
And then it was back into the limos for a sail away at 11 PM and a good night’s sleep!