Sunday, March 10, 2024

Returning to the Desert (Part 1: UAE)

While I was on convalescent leave (recovery from my back surgery), I checked my work email a few times, despite being on short-term disability.  Mostly I didn't want my inbox to be cRaZy when I returned to work, but also, I'm nosey AF and wanted to know what was going on.  This paid off because one of the emails said, "If you are interested in going on travel, fill out this form."  There were a few different destination opportunities, but the dates that worked for me was for a trip to United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain.  

If you've been around here for a while, you may know that I was stationed in Bahrain for a year (2010-2011).  I knew after I left that there was a low likelihood that I'd ever return, but when given the opportunity to go on the company dime?  SIGN ME UP.  So I filled out the interest form and was selected.. and that's how I ended up in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Manama in January.

Recovery wise, there was lots of concern about my pieces and those long flights, but I've been in PT since December and was confident in my ability to manage.  I returned to work before Christmas and was immediately thrust into travel planning/prep.  On a very snowy day, I headed to DCA to catch a flight to Dubai... let's just say, packing was.. complicated.  In addition to it being snowy in DC, I also planned to have a stopover in Scotland on my way home, so I needed desert clothes and winter clothes and these are not the same.  Nevertheless, I managed with one suitcase and one carry on, like a boss.

While the work days were long and full of "do not click links" cybersecurity briefs, there was some opportunity for fun and I made sure to take advantage of that time. This is the photo dump post!


I left home at 0930 Friday morning, super early because there was a snow storm going on and my flight had already been cancelled once.  We flew out of Newark at 9:45pm on Friday night.  We arrived in Dubai at 7:40pm on Saturday night.  Time zones are cray.

Our first stop after checking into our hotel was dinner. 

Lebanese did not disappoint.

After dinner, we walked to the Dubai Mall to view the Burj Khalifa, the tallest structure in the world.  Fun story, I was wearing Crocs because I thought we were just walking to dinner, not touring, and I ended up with huge blisters on the "ball" of my foot, which made walking difficult for the subsequent 4 days.  Also, I wore heels for work.. also treacherous.

I think we finally made it back, after 3 miles of walking, around 0200.  Whew.

Breakfast the next morning was at Arabian Tea House.  I rediscovered my FAVORITE Middle Eastern delight: Karak Tea.  When I'd had it in Bahrain a decade before, I thought they called it chai, and so I've been hunting for years for this tea.  I just didn't know the right name for it.  Now I'll never forget again.

We also made a short trek through a historic district with an old fort (unFORTunately it was closed) to see the waterfront.

On the way back to the hotel, we made a stop at the Museum of the Future.  We didn't do the tour, but admired the view from the outside.

The Gate at the Dubai Financial District

After breakfast, we had our hotel (the Ritz*, nope not kidding) make a beach reservation for us.  A beach reservation. In January.  IN JANUARY I WAS SITTING ON A BEACH IN A BIKINI.  Highly recommend a reservation at a beach site with chairs and waiter service.  There are public access beach areas, but if you're gonna do the balla life, do the balla life.

*There are TWO Ritz hotels in Dubai. If you stay at one, this is a very important distinction to make... especially when calling an Uber.

After the beach, we headed back to the hotel for a rinse, then back out to the gold souk where my coworker (who is Egyptian) haggled like a mfin BOSS for my birfday earrings.

Yes, that is a gold SHOE.

New earrings (hoop and 3 circles)!

Monday was getting down to business.

Train ride back to the hotel.

Our final night in Dubai, we went out for dinner at the Iraqi place we'd seen by the Burj.  We were treated to an epic light/fountain show while we were eating.  We didn't realize that the show would happen, but we definitely weren't disappointed!

After meal tea was an absolute delight for me.
Even if it meant caffeine before bed.

On my way back to the hotel, I stopped at the Museum of the Future to get night shots of the structure.  Here's a secret about Tourist Megan, she will want to go out at night.  I find that night touring shows different aspects of the buildings than day touring does.  Some of my favorite DC tourist things are the night scoots that we've done to see Christmas lights.  But also, I feel like the monuments are even more awesome at night.

You can't even tell me that's not cool AF.  It is.

After a few quick days in Dubai, it was time to spend a few days in Abu Dhabi.  It's only an hour drive (which you can get an Uber for) between Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Abu Dhabi:

Since the work days were long, the first few days in Abu Dhabi only included work and eating at the hotel (St. Regis) since the included buffet was absolutely mindblowing.

The St Regis is connected to a very fancy mall where I could afford zero things, but this photo op was not gonna be passed up by someone who was once described as having "mermaid hair" and whose favorite movie as a kid was A Little Mermaid.

I took advantage of every single bathtub at each hotel I stayed at.
Zero ragrats.

One evening after work, we stopped by the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque since it was on the way to the hotel from the embassy.  This mosque feels very touristy, especially with the market you must walk through to enter the mosque. Nevertheless, it was beautiful... AND it gave me an opportunity to wear my hijab and abaya again!

We were there for final prayer call and sunset and both were exquisite. 

Each evening at the St. Regis, there were snacks in the lobby.  Usually, someone was there to serve them, but a few times I was able to sneak a few without someone helping.

I called these bird's nest (top) and bird poop (bottom).
Both were delicious, but bird's nest was better.

The night before we left Abu Dhabi for Bahrain, we did a desert safari.  100% NOT surgeon approved.  Essentially, you sand drift in a specially specced Land Cruiser.  After the drive about the dunes, you stop at a Bedouin-style tourist trap camp for dinner.  The food was meh at best, the henna literally didn't show, the shisha was licorice flavored (vomit), and I definitely wasn't dressing up in a burka for photos or riding a camel.  I did do an underwhelming quad (4-wheeler) tour and hiked up a sand dune to (yet again) fill my shoes with sand and to just be for 20 minutes. 

These poor shoes.

Look at all those camels.

The dancing was very.. spinny.

After we returned from the desert safari, I really wanted to go to the Yas Circuit and do go karts, but there were NO tickets available, /sob.  Instead, I walked to the grocery by the hotel, stopping for some sights along the way.

The Founders Memorial

Hotel where we stayed.

Yall. I cannot begin to explain the buffet situation at the St. Regis.  I had to ignore my brain screaming "the waste of this level of extravagance" to enjoy it... But yall.. there was food from every culture at every meal.  There was a hot bar, a chef place, salads bar (as in like different types of salads (pasta, fruit, etc)), cheese bar, bread bar, appetizer bar, and an entire dessert buffet.  I actually was video chatting with Teh German one night when I was at dinner and showed him all the different options and he was floored.

sugar creations on the dessert bar. /mindblown

We left Abu Dhabi for Bahrain on Saturday afternoon.  I had hopes of doing something touristy and visiting the Qasr Al Watan (presidential palace), but I was le tired.  Instead, I went to a cafe for lunch (since the restaurant buffet was only open for breakfast and dinner) and a karak tea.  After, I stopped at a few shops to check for treats to send back home.

I found a fountain by the hotel and had to get some photos.  It very much reminded me of the Bahrain fountain for some reason.  But also, that building is the St. Regis.

View from the St. Regis.

No comments:

Post a Comment

YAY!! I love comments! Please be aware that I reply to comments via email; please have an email associated with your account so we can chat!