In my previous blog post I wrote that Abu Dhabi has everything to become the world’s next place-to-be. In the past decade, Dubai transformed into a popular spot among holidayers and businesspeople alike. It became a place for people with endless ambitions and sky-is-the-limit type of dreams. It saw the construction of the largest tower in the world, the biggest shopping mall, the longest dancing fountain, and more superlatives.
The economic crisis, however, also mercilessly hit the utopia Dubai had come to be. Big brother Abu Dhabi, the richest of all Emirates thanks to the amounts of oil found in its desert, needed to come to the rescue, and did so eventually. But Dubai’s image as the eldorado of capitalism has been somewhat damaged. And haven’t we all come to realize that an uncontrolled free market and pure consumerism are not necessarily conducive to people’s well-being?
For Ahmed and me, Abu Dhabi did not feel as superficial, artificial, and capitalistic as Dubai. Of course, big business is also here at the order of the day, but at the same time we felt how the authorities do concern about people’s happiness. The numerous parks and beaches right in the center are a good example of that. They could’ve sold those lands to big companies to build hotels and private beaches, but they decided to keep them open for the public. (Of course Abu Dhabi has plenty of hotels, including a 7-star hotel, and private beaches too, but there is enough space left for public recreational areas. Some public beaches are completely free, while others charge a small entrance fee that covers basic amenities like a lifeguard, toilets and showers. Additional facilities – umbrellas, sunbeds, even towels – are available as well for a very reasonable fee.
To get to the beach, there are several public parkings on the other side of the road. A pedestrian underpass takes you to the beach side. Have you ever seen such a clean and beautiful underpass?
Besides that, the city is clean, not as crowded as Dubai, smaller (in Dubai you have to drive so long to get from one interesting place to another), and people seem more relaxed.
I guess the only way to see if I’m right is to check it out yourselves, but for those who have been to one or both, what did you think of it? Do you agree with me?
All in all, we had a very calm and pleasant break from Jeddah. And perhaps we liked it so much because of our low expectations. Our days were filled with some shopping, some movies, some walking and running, relaxing on the beach, some good food (same you can get in Jeddah, but we enjoyed it very much to be able to go together to very simple, local places, which often don’t have a family section in Jeddah).
The idea was to drive to Muscat, Oman, by car and back, but we enjoyed our days so much that we decided to stay a full week in Abu Dhabi. The only excursion we made was to Al Ain, an oasis town 160 kilometers east from Abu Dhabi, where we visited the National Museum, oasis, and Jebel Hafeet, a mountain where we got stuck among celebrating Pakistanis and Indians.
One of the main things I enjoyed during this trip was taking pictures and experimenting with my camera. It must have been quite boring for Ahmed
all the from time to time, but luckily, he found a hobby of his own:
It sometimes takes flamboyant postures to make a unique photo (see upper right) …
But the result is worth the effort, isn’t it?
Here are some more pictures I took:
Before heading back to Jeddah, we decided to spend the last day in Dubai. I had been there not so long ago, but for Ahmed it had been 10 years, so you can imagine it had changed quite a bit!
We enjoyed visiting Madinat Jumeirah, a shopping (of course!), entertainment and hotel complex. Especially the Arabian-style architecture, souq, and Venice-like canals were worth seeing. The Dubai Mall was a bit too overwhelming (for me at least), and to our disappointment, the fountain only ‘danced’ one very short song.
We definitely hope to be back on this side of the peninsula soon.
Have you ever been to Dubai, Abu Dhabi, or any of the other Emirates? What was your experience?