Following my first marathon in Dubai on January 24 Ahmed and I spent two lovely days in Dubai’s neighbor Emirate Abu Dhabi. I already wrote before why we like Abu Dhabi more than Dubai and this time we had the opportunity to enjoy a different hotel and other activities.
Before traveling, I had contacted the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority here in Jeddah and they had not only given free premium entrance passes to the Yas Waterworld – a water park with 43 rides, slides and attractions – and the Ferrari World Abu Dhabi theme park with the fastest rollercoaster in the world; they had also arranged a stay at one of the nicest business hotels in town, located in the scenic Capital Gate, Abu Dhabi’s counterpart of Pisa’s leaning tower.
At the Hyatt Capital Gate hotel, I received a treatment at their Rayana city spa. Rayana means “Gate to Heaven” in Arabic and heavenly it certainly was. The milky warm bath with aromatic oil and massage were exactly what my muscles needed after the marathon. It could not totally prevent soreness for the next couple of days, but without a doubt I can state it was beneficent. Naturally, I wrote an article for the Saudi Gazette about this experience, which was published in Saturday’s (Feb. 8) newspaper.
Apart from everything revolving the marathon – preparation, doing the actual marathon, recovery – I wrote several articles for the newspaper and attended some interesting events.
My last article about the trip I made to Switzerland in September last year finally appeared. Although it had been a while, I remembered my visit to Lausanne very well, including the lovely boat trip on the Lac Léman, the chocolate visit and workshop, and the steep pedestrian streets the town boasts of.
January was also the month of the food festivals. There were so many I lost track. There was an Italian Food Festival at Rosewood Corniche, which featured for the first time a woman (Italian) chef as the star of the evening. It was a nice dinner, not only because of the food (who doesn’t enjoy a dinner of pasta/pizza/risotto and other Italian delicacies?) but also thanks to the company: Ahmed accompanied me on this occasion.
Another food festival in Park Hyatt’s Andalusia Restaurant celebrated Moroccan cuisine. It was less daring than the Italian food festival, but nevertheless included some delicious dishes. Read the article here.
Thirdly, I attended, together with nearly 50 other journalists, the official opening of P.F. Chang’s on Tahlia Street (sometimes hyperbolically compared to the Parisian Champs-Élysées). Mr Chiang himself had especially come to Jeddah for the opening. I may have been slightly prejudiced – generally, I don’t like Chinese food, and I like them (or any other cuisine) even less when they are American chains – but I wasn’t really impressed by the place. There is not enough parking, no bathrooms inside the restaurant, and… Well, read the whole review here.
Apart from food and travels, I had the opportunity to attend an amazing concert, I interviewed Saudi women who demand more possibilities to exercise in the city, I became aware of the importance to learn CPR, and found out the shocking truth about breastfeeding in Saudi Arabia (or rather the lack of it).
Lastly, I got myself into trouble by writing about Saudi’s failing immigration policy. This was not my own observation, but of a French scholar who was not so amused that I had chosen that title. Of course, nothing happened to her, but I had to write several emails to put her at ease. Why are people so afraid in this country to say anything? Especially Westerners, who (in my opinion) have no reason to worry so much…