Archive for August 6th, 2020

 

Just Wanna Have Fun

Linda Lou Burton posting about Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates from Little Rock, Arkansas – What do you do for fun in Abu Dhabi? That was my question. I’ve seen the Grand Mosque where people worship, the Presidential Palace where government happens, and the skyscrapers where people work, and live. Now what? There are bus, boat, and seaplane tours that show you around; specific trips such as “island getaways,” or “desert dune rides.” Abu Dhabi is big on shopping, so lots of fancy malls. But first, I checked out the food scene.

Food

I didn’t know what foods to expect in the United Arab Emirates; here is what I found: restaurants seem to cover all the bases – Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Italian, Peruvian, and even traditional Emirati! Meat, fish, and rice are staples of the Emirati cuisine; lamb and mutton are more favored than goat, beef and camel. Dates are generally part of a meal; coffee and tea are supplemented with cardamom, saffron, or mint to give it a distinct flavor. I’m familiar with hummus and kebabs, but some menu items are new to me, such as machboos. That is a rice dish, with onions, spices, meat, and dried lemon peel; simmered till tender, a must do. Harees is one of the most popular traditional foods in the Emirati kitchen, especially during important family gatherings and special holidays. Put meat and wheat together in a “mash pan” with water and salt and cook for a long time (at least four hours), stirring with a wooden spoon called a “masad masr.” Sprinkle chopped fried onions on top. Eat! For breakfast, it’s balaleet, vermicelli sweetened with cardamom, saffron, and rose water, then topped with a thin egg omelet; or have a chebab, a pancake; or khameer, date-sweetened bread.

A restaurant on the mainland and one on the beach caught my eye: Meylas – “childhood recipes crafted by Emirati mothers and grandmothers, locally sourced ingredients; décor offers a nostalgic look at the time of the Bedouins; gift items by Emirati artists for sale, and delicacies to take home, dates to mango pickles.” Mezlai – “local dishes, traditional recipes featuring staples from Emirati cuisine such as camel, dates, rosewater; furnished with Bedouin emblems, dallah tapestries, reminiscent of a Bedouin tent; a luxury setting in the Emirates Palace Hotel on the Corniche.

The Corniche

The Corniche is a curving street along the edge of the beach, and what a street it is. Walking paths, cycle paths, fountains, parks, and of course, beach! Hotels and restaurants all along the way, my hotel is one of them; world famous skyscrapers like Etihad Towers and Landmark Tower; the Emirates Palace Hotel past the far end, near the Presidential Palace. Marina Mall can be accessed from here via a breakwater road; Lulu Island is a tiny reclaimed island.

Yas Island

Yas Island is 6,000 acres of “leisure island” stuff, with everything designed to exhaust you by the end of the day. For just “playing” there is Ferrari World, Warner Brothers World and Waterworld; for sports there is the Yas Marina Circuit, Yas Links, and Yas Beach, as well as charter boats for hire. Get to Yas Mall via Yas Express, service right to the shopping door. If you like Disney, go to Abu Dhabi soon. Three spots you’ll probably choose:

  • Ferrari World, a mostly indoors amusement park in the largest frame structure ever built. Formula Rossa, the world’s fastest roller coaster is here; in all there are five roller coasters, and yes, you can drive a Ferrari here. Find That Ferrari Feeling https://www.ferrariworldabudhabi.com/
  • Warner Brothers World is another indoor amusement park, fully air conditioned, remember, it’s hot in Abu Dhabi. Six themed areas: Gotham City, Metropolis, Cartoon Junction, Bedrock, Dynamite Gulch and Warner Brothers Plaza. https://www.wbworldabudhabi.com/
  • Yas Waterworld is NOT indoors, it is spread over 37 acres, has 40 rides, and calls itself “the ultimate water adventure.” Slithering slides promised. https://www.yaswaterworld.com/en

The Louvre

I pass on all of the above, because I’m a slow-moving gal. But I’m intrigued by the serenity at Abu Dhabi’s Louvre. Yes, the “other” Louvre is in Paris, but the planners in Adu Dhabi paid $525 million for the use of the Louvre brand name, and many millions more will be paid over the years for the loan of artworks, plus management advice. The Abu Dhabi Louvre is a collection of galleries, pavilions, lagoons, and plazas covered by a gigantic mashrabiya-inspired dome, which appears to float above it all, an “oasis,” where people can gather, mingle, and be enthused by art. The most expensive painting in the world goes on display September 18; Salvator Mundi, a masterpiece by da Vinci. It was acquired by the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture & Tourism for $450.3 million. https://www.louvreabudhabi.ae/en

The Falcon Hospital

The Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital is the world’s first and largest hospital dedicated to the Falcon, the UAE’s national bird. Falconry was traditionally a means to hunt meat; life was difficult in the desert and falcons were essential to the survival of Bedouin families. But falconry is also a sport that goes back 3,000 years, and guided tours of the facility provide insight into the history of the sport, and the physiology of this significant bird.On tour you can see the birds swoop through a free-flight aviary, witness a falcon pedicure, and even make friends with a bird perched on your arm. The Falcon Hospital has 200 treatment rooms where about 6,000 birds are treated year each year, coming from UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain. https://www.falconhospital.com/

The Falcon Hospital is a “déjà vu” for me. I visited Birds of Prey near Boise, Idaho in May 2012. Sheik Zayed’s son funded the building and everything in it, asking only that it be named in honor of his father. And now I’m here in Abu Dhabi on my NDI RTW! Read about Boise’s falcons, and Sheik Zayed’s impact on Idaho: https://capitalcitiesusa.org/?p=1799#more-1799

 
 
 

Things Are Looking Up

Linda Lou Burton posting about Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates from Little Rock, Arkansas – I love saying Abu Dhabi out loud. What a great sound it has! Its meaning is pretty too, “Abu” is Arabic for father, and “Dhabi” is the Arabic word for gazelle. Abu Dhabi – Father of Gazelle. It is thought this name came about because of the abundance of gazelles in the area. Those gazelles have long since been replaced by people – the population has grown in the last 60 years from 25,000 to 1.5 million! And skyscrapers you would not believe. Some of the tallest buildings on the skyline include the 1,253 ft Central Market Residential Tower, the 1,063 ft Landmark, and the 74-story 1,017 ft Sky Tower. And not just tall, but unique, the Aldar Headquarters was the first circular skyscraper in the Middle East. Because of its coin shape, it is called the Dirham building, after the Emirati currency.

Abu Dhabi’s rapid development and urbanization, coupled with its massive oil and gas reserves and relatively high average income, have transformed it into a large, developed metropolis. It is the capital and the second-most populous city of the United Arab Emirates (after Dubai), and accounts for about two-thirds of the $400 billion UAE economy. Abu Dhabi sits on an island in the Persian Gulf, though most of the city and the Emirate reside on the mainland connected to the rest of the country. I’m one of the lucky ones waking up on the island this morning. My hotel, the Marriott St Regis, is another one of the “tall unusual” buildings in Abu Dhabi, and I have never been so close to luxury’s lap. See the “connector” between the two towers? That is the 3-bedroom private suite with its own elevator to the 46th floor and a view to die for. That’s not my room, (chuckle, I left my helicopter back home), but my view is pretty darn spectacular, looking out over the Persian Gulf; for pete’s sake, just look at my bathroom!

The Presidential Palace

I’d stay right here at this hotel all day long, except, I am dying to see the skyscrapers here, and I have to visit the Presidential Palace. It’s just down the street, and as of last year, is open for public visits. It is called “Qaṣr Al-Waṭan” in Arabic, meaning “Palace of the Nation” and is ranked among the top 20 landmarks of art and culture in the world. It could be called “The White House” – its façade is white granite and limestone, intricately designed and ornately decorated. It includes a dome with a diameter of 121 ft, and a chandelier with 350,000 pieces of crystal. The dome is located on top of the central chamber known as “The Great Hall,” which is surrounded by two wings to the east and west.

The eastern wing has the “House of Knowledge,” where a number of artifacts and other objects of importance are stored, such as gifts presented by visiting officials from other countries, religious texts (the Quran and the Bible), and a library with more than 50,000 books which document the cultural, social and political history of the country. The western wing is used for official purposes. Meetings of the UAE Cabinet and Federal Supreme Council, and summits of international bodies like the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, Arab League, and Gulf Cooperation Council are held here in a room known as the “Spirit of Collaboration.”

More Skyscrapers

I’m going to point out just a few more skyscrapers; the Etihad Towers are near the Palace; five towers keeping company, do they look like swaying grass or trees against the skyline to you? Two of the towers are connected by a walkway on the 75th floor.

The Capital Gate, just on down the road a way, is referred to as the “Leaning Tower of Abu Dhabi,” and holds the Guinness World Record for the “world’s furthest-leaning man-made tower.” Completed in 2011, it is also the Middle East’s first building to use a material-saving diagrid form.

And when it comes to design, look at the twin, 29-story Al Bahr Towers riff on the traditional Arabian mashrabiya (geometric window coverings) as an ingenious energy-saving measure; the windows react automatically to the sun, expanding to provide shade and reduce the need for air conditioning. This one was completed in 2013.

I’ll tell you what I discover about the food, and the other sights I see in a later post. Right now I’m a little dizzy from all that looking up.

 

 
 
 

Checking In On Reality

Linda Lou Burton posting from Little Rock, Arkansas – A reality check today, before I talk about my wonderful visit to Abu Dhabi.

It is clear, I hope, that all my travel posts are strictly imaginary. Imaginary, however, only due to COVID-19. This was to be a full-fledged Round The World trip celebrating 81 years of life, and I had booked all the hotels I mention in my posts, and selected all my flights. I carefully routed myself for the shortest in-air time possible, over the least amount of water. I’m not good at sitting in a tube with a belt buckled over my lap for more than six hours! So I meticulously planned.

But “life happens while you’re making other plans” fell true this March, when world travel was shut down in a hurry. So I consoled myself by declaring I’d imagine the trip, and think myself there. I renamed it the Now Defunct Imaginary Round The World (NDI RTW), and I started writing. After Abu Dhabi I go to Cairo, and cruise the Nile; then Reykjavik, Iceland, the northernmost capital city in the world! Get it? Wellington, and Reykjavik? My two high-school-graduate grandchildren are (were) meeting me there, and then a flight to Washington, DC together for a rousing end to an RTW, and finally a grand celebration back in Little Rock.

As of this week, the Center for Disease Control reports 4,678,610 cases of COVID-19 in the United States.

The World Health Organization reports 18,614,177 cases of COVID-19 worldwide.

I checked on current travel restrictions in the countries on my RTW, info from the US State Department, the agencies within countries, and the airlines. Here goes:

New Zealand

The New Zealand borders are closed for all but critical travel — protecting public health in New Zealand is paramount. The travel ban applies to all arrivals into New Zealand whether it is by air or sea. To help stop the spread of COVID-19, people who do arrive in New Zealand are required to undergo either managed isolation or quarantine for at least 14 days. https://covid19.govt.nz/travel-and-the-border/border-restrictions/#border-entry-restrictions

Australia

Australia’s borders are closed. Only Australian citizens, residents and immediate family members can travel to Australia. Australian Border Force liaison officers will work with airlines at overseas airports to identify those who should not board flights to Australia. https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert/coronavirus-covid-19-restrictions/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-for-international-travellers#travel-into-australia

Thailand

Updated 01st of August 2020: The Civil Aviation Authority in Thailand decided to extend the restrictions concerning commercial flights arriving in Thailand (with some exceptions) until 31th of August 2020. https://www.thaiairways.com/en_SE/news/news_announcement/news_detail/coronavirus.page

United Arab Emirates

The UAE government announced travelers must have a negative COVID-19 test result before flying to the country. The National Crisis and Emergency Management Authority (NCEMA) said all travelers, including Emiratis, residents, tourists, and transit passengers, must have a negative COVID-19 PCR (nasal swab) test result within 96 hours in order to board commercial flights to the UAE. NCEMA said the new system will be in place August 1. However, there are reports Etihad and Emirates airlines began implementing this new regulation on July 24. https://ae.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/covid-19-information/

Egypt

As of the evening of August 5, there were 94,875 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 4,930 deaths in Egypt. Egypt is implementing 14-day quarantine periods and other preventative measures in all cases. https://eg.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/covid-19-information/

Iceland

As of 31 July, passengers arriving in Iceland who intend to stay in Iceland for 10 days or more have to undergo 2 COVID tests. The first is at the border on arrival and the second by the primary healthcare service 4-6 days later. In between the two tests, special precautions need to be taken. https://www.icelandair.com/support/covid-19/faq

Washington DC

As of July 24, if you are out in DC, you are required to wear a mask, with a few exceptions for vigorous exercise or while you’re actively eating or drinking. A self-quarantine of 14 days is required after participating in non-essential travel to/from high-risk areas when returning or traveling to Washington, DC, beginning July 27. The list of high-risk states included in the Mayor’s order are below and are in effect until Monday, Aug. 10.

  1. Arkansas
  2. Arizona
  3. Alabama
  4. California
  5. Delaware
  6. Florida
  7. Georgia
  8. Idaho
  9. Iowa
  10. Kansas
  11. Louisiana
  12. Mississippi
  13. Missouri
  14. Montana
  15. Nebraska
  16. Nevada
  17. New Mexico
  18. North Carolina
  19. North Dakota
  20. Ohio
  21. Oklahoma
  22. South Carolina
  23. Tennessee
  24. Texas
  25. Utah
  26. Washington
  27. Wisconsin

There you have it.