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.


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