Road trip! Today we rented a car for the day and drove to Abu Dhabi, another of the seven Emirates that make up the UAE. It is the capital city of the UAE and accounts for about two-thirds of the $400 billion UAE economy. Before the seven emirates combined to form the UAE, they were chiefly fishing villages. Sheik Zayed, after whom major roads and buildings are named, is revered for bringing the country into global and technological prominence, uniting the Emirates almost 50 years ago.
Abu Dhabi felt so much smaller than Dubai, although it took some time to drive through the city. The first photo is of Sheik Zayed (remember him?) Mosque, and was completed in 2007. It stands out as you enter the city from the north, looks huge, and has many employees sitting in the 110-degree heat to motion you to the parking structure. Signs would work just as well, but were not utilized. We did not venture inside the mosque, as there is a strict dress code, and we were wearing shorts. You enter through a Visitor’s Center, the dome building shown in the second photo. It has a mall and food court! The dome as seen from the inside is shown in the third photo.
The next three photos are of the Emirates Palace…pretty impressive entry arch, huh? But, it is just a hotel. We saw the sign, and thought we were at the real palace. Not! After that, the two beach photos are of the area along the Gulf that is called the Corniche. But as we noted in our last post, it looks like a ghost town. Nobody was out, even though the beach was wide and the sand was blindingly white. It is just too hot.
Next up are just two buildings we liked, both hotels. The first is the Bab Al Qasr Hotel, and the next is the Fairmont Marina. Getting great shots was pretty difficult, so what you see is what you get. And the last photo was taken from the car along the eight-lane freeway from Dubai to Abu Dhabi. We had heard there was “nothing” along the road, which made us think of the drive from California to Las Vegas, and this photo seems to support that assertion (even though most of the palm trees are brown and droopy, suffering from a weevil infestation). But, there were frequent gas stations, mosques, strip malls, and loads of trees to keep our attention along the 85-mile drive.
We want to note that we have been here in Dubai for almost three weeks, and we have yet to speak to a native Emirati. We read that only 10 percent of the UAE’s population are citizens, with the other 90 percent being ex-pats and foreign workers. Everyone working at the hotel and in the malls are from somewhere else. In fact, the hotel staff told us that they are provided housing by the hotel, but it is about 45 minutes away (land is too expensive near the hotel itself). In addition, the hotel has a buffet just for its workers all day long. These are the necessary incentives to lure workers away from their home countries. And, since nobody is ever seen outside, the only place we have seen men and women in Arab dress (robes) is in the malls, where they seem to live. You can’t find a seat in the food court around 3-4 pm, as it is just jammed with families with many children. The children will stare at us, and when we wave and smile, they shyly wave back…but they keep on staring. Maybe it is the blonde hair? Or maybe, just that we are westerners? In any case, we are always treated kindly.