I want to start this series by saying that this was the most magical trip I have ever been on. It is difficult to put into words, and you’ll be able to see why later on, how beautiful a place can be. There is a lot of stigma associated with the Middle East, and I will challenge it here. As a white Jewish and female traveler I heard all sorts of variations of the same negative story. FALSE. I was treated like gold, everywhere. In hotels, restaurants, stores … touristy locations and local spots. I was treated with the utmost respect. And of course, I returned this noble gesture.
It is important to note that I believe in immersing myself in the culture of the places I visit. That said, I was extremely respectful of the Arabic Culture. I kept my shoulders covered, and my outfits were below the knees – conservative. It is not required to cover up completely, but I did it on multiple occasions out of respect and due to my own curiosity. It is like a gentleman’s agreement of traveling : admire and honor another man’s culture. So here goes, enjoy. Part II.
Breakfast was complimentary so I grabbed quite the variety. The number of food choices was incredible. The buffet style breakfast was at the Rosewater Restaurant one level up from the pool and beach. The buffet was divided into four different sections where you can drown in all the options given. From Indian to traditional Arabic to American cuisine … everything was at our fingertips.
Today we decided to go to the Al Ain Zoo. The Zoo was founded by Sheikh Zayed, the founding father of the UAE, in an effort to maintain the wildlife and nature of his land. The zoo was more like a conservation area than an actual zoo as we know it. Thats one of the reasons we were excited to go … to see animals that are wild yet free.
Al Ain is about an hour and a half away from Abu Dhabi. It is the second largest city in the Abu Dhabi Emirate. The price of the cab ride was about $75 one way. Interestingly enough, local cabs have monitored speeds so they cannot go faster than 120 kilometers per hour. We opted to travel with Uber which was readily available in most locations and it was also ten to twenty dollars cheaper. Uber’s do not have their speed monitored so our travel time was shorter.
Tickets are only 30 AED or $10 to enter the zoo but we decided to go to the visitor’s center to see if we can take a tour. I AM SO GLAD WE DID. The safari tour was one of my favorite parts of the entire trip to the UAE ! For an additional $30, we were paired with a tour guide that drove us around the exciting parts of the zoo and finally the “mini safari”. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable but this was one of the places where nobody accepted tips .. no matter how hard we tried.
Rhino’s are very sensitive to sound so we had to stay very quiet around them.
Feeding the giraffe’s was unforgettable; they are the kindest, and sweetest wild animals ever!
I even didn’t mind when they slobbered all over me !
Next year, the Al Ain Zoo will have a full safari experience. So basically, I already know where I’ll be traveling in 2016.
Our next stop is Dubai. Abu Dhabi , Dubai and Al Ain form a triangle. So travel time from each one is about an hour and a half. We traveled from Al Ain back to Abu Dhabi to change … and then to Dubai for dinner. Travel time is a big thing to take into account when planning your day. But we had dinner reservations at the Al Mahara (“Oyster”) for weeks, so we had to take the trip.
The Burj Al Arab in Dubai is considered to be the world’s only 7-Star hotel. It is part of the Jumeirah Group of hotels like the one we were staying at in Abu Dhabi. There are no rooms in the Burj al Arab, only suites. And it is home to some of the best restaurants in Dubai. To enter hotel grounds I had to have my restaurant reservation pin handy, or else I would quickly be sent away.
I was greeted by my first and last name. The super sweet hostess led me inside where I was lucky enough to score a table right by the 260,000 gallon aquarium. The wine list was as fantastic, just the rumors had it. But I opted for some vintage Cristal champagne .
We decided to try out the tasting experience. 5 courses – chef’s choice so that we try the best that Al Mahara has to offer. Here is the ravioli or raviol ? singular ? hah. And some pea soup, compliments of the chef.
All of this while gazing into the enormous aquarium.
On a special occasion they will give you a free cake. My birthday is on September 8th but hey, I’m not complaining.
Total cost ? $940 pre-tip. Now, I do not write dining reviews and I wont attempt to write one now. I’ve been to a fair share of Michelin starred restaurants and I have to say that this dining experience, although fantastic, was missing the “it” factor for me. The food was delicious, and the wine list was very extensive … but the service was just ok. We spent more here than we did in 3 starred Michelin restaurants … where the experience with regards to both dining and service was out of this world.
The Burj Al Arab left me breathless and overall it is an experience that I will never forget and I can’t wait to be back here … perhaps for some High Tea?