Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Unexpected Abu Dhabi

With a happy heart I return home to Seattle.  I didn't clinch the title as Jauntaroo's "Chief World Explorer", but I would bargain I gained just as much as if I had.  My journey to the top 5 candidates of this worldwide search opened my mind to possibilities that I once only dreamed about...which I now see as realities that are within reach.  There's so much to say about this whirlwind experience, but for now please enjoy the "article" about Abu Dhabi which I wrote after our 2nd day...

Beep, beep, beep, beep…click...ksssschhhhhhh.  I felt like I was standing in a scene from The Italian Job as I watched the sales person in the perfumery at Emirates Palace crack open the large vault, exposing exquisite bottles of perfume draped in gold casings.  He extracted the bottles and removed the glass stoppers so I could smell the indulgent essences.  I was floored when he quizzed me on the price of one bottle of perfume – a shocking 500,000 UAE dirham or approximately 60,000 USD!  I could understand the lofty price after he tipped the bottle upside down and a shower of tiny sparkling diamonds trickled down like a snow globe.  This was just the tip of the “opulence iceberg” in Abu Dhabi, a spectacular city mixing modern luxury with ancient cultural traditions.

The Emirates Palace Hotel

The lavish hospitality in Abu Dhabi has far exceeded my expectations.  Beyond the spectacular food, first-class amenities, and gold encrusted ceilings lies the true spirit of this city…its people.  Every person whose path I have crossed has been genuinely warm, welcoming and hospitable.  It’s hard not to fall in love with a city where people are eager to show you their culture and make you feel like a part of their world.

Our first adventure into the hearts of the Emirati people was a trip to the Falcon Hospital.  As we walked into the facility there were 3 domineering, fabulous looking creatures perched on their owners’ arms, waiting to be admitted.  And when I say admitted…I truly mean admitted.  This facility is a veterinarian’s dream – outfitted with every possible amenity to make sure that these fabulous birds of prey are healthy, beautiful, and well maintained.  The hospital had an ICU, surgery room, a malting cage, a stock of feathers for feather transplants, and the equivalent to a falcon nail salon – complete with special lotion and laughing gas.  Errrr…perhaps there isn’t normally laughing gas in a nail salon.
It’s no surprise that falcons are treated with such great care; they are the pet of choice in Abu Dhabi and there are over 33,000 domesticated falcons in the United Arab Emirates.  I was intrigued by the falcons, to which I had admittedly never given much thought.  Once I had a falcon resting on my own hand, I was captivated by its brilliance and I instantly understood why Emiratis are fascinated with these grand creatures.
Outside the “Palace walls”, so to speak, awaited the Arabian Desert with rolling hills of the finest sand and activities like dune bashing that had me on the edge of my seat.  We hopped in a 4WD SUV and were egging on our driver as he took us on the ride of a lifetime - up to the peaks of dunes and then slip-sliding down the other side as we narrowly escaped a few barrel rolls that had my heart racing and my throat sore from screaming. 

As the perfect contrast to the wild desert drive, we were dropped off at the peaceful Arabian Nights Village where even Bedouin tents have been outfitted to exude luxury.  The red carpeted walls and softly lit lanterns were so inviting I was ready to crash but the belly dancers and buffet dinner beckoned. Since when have I been known to pass up a buffet?

Abu Dhabi has been an adventure beyond my wildest dreams and my only wish was that I had more time to explore this city decked out in superlatives – the fastest roller coaster, the largest carpet (with 2 billion knots), the first gold ATM, and the list goes on.  But to me, Abu Dhabi will always be the most wonderful, most unexpected journey.

And for those of you who aren't yet tired of voting for my application videos time and time again, you can find them here and here.
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