You know, I used to think that the United Arab Emirates was a part of Saudi Arabia. Seriously. I thought it was a special part of Saudi Arabia set aside as a tourist destination, free from the Wahhabi influence from the main, uh, desert. I mean, who names a country UAE anyway? Then again, we are the USA, huh?
But the UAE is an actual country. The country consists of seven emirates [essentially states]. Abu Dhabi is the capital; Dubai is the juggernaut. The other five are Ajman, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al-Quwain, but none are as flush with money as Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Wanting to see more than just Dubai, we took a trip to Abu Dhabi. We planned on staying most of the day, catch up with someone I know out there and check out the Sheikh Zayed Mosque [absolute majestic], but something came up and our trip got cut short.
But we stopped by Marina Mall, yet another massive collection of western-influence stores. As usual, Najwa saw an elevator and went berserk. Is it every child that just has to ride every elevator they see? I mean, Najwa acts like Elmo is on the next floor and she just has to see him!
This elevator, though, took us higher than just a floor or two. It rose high above the mall to a coffee shop with an amazing view of Abu Dhabi. Even the elevator ride up was pretty cool, until I realized Najwa was pressing the alarm button.
Initially we planned to just take a peek, take a photo and be out. The view, though, was worth spending a little more time up there. We ordered some beverages and lounged for a moment before having to head back to Dubai.
Being in an Islamic country means it caters to Muslims. Where else will you find prayer rooms in gigantic malls?
As we were heading out, we drove past the Sheikh’s pad. It’s massive! They used to let people drove onto the grounds and take photos, but we were told you know have to schedule ahead. Kind of like how Americans used to be able to go to the White House back in the day.
And like Dubai, Abu Dhabi isn’t done spreading its wings. Buildings are being built as fast as construction projects are stopping in America.
Later in the evening, Stephen wanted to take us out to an Arabic restaurant for dinner. Nduku asked if it was a fancy restaurant, but Stephen insisted there was nothing special about it. Nduku and I wanted something more, well, different. Something indigenous, more adventurous as far as the environment and atmosphere or wherever we were eating, something a bit grimy, a hole in the wall, in the cut, something not fancy.
Reem al Bawadi
When we first walked into Reem Al Bawadi, well, let’s just say fancy might’ve been an understatement to us. Perhaps because of all the money in Dubai, this was as original as it gets, but where you see a photo of Nelly on the wall with the Arab world’s most famous entertainers, well, that’s fancy.
The place was really cool, though. It definitely had an atmosphere unlike any we’ve been to in America. Arabs in traditional clothing dominated the place. Either tourists didn’t know about the place or we didn’t get the memo about the dress code.
The food? Delish. The service? Not so much. But it’s definitely a place I’d want to visit again. I was a bit frustrated we didn’t get to do Abu Dhabi like I wanted, but the restaurant had a vibe to it that made me forget about a missed opportunity.
The highlight, though, was an Arabic family not far from us celebrating a birthday. At first I thought nothing of it, but Arabs singing Happy Birthday was funny. Happy Birthday in English that is. But they were just warming up. The real song followed and they know how to wish a happy birthday…
It was a good night. Great food. Surprisingly nippy being in the desert, but it is technically winter.
On the way home, though, we stopped by a little shopping center. We just needed to grab a few items, like re-upping the Mountain Dew. Have you ever wondered what cereal Arabs ate?
In addition to the western influence in their choice of foods, well, Arabs are also accommodating for those non-Muslims. Everyone knows Muslims don’t eat pork so you wouldn’t expect to see it in their grocery stores, right?
In the shopping center was a place Stephen recommended for tea. It’s called Shakespeares. I know, right!?
Nduku, Stephen and Mutethya got tea to cap the night off. Though America used to be a British colony like Kenya, we don’t do tea. Well, unless it’s iced tea in a huge jar that was left in the sun all day to absorb that deliciousness that Southerners have mastered.
So, while they sipped on their beverages and chatted, I was busy chasing Najwa around the shopping mall.
You know — Dubai is really chill.