Early this summer I caught an amazing flight deal from Tokyo to Milan for a little over $300. (WOWZERS!!) The only catch? It had a 24 hour layover in Abu Dhabi. You should know by now that I love taking advantage of a layover, so this was perfect!
Now, for some this would completely freak them out. What am I gonna do in Abu Dhabi? Is 24 hours enough to see anything? I don’t wanna be stuck somewhere for 24 hours, that’s too long (or short) of a layover! (wah, wah, wah)
But for us? We were excited to be able to freak two vacations in one. I had visited Dubai last year, but was excited to see what Abu Dhabi had going on. The boy was hype just to check off another country on the list. Win-win.
First, I hit up a friend who lives there with her kids and asked if she can recommend anything to do. She gave me a few ideas and I went from there. I ended up booking two tours through Emirates Tours through Viator.com and it ended up being pretty dope. We would have something to do for the entire time we were there and both tours covered a lot in 20 hours that we had to explore.
Our only challenge was that we were going there during Ramadan, so that changed some of the activities and made our meals a challenge during daylight. How, you ask? Read my previous post for the entire rant. It was hilarious in hindsight. Not so much while we were going through it.
We started the day going on a day tour of Abu Dhabi. We first visited the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque where were not only learned about the structure, but a little bit about Islam, it’s history, and fascinating culture. I wore clothing I thought would be appropriate, but once we arrived, I was given an abaya to cover myself futher. It was all good…at first.
Now, I’ve already written about how hot it was that day so imagine having to put on an abaya on top of the other long clothing I was wearing. But I made it work. We were able to see worship spaces and all the amazing tiles and marble floors. While some of the mosque was off limits due to prayers, we were able to see this amazing temple in all it’s glory.
It was truly a spectacular place to be able to visit. The amount of detail that went into this place of worship was astounding. From the artistic script on the wall to the golden chandeliers, I stood in awe of the love and adoration put into the mosque.
Afterward we went to the date market, where we learned all things dates and were led to the back room of one of the shops to eat some of them. Because it was Ramadan, we weren’t permitted to eat in plain sight. So, huddled in this small back room, our small, yet too big to be all in this store room, got a quick overview of dates and sampled a few. It was cramped, but at least there was AC.
Once we received our mini lesson, and we all thoroughly chewed and swallowed our samples, we exited back into the store to buy treats and souvenirs to take home, if we so chose.
Back into the van, we headed off to the Heritage Village to learn about the Beduins and their history in the region.
Now, it was insanely hot on this day, like 114 degrees F, so we were so over everything at this point. The boy stayed in the van and I went to explore for a quick minute, just to say I saw it.
Just so you know, there wasn’t much there but shop keepers and set ups and houses that give you an idea of what things looked like back in the day. For me, it wasn’t worth exiting the van, but I saw it. It was what it was.
After that, we were dropped off at a hotel near a mall so we could go on our search for food. Again, I’ll save you the details of that search, but read part 1 of this post to laugh your ass off.
After getting food and eating a burger that saved both our lives, I did a little shopping to get out of my wet clothes (114 degrees, remember?! I was SOAKED with sweat). We changted and found our way back to the hotel to grab some last minute AC before we got picked up again and to go on our dune experience.
Now, for those of you who haven’t been on a dune driving experience, let me warn you: it is not for the faint of heart or those who suffer from car sickness.
There are moments where you feel like you are going to topple over and life will have ended for you in that moment. I’ve gone on one before when I visited Dubai with friends a few years ago, but this was the first time with the boy. I will say, my previous experience was a little bit better.
For one, the drive was okay, but a little underwhelming. And things felt really sloppy in a way. The henna artist created some strange designs on other people’s hands, so I opted not to get it. The boy did, but thought it looked weird so he washed it off before the ink could settled. Because it was Ramadan, dancing and music wasn’t permitted so instead of having entertainment after dinner, they turned off the lights and had us stare at the stars. No lie, we laid there for like 20 minutes and that was the entertainment for the evening.
I will say the food was good, but again this is probably because we had to wait until sundown to eat so we were very hungry again by this point. But overall it was juuuust okay.
I will say the dune driving and bbq experience was better in Dubai, but regardless of where you go, I would avoid doing anything during Ramadan, if you can. Things are pretty limited until after sundown, so if you do travel to the UAE, I would avoid this holy month.
Plus, IT’S HOT AS SHIT!!! Come in the winter. Seriously.
Overall, the day wasn’t all bad. The heat took some adjusting to and we bonded over our dislike of summer and all things heat related.
It was a fascinated and eye-opening trip to learn first hand what it means to begin a Muslim country during Ramadan. It is a time of connection and centering oneself in their religion. I learned a lot during that trip and while it was a bit frustrating, I’m glad we had that experience.
Ok. There is my TripAdvisor review of our long layover in Abu Dhabi. I hope to return another time when it isn’t so oppressively hot and I can drink a bottle of water outside of a toilet stall.