Our flight left Berlin at 2 pm heading for Dubai International Airport with an overlay in Istanbul.
The overlay was actually quite long and in the end, we spend about three hours in Istanbul-Sabiha Gökçen Airport – at Starbucks, where else?
When we landed in Dubai later that evening it was already 11 pm, but seeing the lights of the city as we descended was so worth it.
I have already been to the UAE twice because my parents were so amazed and fascinated by my first trip that I went again with them- and who would say no to a free vacation?
When you arrive in Dubai the first thing you’ll notice is the heat of up to 45°C (113°F)
The second thing you’ll notice is the cold.
Why cold? – because the AC is ALWAY on – EVERYWHERE
And it’s set to 19°C (66°F)
So don’t bother buying extra fancy summer clothes if you plan on sightseeing, you’ll need a jacket.
We had to learn this the hard way when we arrived at our first hotel, the Grand Millennium Al Wahda (which has direct access to the mall – recommend) and we almost froze to death.
Nothing one normally does with an outside temperature of 40°C (104°F)
In the end, our first day solely consisted of airplane and bus rides and quick disclaimer, I ended up sick afterwards.
– Seriously, pack a jacket!
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
To use the day we more or less voluntarily took a chartered bus at eight in the morning.
Something noteworthy is that even the seemingly most boring drives are definitely noteworthy.
Buildings are the UAEs main attractions as they are a desert state and I have to say, they do it pretty well, hiring top architects from around the world to create incredible pieces of art.If you're an architect, the UAE are your playground. Click To Tweet
And if the ones that already exist aren’t enough for you, keep in mind that every single building that stands today has been built in the last 30 years.
So imagine what they will do in the next few years.Travelling the UAE is a gift that keeps on giving Click To Tweet
Our drive brought us to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and what a stunning view it was…
Now, our small “problem” was that when we first went to Abu Dhabi it was Ramadan and a lot of people had told us that the controls at the mosque were going to be really thorough and hard – so we were prepared to eventually be denied entry.
For those of you who are wondering, religion is still taken quite seriously in the UAE and before entering the mosque, there are clothing controls – especially for women.
I know, from a western standpoint this isn’t fair, but as I have explained in my Travel Guide, local rules are rules too and as a guest, you should respect them.
To avoid any embarrassing scenes and being able to see the truly stunning mosque just make sure that women have everything FULLY covered from neck to toe and wear a headscarf.
They have guards on the inside too who will tell you if you aren’t dressed appropriately, so don’t try any tricks.
We had already heard all this from a friend and since Ramadan is a religious event we were just a little bit anxious.
But we were wrong!
You see, the thing about Ramadan is that in the western world we have a lot of prejudices about this fest we only know about that people feast for one month.
But as locals have told us, Ramadan is all about celebrating the beauty of life and being grateful and that’s why you fast during that time!
It’s so that you are even more grateful for food when you are allowed to eat again at 7 pm and believe me, they are grateful during that time…
They even went that far to order that shops have to give out discounts during Ramadan because it’s all about giving.Arabs during Ramadan are the nicest people you will EVER meet! Click To Tweet
But one pro-tip: RESPECT THEIR CULTURE!!
You’d think it’s a given, but sadly…no.
So when we came back the second time we thought everything was about to be quick and we’d be done with it, but sadly my grandma was denied entry.
Therefore, I guess the rules are generally a bit less firm during Ramadan, but I’d have to go there a third time to confirm that it really was because of Ramadan…
2020? Third time’s the charm!
Afterwards, we made a few more photo stops to see the Abu Dhabi Palace, which is actually a hotel now, but was supposed to become the old Sheiks new palace and drove over the Yas Marina Circuit, which is a race-track.
Yes, we drove over a race-track – with a bus.
But it get’s crazier: the circuit also has a hotel…on which it is built.
…at least partially.
We went back to the hotel after that, but took a longer route to see some more of the city and ate at a local restaurant outside of a mall or hotel to get the real Abu Dhabi feeling.
But do you remember what I told you about the whole Ramadan and feasting until 7 pm thing?
Let me tell you, it was a really amazing experience, seeing people stare at food like this – but they had
The food is absolutely AMAZING!!
And during Ramadan differend and larger menus are served.
So when we just asked for a meal with falaffel and some chicken with salad, we got a whole menu…
It uncluded a tea full of sugar, a salad, vegetables, dates, the main course, a soup, bread and rice!
A bit much?
Not if it’s the first thing you ate all day.
But that was it for the day and I think this article has gotten a bit out of hand, so…I guess this will become a series!
What do you think?