Arrival in Abu Dhabi

It is Friday, “family day, in Abu Dhabi, and we park along the corniche, a popular common denominator of these Gulf port cities. There is a strange, wooden structure, which looks as though someone piled together a bunch of two-by-fours to build, in the center of the plaza by the newly built “public” beach. A vendor is renting motorized mini cars and scooters, and children are scurrying after their parents to sample a few turns around. Most appear to be ex-pats, women dressed in shorts or work out stretch pants, but some don traditional head covers or full-body burqas. There are several families on the beach, playing volleyball and picnicking. Only ex-pats wear bathing attire at the beach, so it seems.

The weather is perfect as we choose a table in the shade along this beachside promenade. The “fast food” restaurant offers fresh fruit and vegetable juices (we order carrot), and an assortment of Mediterranean sandwiches and wraps, along with the freshest salad bar I have seen in a while. Amer gives me a quick overview of the city and its flourishing skyline and tree-lined boulevards. The Amir’s foresight in planting forests and a variety of trees in and around the city has provided the most scenic and inviting backdrop, in harmony with the sleek, tall skyscrapers still being built on the horizon.

It is a busy day: a visit to the Heritage Village, a park built for tourists with Bedouin styled tents and an old souk (closed from 2 to 4 p.m., when we were there), followed by the Emirates Palace, a homage to the wealthy dynasty of the UAE. The most expensive hotel in the UAE, its opulent interiors and beautifully landscaped grounds keep the ultra rich in 7-star luxury, among its 302 rooms and 92 suites, spa, tennis and squash courts, private beach and marina.

Today there is an exhibit about the new Guggenheim Museum designed by Frank Ghery, which is being built on a peninsula adjacent to Abu Dhabi, along with modern works of art, featured in the hotel’s gallery. The museum will be the center of a series of cultural institutions planned as part of the Saadiyat Island, and is configured to protect the island’s pristine north beach zone. My resident architect decides he wants to visit Barcelona, where Ghery’s first Guggenheim was built, a plan which I quickly endorse!

We meet Mai Café, on Aloft’s pool deck, where we enjoy the sunset and some freshly baked Arabic sweets we purchased at a Lebanese bakery in the Gold Souk district earlier in the day. Then, it’s dinner at the Beijing Restaurant, also in Gold Souk area, for authentic Chinese fare.

Up since 6 a.m. for our forty-minute flight from Doha, we happily retire to the comfort of our “signature” bed by 11 p.m. I am torn between the notion of sleeping in Sunday morning, versus getting up early to use the gym and take a swim. I desperately need to recover some Z’s from jetlag, yet my conscious is telling me to work off the freshly baked breads, hummus and treats I’ve consumed these last few days.

What’ll it be?