Before heading home from Russia, I had a 3-day stopover in Abu Dhabi to attend a few business meetings. Of course, this trip came with some stress-busting sight-seeing and shopping, too. As I’ve said before, I always believe in making the most out of every trip, be it for work or for leisure.
The transition from Russia to Abu Dhabi took a lot of careful planning on my part, particularly where packing was concerned. It’s easy to see how a big of a wardrobe change was required between frigid Moscow at 3-degrees, and the 36-degree Centigrade Abu Dhabi heat. The luggage craziness was well worth the effort, though.
I was booked at the Hilton Abu Dhabi during my stay in this wonderful city. This is one hotel chain that has always been able to live up to my expectations, in terms of service and facilities. It can also feel like a second home at times, as there are a lot of Filipinos who work at Hilton hotels worldwide. If you haven’t yet, I really recommend you check them out for your next trip.
At this Abu Dhabi hotel, the rooms are really spacious, well-maintained, and provide you with complete amenities. This sort of convenience is something that I really look for as a traveler, especially since I fly to several destinations within a year.
It’s a great place to set up a mobile office if you are traveling for work. They have a business center, meeting rooms, and high speed internet access throughout the hotel. They can provide you with services like photocopying, express mail, and printing, too.
If you’re here for leisure, there’s the beach, a fitness room, exercise classes, tennis court, spa, and kid’s club. They even offer babysitting services and an array of children’s activities for your little ones.
I personally prefer to relax at Vasco’s, the hotel’s beachfront restaurant. They serve great food that perfectly matches the gorgeous view of the pool and beach areas. I also love the food at Bocca Italian Cuisine, which is another dining outlet of this hotel. They have superb pizza and pasta selections, and an unforgettable tiramisu. To unwind, I like to spend time at Jazz Bar & Dining which features jazz music in the evenings. It’s a great way to end long, meeting-filled days on a high note.
It was 6pm when I arrived at Abu Dhabi. After checking in, I decided to check out Marina Mall, which is just down the street from the Hilton. This is one of the biggest malls in the city, and you cannot miss it. I could actually see the complex from my hotel room window! It has a lot of shopping, dining, and entertainment options to offer. There’s something here for everyone, which is pretty much expected for a mall with over 400 stores.
Touring the City of Abu Dhabi
I had back to back meetings scheduled for the following morning, but was able to keep the afternoon free for some touristy activities.
First stop, Emirates Palace Hotel. I may not be checked in here, but I definitely wanted to get a glimpse of the prestigious 7-star hotel. Its architecture and decor really reflects Arabian culture and tradition. It is fitted beautifully with marble and gold, capped off with Swarovski crystal chandeliers. To call it grand is an understatement.
The modern buildings in the city stand out in contrast to the traditional ones. I consider these structures to be works of art on their own. These are definitely not your usual 4-corner skyscrapers. Here you will find buildings that curve, stretch, and lean. Keep an eye out for the circular skyscraper, too!
At this point in my travels, all the time I’ve spent away from Manila started to make me feel homesick. This was easily remedied by a visit to Golden Fork Restaurant for some of my favorite Filipino snacks. Food here is reasonably priced, and you can choose from a variety of meals on their Indian and Filipino menus, plus a few other Asian dishes.
Taste of home satisfied, I headed on to Madinat Zayed Shopping Center for some jewelry shopping. Trust me when I say that one cannot come to Abu Dhabi without at least browsing through the beautiful jewels and accessories sold here. You will also find bags, perfume, and apparel, if this is more of your thing.
Half Day Desert Safari
With our short tour of the city done, it was time to head back to the hotel to change for our Half Day Desert Safari. This is a must when you come to Abu Dhabi, especially if you want to really get a feel of the desert.
The drive there alone is exciting already, over sand dunes with the hot desert sun blazing. Once there, you can try driving a 4×4 over the dunes, sand boarding, and also go on a camel ride. I had some photos taken wearing a traditional Arabic costume, too, while there.
After all the adventure, we stopped to watch the sun go down. The view of the sun setting over the desert is one of those sights I will remember forever. I’ve seen many places and many beautiful things, and this one definitely makes the top of my list. The tour capped off with a delicious barbecue dinner underneath the stars. What a truly fantastic experience.
Visiting Yas Island
I started by third day in Abu Dhabi with more meetings, and then headed off to Yas Island. This wondrous man-made entertainment destination is packed with attractions, and with even more opening in the coming years. You really need at least a whole day to make the most out of this spectacular place. Unfortunately, I only had a few hours so I had to choose my stops wisely.
Yas Mall, the biggest mall in Abu Dhabi, was first on my list. Literally anything and everything you can think of buying and eating can be found within their three massive floors. Plus, they also have a 20-screen cinema and a family entertainment zone. It could very well be a shopaholic’s dream destination in Abu Dhabi.
The only other attraction I got to visit was Ferrari World, an indoor Ferrari-branded theme park, and the first of its kind. Whether or not you are a car-lover, you will enjoy it here for sure.
The highlight of the park is the Formula Rossa, the fastest rollercoaster in the world. It’s so fast that you need to wear goggles to protect your eyes during the ride! It’s definitely not for the faint of heart. There are also shows, driving simulators, and go kart racing here, both for young ones and the young at heart.
If I had more time, I would have wanted to see the Yas Waterworld water park, and the Yas Marina F1 Circuit. Alas, these will have to be reserved for another time. Maybe I will have the chance to visit again when new attractions open on Yas Island.
On our way back to the hotel we stopped by Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. This iconic mosque with its 82 white marble domes is the central place of worship in Abu Dhabi. It is one of the few mosques open to non-Muslims, and visitors are welcome to look around during the day except during hours of prayer.
For dinner that evening, I purposely went in search of another popular Filipino food outlet in Abu Dhabi, Kusinero Pinoy. They serve really good nilaga, and I’m sure many Filipinos would agree that there’s nothing like a nice hot bowl of soup to comfort you at the end of a long day. Food really is a great way to curb homesickness while travelling.
Everything I saw in the city was a feast to the eyes, and the airport was no exception. As I was headed home, I got a final glimpse of the wonderful architecture of Abu Dhabi, through the airports beautiful structure and breathtaking ceiling design. This was a great end to the wonderful time I spent in Abu Dhabi.
Of course, this travel post wouldn’t be complete without sharing my “Ms. TM’s Abu Dhabi trip loot”: Two new Starbucks mugs and some magnets.
On to my next stop, Dubai!
Always remember, travel enriches life. It teaches us to enjoy moments, to say goodbye to stress and embrace joy instead. Experience has taught me this, and I’m happy that I get to share my journeys with you now, too. Anytime you need help and tips finding worry-free, budget-friendly places to see, I’m here to help!