We had been running at full throttle touring North Asia—Japan and South Korea—over the past two weeks.
We were feeling pretty tore up from the floor-up by the time we left Seoul and headed to Abu Dhabi. Luckily for us we had used mileage and booked First Class tickets on Etihad Airlines to route us back to the States. We flew from Seoul to Abu Dhabi, had two nights in Abu Dhabi, and then were to board a 15 hour journey from Abu Dhabi to Los Angeles. For anyone that has ever looked at a world map you might ask – why not just fly across the Pacific? Flights from Korea to the US take about 10 hours— instead of the 25 hour flying time to go through the Middle East. Well, there’s very few places my husband would rather be that in a first class seat flying for double digit hours on mileage (free) tickets—so the “long way” we went. Plus, I was excited to visit Abu Dhabi. I’ve seen Sex and the City 2—Abu Dhabi Doo.
We boarded the 9 hour flight from Seoul to ABu Dhabi where we didn’t waste much time getting cozy by sipping on champagne and changing into the pajamas that the airline provides.
We arrived bright and early in the morning Abu Dhabi time which is 5 hours behind Seoul, so we were still feeling twisted irregardless of the comfy pajamas and Ferrari leather passenger seats turned into beds.
With luck on our side and the receptionist greased a little, we arrived at our hotel, the Park Hyatt, around 7am and were shown to a room.
The Park Hyatt is located on the man-made Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi. The resort is nestled in by a stretch of white sand beach and offers a pretty over-the-top poolside area. Like how many things in the UAE are done—this was luxurious and opulent.
Here is the view from our room.
Both of of were suffering from severe jet lag sprinkled with travel exhaustion so there was a whole lot of nothing that occurred that day. We attempted to enjoy the pool, but the weather was blazing hot at 115 degrees so we didn’t last too long.
I also did a stroll over to the beach, feeling like I needed to dip my toe in the Arabian Sea. The sand was scorching and the sun on a different level of heat so it was a quick trip before racing back to air-conditioning.
The next day we ventured out and visited and Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. It was constructed from 1996-2006. The mosque is a masterpiece of modern Islamic architecture, art, and design. It is impressively innovative and contemporary. Sheikh Zayed is also the biggest mosque in the world covering 30 acres and accommodating 41,000 worshipers.
It is certainly a sight to behold.
One thing to note about Abu Dhabi is that its one of the more conservative of the Emirates. Unlike Dubai which has really deemed itself as a progressive Islamic Emirates, Abu Dhabi has tried to wield itself as an economic and artistic hub while maintaining its conservative cultural roots. As such, as a woman, I needed to be dressed in a traditional abaya to be granted entrance into the mosque. Remember the aforementioned blazing hot weather? It was a sweaty disaster underneath that thing.
Although the abaya did offer some rather great picture opportunities.
Just doing some assimilating in Abu Dhabi.
Also as a woman, it was the first time in our travels that I actually felt a little bit less of a person. This was mainly due to the behavior of the male security working the mosque. While away from Peter when I had to change into the abaya I found the staff to not only be unhelpful, but almost seemed angry in their behavior towards me. Any question I had was dismissed, but if Peter had the same question it was respectfully answered. It was an unsettling, unfriendly vibe that I couldn’t kick.
Something that didn’t help this cause was when Peter and I decided to take a selfie. As we were posing, Peter put his arm around me and I threw up a peace sign. This was a double whammy against Islam, where displays of affection at a holy site are impermissible as well as overt posing. Just as we took the picture a guard abruptly came over and reprimanded both of us for our offensive behavior. He exclaimed that we needed to erase the pictures.
The picture below shows my terror as the angry guard shamed us.
It could have been worse. We could have gotten kicked out like Rihanna did after posing too sexy for photos taken in front of the mosque.
I felt a little unnerved throughout the duration of our time at the mosque, but nonetheless I did attempt to enjoy the beauty and splendor of it while we were there.
Inside the mosque is 7 gold-plated chandeliers, all drizzled in Swarovski crystals. The focal chandelier is one of the worlds biggest weighing around 12 tons. The chandeliers were an obvious highlight of the inside of the mosque, but just about everything was extraordinary. The ornate detail and design found on every square inch of the walls, ceiling and columns, were mesmerizing.
Before leaving we snapped a handful of shots outside of the mosque. This time careful not to cause any problems.
We then grabbed an uber and took it to the Shangri-La Hotel. The hotel is set in a complex that offers a souk with a traditional Arabic market and is set on a grand canal modeled after Venice. You can actually take a gondola ride on it.
After doing a walking tour of the canal we stepped into the hotel to explore the grounds. I retreated to the hotel bathroom where I quickly became acquainted with two American women. One of them, Heather was particularly nice and interested in what I was doing in Abu Dhabi. As my time in the bathroom grew longer, Peter confirmed what he suspected—I had made friends in the bathroom.
The women graciously offered to have us come over and meet their group which was as all women. Peter essentially ran away from this situation, but told me to go enjoy myself. I ended up going over and meeting everyone who were all lovely and a group that was from all over the world. I gathered that the women knew each other because their husbands all worked together. I let Heather know we would be passing through Abu Dhabi here and there and that I would reach out the next time we were in town.
I left to go find where Peter had scurried off to and then we headed to the Souk to grab some dinner. We decided on a Lebanese restaurant, Abd El Whab. It was a wonderful choice not only for the food, but the staff was so friendly that it quickly turned my perception around on the treatment of foreign women that had formed while visiting the mosque. One of the staff who noticed I was cold, even brought a blanket over for me to use while dining.
We called it a night afterwords. We had an early flight back to the US in the morning.
One pretty cool thing that the Abu Dhabi airport offers—it’s own private terminal and entrance for Business and First Class passengers on Etihad, Abu Dhabi’s hub carrier.
We also had access to the First Class lounge where most of the fellow passengers looked like this.
And then there was this guy.
Peter and I were really excited for this flight—as we always are when we get to travel this way. But we also knew this was our last flight for awhile since we were going to be in the US for the next 4 months and unsure of where our plans would bring us next. I’m not complaining here. I can feel some eye-rolls.
I strongly encouraged a photo shoot for this trip which to my surprise Peter obliged.
He even amused me with a pajama photo session. One of the pictures below is Peter drinking Hennessy Paradis which is typically poured at over $100 a glass.
This is yoga pose while wearing airline pJ’s and simultaneously sitting on the console between our TV screens.
Pretty sure Peter called the photo shoot after this one.
We were back in the states and were so excited to reunite with all our friends and family. Despite being home we still did quite a bit of traveling. We can’t seem to sit still for long. After landing at LAX, we stayed a couple nights at Peter’s folks home in Orange County and then it was off to Seattle followed by a trip to the great state of Alaska.
Thanks as always. Oh and a trick to fight off dehydrated skin on long flights—a facial sheet mask.