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Staying in Abu Dhabi for three days in Mar 2019

Are there enough things to do in Abu Dhabi? Or is it worth using one of those days to take a day trip to Dubai, perhaps to go up the Burj Khalifa and anything else other than shopping malls or buildings housing fake ski slopes etc. I like souks (chowks), and plan on visiting a couple of mosques and the Louvre while in Abu Dhabi.
I am flying onto Morocco for two weeks afterwards,

Any help would be greatly appreciated

Posted by
1023 posts

I just got back from there a couple weeks ago. I would definitely visit Dubai if you can. Abu Dhabi was OK, the collection at the Louvre there is really incredible and concise, I loved it - the building not so much. The Sheikh Zayed Mosque is pretty mind-blowing as well.

I didn't even want to go to Dubai, my wife dragged me. But Dubai surprised me. If I had to put it in words, it's probably what people from Iowa thought when they went to Chicago for the first time in the 1900s or a potato farmer Irish immigrant thought when they saw the skyline of NY from a ship. Like ... really, this exists, humans built this? Then your jaw drops and stays on the floor for the next week. We stayed in the Rove near Deira city - great location, easy metro access, less than $90 a night for a room that would be 4 stars anywhere else. Really good food in the city, and just incredible just to see this teeming, modern metropolis that just makes anything in the west look like a flaccid, deflated balloon being held by a geriatric, angry old clown. The optimism and vision to build some place like this...

And then probably the highlight of Oman, Dubai and Abu Dhabi for us was an evening we spent at Global Village. Its a winter only event (still going on when you arrive). Again, think like the biggest "event" you have ever seen in New York or Chicago (Taste of Chicago or a festival) and then like multiply that several times over. It's like 90 countries all with their own set of shops, food stalls, entertainment etc ranging from Turkey to Bahrain to Bosnia to Germany to India to the US to Iran to China and everyone in between... And then they have a stunt show, a circus, an amusement park and a main stage with different concerts. And dozens of countries have little mini performances once or twice an hour, and every one of them we saw (at least 15) were very high-quality singing/dancing you would simply not see visiting those places. And great people watching. Most places in Dubai the expats far outnumber the locals, this was probably 80% local, 20% expat. I would say it would have been worth flying 5 hours from Bulgaria just to see this, definitely you should go if you are only 1.5 hours away in Abu Dhabi.

Posted by
1023 posts

In terms of avoiding the fake ski slopes please don't. Places like Dubai are the new thing. Everyone wants to visit Eiffel tower. But why? What was that? 120 years ago it was amazing, state of the art, built for a world fair. Worth going to, because it was amazing, something you couldn't even imagine, and had never seen before. It said progress. Now, everyone dutifully tromps there for reasons unknown, because they heard that's where you go.

Well Dubai is Paris circa 1899. With massive aquariums in malls and the burj khalifa, man-made islands you can see from the plane coming in, 20 miles of skyscrapers, ski slopes, massive desalination plants, medical cities (1 and 2), 12 lane highways clogged with traffic, ... who cares about seeing another mosque or museum or something cultural, go see something real.

Posted by
2700 posts

I hated Dubai, we went a few years ago to join my wife for a week whilst she was working out there. The accommodation was all paid for so we ended up with a good deal otherwise I'm not sure I would have gone. There was nothing really of any interest unless you find big shiny buildings and ostentatious wealth being flaunted around interesting. It was also difficult being impressed by the buildings when you knew how poorly treated those that built them were.

The place is soulless, there's a lot of falseness about, we had a couple of issues with some of the hotel staff and the way the women in the family were treated was disgraceful.

The food was pretty poor in general but fortunately we were staying in an apartment in the marina where there was a Waitrose store and I could buy provisions for breakfast.

The souks were ok if you like that thing. Lots of fake goods, lots of hassling and cajoling, a good place to buy spices although my local ethnic shops sell just as good stuff so it's not worth lugging a load of spices halfway around the world if you can buy the same at home.

I think Dubai is one of those places that you either love or hate, I'm in the hate camp.

Posted by
3044 posts

The falcon hospital in Abu Dhabi is among the most interesting tourist activities I've seen in a long history of tourism. Depending on the hunting season, the hospital cares for birds from across the Arab world, and visitors can go eyeball-too-eyeball with these amazing creatures (the hawks will win) and stand at the operating table as vets maintain and repair the prestigious predators -- they can even replace lost feathers.

A tour of the enormous central mosque is also worthwhile.

Posted by
703 posts

definitely do the tour of the sheik zayed mosque, we did it some years ago and was definitely a high light of our stay there. even just to view it as a building, the workmanship etc is unbelievable. the tour guide was very good, I think they volunteer their time.

Posted by
83 posts

Thank you, everyone, for the diversity of views and some good suggestions. I will take the opportunity to do the day trip to Dubai
and perhaps another occasion stay there enroute to Oman.
I had not heard of the falcon hospital so that would be something quirky to see which has appeal for me.

Posted by
1023 posts

Obviously everyone is entitled to their opinion, and I can certainly understand how people don't like Dubai. As I said, I thought I wouldn't either. That said, I just want to address a few comments:

when you knew how poorly treated those that built them were

Do some research into the tunnels of New York or London, or the skyscrapers. Hundreds were killed constructing them. Do you make comments like that about New York or London? More broadly, the entire Western capitalist system extracts resources - both physical in terms of minerals and fossil fuels and in terms of utilizing low-cost labor - from low income countries to give to the rich (e.g. you). Everything from the shirts you wear to the cars you drive to the phones you use to the fossil fuels you utilize are extracted from the heartbreak of the world's poor. The difference in Dubai is they are not hypocritical - I get the feeling they are fine with income inequality and near slave conditions, and are also fine seeing it. In the west, we are fine too, we just don't want to see it.

The place is soulless, there's a lot of falseness about

Like literally every single place on earth. Go to London, Chicago, Houston New York or even Sofia, you will see that everywhere there is money.

couple of issues with some of the hotel staff and the way the women in
the family were treated was disgraceful.

There are definitely two classes. Arabs and everyone else. Sort of like white people in the west, who act like SE Asians aren't real British and Mexicans aren't real Americans. My wife didn't have any woman issues and was treated with deference and respect. And in fact we were reflecting after the Global Village - where probably 80% of the people are local or Middle Eastern, and probably 70+% of those were in traditional garb - that we didn't see anyone giving any westerners odd looks or any untoward behavior, even though there were westerners in inappropriate clothes for a family-oriented, predominately Muslim event. I was trying to picture 20% of the people wandering around at say Coachella or the Texas State Fair in burqas or thawbs, and how they would be treated.

The food was pretty poor in general but fortunately we were staying in an apartment in the marina

I don't even know how to respond to that. First the marina is where the tourist are, the most artificial part of the city. All over the world everyone knows this is typically not where to find good food. Like I wouldn't expect New York to have good food in Times Square, nor would I expect the best food in Waikiki, or Picadilly Circus, or Downtown DC near the Smithsonian. In terms of food, in a place where 70% of the total population is Indian, Pakistani, Filipino, Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan, and a bit less than 20% is Iranian, it is inconceivable to me that you cannot find good food, and we certainly had no bad meals.

Posted by
2700 posts

I don't even know how to respond to that. First the marina is where the tourist are, the most artificial part of the city

I do, I wrote that I stayed in the marina not that I ate in the marina. Most of our meals were in the older part of the city. If you like simple, meat heavy dishes then fine, personally I prefer a bit more balance and variety.

Dubai just didn't interest me, I guess I'm not easily as impressed with bright, shiny, big things as you are, each to their own.

Posted by
2572 posts

I lived in the Middle East for five years and appreciate the cultural differences with the West.
Comparing the building of the NYC tunnels (another example the Brooklyn Bridge) to modern day is erroneous. The science of the late 19th and early 20th Century was less advanced than modern times. Also, much of that earlier construction was done prior to current labor and safety laws.

Countries like the UAE and Saudi Arabia do provide opportunities for people from developing countries to advance themselves, but the conditions of some of those workers border on involuntary servitude.

As for your rant against free enterprise, you just need to compare the free capitalist countries in the World to the collapsed collectivist former Soviet Union and other failed states like Venezuela for the truth.

Posted by
3044 posts

Because the Emirates are 80 per cent ex-pats from many countries, cuisine can be multi-cultural too. At the cheap end, expect South Asian and East Asian restaurants. The labour force is drawn mostly from those countries who know about economical cooking. The biggest English-language newspaper in Dubai is full of Bollywood and cricket scores, not intended for the middle-class professionals from Europe and America. Those well-to-do folks turn to the fancy tourist hotels for international cuisine. Drinks, too, although not visible from the outside.