Abu Dhabi - the perfect getaway for a short break in the winter.
I know Abu Dhabi, and that part of the world, isn’t everyone’s cup of mint tea because of the politics etc. but I had air miles to use and couldn’t find a more perfect temperature for a week of R & R in the middle of miserable November! And it’s only 7 hours away.
I am SO glad I went as it proved to be the perfect break and delivered so much more than I expected. It’s a great destination for a woman travelling alone as it’s VERY safe and the Emiratis are just the friendliest people. I made friends everywhere.
I booked into the St. Regis, Saadiyat Island, because I wanted a beach holiday and the reviews were fantastic. Most people head for the hotels around the Corniche, but this location was a good choice because it was SO quiet and only a 10 to 15 minute cheap taxi ride into the City Centre.
It’s a Marriott hotel so not the cheapest, but wow……what views…..and a massage on the beach. What’s not to love?
I got upgraded to a room with a view AND got to see dancing dolphins at sunset on my very first day. How lucky and grateful was I!
Once I could drag myself off the beach, (temperatures at that time of the year don’t exceed 32 and it’s a dry heat) the first stop had to be Sheikh Zayed Mosque. I found it as thrilling as the Taj Mahal, with much better weather!
Top tip: Go in time for sunset, it was a balmy 22 degrees and that wonderful golden light was so perfect for photographers. It really is impossible to take a bad picture of the amazing architecture and design.
Despite covering myself from head to toe in a kaftan, my wrists and half my arms were still showing so I had to wear the full cover up abaya. They’re provided free and I actually quite liked swishing around in it and looking the same as all the other Westerners! (You can see the whole ensemble at the top of the page).
Next bit of culture just had to be The Louvre. The art they have bought is just amazing and includes some of the most influential artists in the world from Picasso to Pollock, but very few English artists (?) However, you know me and my love of architecture…..the design is mind blowing, especially the roof……..
I popped along to the Emirates Palace Hotel because every friendly cab driver told me I had to see it. It’s a bit bling bling for me but a great place to stop for a cocktail and watch the sun set over the beautiful down town skyline…….and do the Princess Diana pose!
The weirdest thing is that coach loads of tourists arrive from all over the UAE, and further afield, just to take photos of these awesome skyscrapers, then disappear as soon as the sun has set. The interior of the hotel is definitely worth a walk around so do go in, even if it’s just to use the loos!
And yes, I did do a bit of shopping at the Abu Dhabi Mall. Not the best mall in Abu Dhabi but I enjoyed the drama of everyone’s mobile emitting the loudest of fog horn warnings followed by this text. I was eating in a cafe and met some lovely local ladies who explained there was no need to panic, it was only a sand storm!
I also got to meet up with a lovely couple from Australia who have lived in Abu Dhabi for 11 years. They took me on a bit of a sunset tour and we ate in just the best restaurant: an Iraqi one called Al Maskoof, cheap as chips with fab food and a great atmosphere. Don’t miss this one.
For dog lovers everywhere, you’ll be lucky if you see any! I guess it’s way too hot most of the year but I really missed seeing doggies and felt quite bereft after eight days. But the Emiratis like cats and you’ll see plenty of well-fed strays around.
That was my sightseeing done. But Dubai is only up the road, about one and a half hours, so if you haven’t been there, it’s an easy day trip.
For me the hotel’s lovely Spa beckoned, complete with a hamam……
The massage was comparable in price to anywhere in the world, but truly awesome. But just a couple of tips about food and booze. You probably know that you can’t drink in public restaurants although all hotels serve alcohol. However, although I had a very good deal at the St. Regis, including the most fantastic breakfast that would see me through lunch, the food and drink was very pricey and made my eyes water!
Other tourists told me to just go across to the wee shopping mall where I found the most amazing, cheap restaurants (no alcohol) and a secret booze shop hidden behind plain doors! So I stashed my fridge full of half bottles of prosecco, as cheap as the UK, and was a very happy bunny for the rest of the week.
So, wherever you are staying, it’s worth asking other holiday makers where to shop and eat to keep the extras down.
Oh, and if you want to watch your favourite home channels on your lap top be warned that if you are using VPN they, whoever they is, discover you in about three days and block you! Netflix worked fine though.
I have to mention how amazing the staff were at the St. Regis. In the high end Abu Dhabi hotels, you get a butler! Nothing is too much trouble, they even pack for you - very useful if you’re moving rooms after one night. They treated me like a queen and after they had checked out my Instagram account, delivered the most amazing patisseries to my room made from photos they had find on my feed. All edible and so beautiful. I was so touched.
A big thank you to the Front Office Manager, Khurram Kazmi, Thi, the Pastry Chef and Diandra Novita & the whole team of butlers, and anyone who knows me! I would love to come back as you made me feel right at home but in 5 star splendour!
A final word about dress code……I wore ordinary knee length dresses, no bare shoulders, for shopping malls and the Louvre etc. and shorts and a two piece on the beach. But it’s worth taking as many kaftans as you can ‘cause I think it’s just polite to cover up in a country where it is expected (you wouldn’t believe what the locals actually wear underneath all those clothes!) I was quite shocked to see an English girl going off to the Mosque wearing a boob tube and short, shorts. She didn’t think it mattered as she knew they supplied abayas. I thought she was just plain rude!
If you need any top tips on packing for a trip like this, you’ll find my video below. Hope you enjoy and please do let me know if you have been to Abu Dhabi and enjoyed it as much as I did. Or do you prefer Dubai?
Packing tips for a hot country………..