In March 2019 I went on a holiday of a lifetime to Abu Dhabi and Dubai. 4 of my friends and I got an amazing deal on a holiday to Dubai which included the opportunity to experience tours and excursions whilst we were there. As you can imagine we all jumped at the chance. Before visiting Dubai I had heard so many different things about the country so really didn’t know what to expect.
When you ask people about Dubai quite often the first thing they will say is “it’s very strict out there”. There is this perception amongst many that you get arrested for the smallest things: littering; holding hands; pubic displays of affection; wearing a skirt or short clothing. Whilst it’s true that the country is strict it is surprisingly tolerant. Littering carries a punishment of a heavy fine (which I personally agree with and the streets are immaculate) and you are allowed to wear short clothing (such as short sleeve t-shirts, shorts and skirts) whilst out in public but are not permitted to do so in religious areas such as around mosques and places of worship (which I agree with).
Before we arrived in the country we had no idea of this and so I made sure to pack a variety of clothes to cater for every possible occasion I could think of (and fit within my 30kg baggage allowance).
We were flying with Turkish Airlines, from Manchester to Istanbul and then Istanbul to Abu Dhabi, on 2 flights lasting 4 and a half hours each. The flights were really comfortable and enjoyable (which started the holiday off well for me as I’m not a good flyer). We departed Manchester Airport at 11.50am and arrived in Abu Dhabi at around 1am their time (9pm UK time). Luckily we had a transfer from the airport included in our trip, a coach with tour guide. The hotel was around a 30 minute drive from the airport which was lucky because we were all extremely tired and knew we would be up early in the morning. During this trip we would be staying in 3 different Emirates in the U.A.E: Abu Dhabi first then onto Dubai and finally finishing in Sharjah. Our first hotel of the trip was the Grand Millennium Al Wahda, a gorgeous 5-star hotel complete with rooftop pool and spa facilities. The rooms were outstanding but by the time we arrived there on the first night we were too tired to properly take it in. We would be here for 2 nights.
That morning we woke early and met down in the lobby outside the restaurant. I was on this trip with 4 other friends (it was supposed to be with 5 others but someone pulled out), 2 of my friends are twin brothers and shared a room on the 6th floor (which is also the floor I stayed on) and my other 2 friends (the girls) shared a room on the 9th floor. The breakfast was buffet style and had every thing from Cornflakes to curry. After breakfast our tour guide (who we affectionately named Edna as she looked like Edna Mode from The Incredibles films) met us in the meeting room to run through the itinerary for the holiday. Most of the trips we would be going on were included in the price we paid but there were options to purchase extra excursions and experiences if you wished. We decided we wanted to purchase the dinner cruises that were offered (one in Abu Dhabi and one in Dubai), a desert safari and evening meal (which was one of the highlights of the holiday for me) and a trip to Oman and 5 hour boat cruise (which had the option to snorkel in the sea). We hadn’t been told this was an option before we arrived and had booked separately to go up the Burj Khalifa, which we discovered we could’ve booked through the tour operator.
Day 1 consisted of the morning spent organising and paying for our excursions and being briefed on the running order for the holiday. Once this was complete we got onto the coach and headed to the first place of interest: The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the largest mosque in the country. Pictures and words do not do it justice. It is spectacular! Every detail has been hand crafted and carefully assembled and the chandeliers are breathtakingly beautiful. This was the only place during our trip where there was a dress code. In order to respect the religion all women had to make sure their hair was covered and their legs were covered. The tour guide provided head wear and gowns to ensure all the tourists were covered as without appropriate clothing you would not be allowed in. All men had to ensure their knees were covered, shorts were permitted but only if they went below the knee. This had been briefed to us all the night before so we knew what to wear. Because the temperature was close to 30 degrees Celsius I opted for the long shorts. I was amazed at how quiet and serene the mosque was considering it was busy with tourists, we were free to roam at our own pace and take photographs throughout. Here are some pictures from the mosque.
After we left the stunning mosque we proceeded to Yas Island. Anyone who is a Formula 1 fan will know that this is where the Marina Circuit is located. We drove past there for a stop at the Ferrari World theme park. If we wanted to we could have got off the tour and spent the rest of the day at Ferrari World but we chose to remain with the tour as our next activity was a boat trip around Yas Island.
We drove from Ferrari World (where we got about 40 minutes to have a walk round and grab something to eat and drink) to the marina for our boat journey.
After the tour of the marina we made our way back to our hotel to get ready for our evening dinner cruise.
Here are some pictures from our dinner cruise in Abu Dhabi. Note that you can buy and drink alcohol in licensed hotels only. Each region has a small number of hotels that serve alcohol. Out of the 3 hotels we stayed in throughout our trip in the U.A.E only 1 had a license (the hotel in Abu Dhabi).
After a wonderful dinner we went back to our hotel for the final night in Abu Dhabi as the next day we were travelling to Dubai.