Destination Profile: Abu Dhabi; a contrast of old and new {Part 1 of 2}

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There’s something charming about an Emirati lifestyle.

The Emirati man finds a way to fuel a lifestyle of luxury and enjoyment. For the Emirati women, wearing the abaya is a form of remaining true to the roots of the UAE, unifying and liberating women and not forgetting the local culture and tradition.

The Emirates is a ‘destination of distinction’ where taste is prioritised, with flavour influences of the Western world inter-mingling with the deep-rooted Arabian heritage. Rituals like drinking Arabic coffee and eating dates are social occurrences. The culture remains vibrant, reflecting the countries future; punctuated with it’s cosmopolitan shopping experiences.

During our recent trip to the UAE, we traveled to Abu Dhabi, the rival metropolitan neighbour of Dubai. During our time there, we discovered the seamless contrast of old and new, creating a modern legacy of it’s own.

How to get there

We opted to fly with the national carrier, South African Airways. SAA introduced the daily service between Johannesburg and Abu Dhabi double with partner Etihad Airways continuing its seven weekly departures in March of this year. Business and leisure travelers will benefit from the convenience of multiple flight options between Johannesburg and Abu Dhabi within the same day.

The cabins are neat with basic amenities afforded to travelers in Business Class. The quality of these items fare poorly in comparison to the other airlines that we’ve traveled on. The food was average, with little attention paid to plating. With that said, the food was in abundance and the air hostesses were very considerate to offer snacks outside of the dining times. The kids particularly enjoyed the dessert offering of Haagen Dazs ice-cream.

The services were timeous with a lot of attention paid to kids on-board. Special consideration was given to younger travelers and the overall fuss was appreciated by parents.

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Air tickets may be booked online on the flyssa.com website. Subscribe to their newsletter to be informed of any upcoming specials (including one of a ridiculous rate of R2,500 per person which was their introductory rate!). Visitors from South Africa are required to obtain Visa’s before they travel to Abu Dhabi. We arranged ours through the services of Fatima. She charged us a rate of R1400 per person. She may be contacted on 0727868072 or alternatively on email aftravel786@gmail.com

Landing in Abu Dhabi and Cellular phone connection.

Once you arrive in Abu Dhabi, be mindful of the queues at Passport Control. Business Class travelers can wait in line under a sign that says ‘Fast Pass’. Consideration is also afforded to travelers with young children, although this is not a given so don’t expect to be ushered to a shorter line.

Once you’re out of the security area, proceed by purchasing a data card which allows you to retain all internet based applications with your South African cell number. Although the gentleman offered no advice on getting it running, the instruction leaflet is pretty explanatory and you can always pass by a vendor whilst out in the malls if any concerns arise.

We were not always confident travelers. So much so, that we ensured that transfers to and from the airport were arranged for us before departing South Africa. Whilst this is the hassle-free way to travel, so are taxi’s in countries where there are marked and designated taxi waiting zones. We paid Dhs90 for a 30 minute ride to our hotel. This is a flat rate, regardless of the size or style of taxi that you choose. Ours was larger due to luggage and children, but very spacious and comfortable for the 30 minutes transfer. The Hotel shuttle service is at a cost of Dhs210 should you wish to opt for that instead.

Our Itinerary during our 5 day stay.

I had spent a considerable amount of time researching the highlights of Abu Dhabi before we had left SA. At this stage, I need to add that we did not do half of what I had found online. Much of the ‘must-do’ places that have been suggested online have become old and redundant in reality.

I also went through detailed reviews on the Hotels that we wanted to stay at. After careful consideration, The Sofitel Corniche met all of our needs and requirements during our stay in the UAE.

entrance

I also noted using the Hop on, Hop off bus whilst we were there, but once you realise just how affordable (and convenient) it is to travel by taxi, the fare spent on the bus tickets is rather high. In addition, the distance between points is a lot, so you might end up traveling for a longer time with stops included.

We needed to factor in a considerable amount of of our day for child-friendly activities. Whilst this is an indication of what we did whilst away, a couple with no kids might be able to do most of these trips in an entire day.

Day 1:

We decided to have a leisurely breakfast at our hotel before heading out. I have detailed the hotel profiles and the service offerings on my next post for easier reference.

Our (my!) plan was to get shopping out-of-the-way (system!) so the rest of the holiday could be enjoyed, leisurely. I spotted the stores that I was keen on visiting at Galleria Mall on Al Maryah Island which was a short 15 minute drive from The Sofitel Corniche. The mall is noted for it’s selection of luxury and high-end stores, so I suggest going through the online store listing before going there to determine which stores you really want to go to. We particularly enjoyed Cafe Bateel before leaving (it’s conveniently located before one of the exits). We had a light lunch of Grilled chicken, tomato salsa, coriander and chili-pepper spread on toasted panini and Rigatoni in a light creamy sauce of mascarpone, Reggiano Parmesan and diced Pecorino cheese. The encore, Traditional Arabic coffee (Qahwa) served in a dallah flask with Rhutab dates (you have a choice between how many you’d like to order). The taste is very potent yet aromatic. Glasses are usually filled halfway and sipped slowly. Make this a must-try if you’ve never traveled to any Middle Eastern countries before.

If there’s any particular thing that i absolutely love doing on holiday is visiting their local grocery stores! There’s always something interesting that I manage to find, which in most cases happens to be food related. It’s also a fraction of the price that you would find at any of the grocery stores at the Malls. It’s a great opportunity to stock up on on-the-go snacks which will come in handy on longer days out. I suggest proceeding directly to your hotel after so there’s no need to lug around these items whilst out. Try to also find the closest grocery to your hotel, your taxi driver will be able to assist in this regard.

The kids enjoyed a leisurely afternoon at the poolside whilst I enjoyed Afternoon Tea at Club Millesime at the hotel. Club Millesime is the executive floor exclusive to guests of the Club Suites. The level of attention is outstanding and the service matches the expectations of a clientèle in search of the exceptional. It’s a sophisticated VIP lounge that invites you to relax in an oasis of calm away from the hubbub of the city – with a cup of one of world’s best teas and carefully crafted canapes or pastries. More details may be found on the hotel profiles post following this.

Our plan was to visit the grand Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque towards Maghrib time, to best enjoy the ambiance of the masjid during the day and partially into the evening. It’s also less crowded during this time and one can appreciate it’s beauty and seek solace in the peacefulness. It’s about a 20 minute drive from the hotel, and the taxi’s have special demarcated areas to drop off and collect visitors which is directly in front of the main entrance. If you aren’t dressed appropriately, there is a room where you can loan a head scarf and/or an abaya to use during your visit to the Masjid. Once you have the proper attire you may make your way up the pathway to the main courtyard area of the Masjid. Follow the demarcated areas for men and women. There are areas for shoes to be placed before entering the main area of the Masjid. Try to arrive just before Maghrib salaah to view the Masjid in daylight. It’s a vast contrast between the two hours of the day. Without going into too much facts (which one can easily find on search engines).

“Abu Dhabi hosts the third largest mosque in the world – after the ones in Mecca and Madina in Saudi Arabia. It is named after the founder and first President of the UAE, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. He chose the location and took substantial influence on the architecture and the design of the mosque. Based on his vision, the mosque was built with the rise of 11 metres above sea level, and 9.5 metres above the street level so that it is clearly visible from all directions”.

For more detail on the architecture and interior, visit: Abu Dhabi eGoverment Gateway

A few things to remember: No public displays of affection; this includes your husbands arm around you for photographs! You will be reprimanded by the guards (as one would expect in a Masjid!). Be respectful in your dress and avoid hair peeking through your headscarf. Try not to create too much noise of chatter unnecessarily. The guards also shake their heads on ladies taking too many ‘selfies’ whilst there (I witnessed the reaction of one). Instead, find a quiet spot where you can take pictures of the actual architecture instead. There’s no food items available to purchase in or around the Masjid, please ensure that children are well fed before visiting. I highly suggest visiting the masjid on Day 1 of your trip. It sets the mood and spirituality for the rest of your time in Abu Dhabi.

Before leaving SA, I came across a rather unconventional dining experience online called Rogo’s The Rollercoaster Restaurant. Befitting to it’s name, patrons can expect their meals whizzing down a spiral, through a tornado loop and along double metal tracks above your head in a very retro and visual dining adventure. Rogos is located in the Yas Mall on Yas Island. Patrons are seated and briefly explained on how to order and what to expect. The state-of-the-art ordering system via individual handheld tablets located under the tables, enables diners to order individually to your place and table number which then corresponds with the food as it arrives on the tracks in front of you in sealed pots. There are a couple of huge multi-spirals, double loops and tornado tracks that make up the network of thirty roller coasters that the food and even your cold drinks (hot drinks for obvious safety reasons are delivered in a conventional way by a server) travel down to arrive at their final destination (traveling up to 8km/h).

The food is fast. Patrons can expect meals like Fried chicken and Chips and Mac & Cheese as one of their many offerings. The concept screams ‘novelty’ to younger children who really marvel at the way the food arrives to them. It’s gimicky approach to dining makes this a must-do whilst in Abu Dhabi especially if traveling with younger children or teens. Remember, seating is shared around a table, so you will likely share a table with other guests. If you find this as a invasion on your privacy, it’s best to avoid dining here all together.

We managed to do a lot on Day 1 of our trip and returned back to our hotel past 12am. We were keen on maximising as much of our days as we could (even though we had younger children with us).

Day 2

We spent much of the morning enjoying the poolside at the Hotel. The kids in particular enjoyed their time there and we wanted to afford them a relaxed morning in so we won’t wear them out by the evening. We opted to dine at the Hotel for lunch at B…Easy Restaurant & Lounge. They offer contemporary Italian cuisine with charming interiors providing a truly authentic Italian experience with breathtaking view over the Corniche and Arabian Gulf. Their portions are generous, with 4 of us being able to share a large pizza. Their decor is not child-friendly but it’s a relaxed experience to enjoy Italian cuisine in the comfort of your Hotel.

Reservations were made for us to experience the Afternoon High Tea at The Jumeirah Etihad Tower. It’s a 15 minute drive from The Sofitel Corniche, and it’s a great way to catch a glimpse of the Emirates Palace whilst driving past.

Located on Level 74, the Observation Deck at 300 is the highest vantage point in Abu Dhabi and offers simply stunning views across the city and Arabian Gulf. I must add, that I was most impressed that there was no strict policy about children not being allowed to dine at the Observation Deck. There is comfortable seating for them to relax. Reservations must be made in advance as everything is prepared according to the number of guests that have been booked for that particular day. Entrance to the Observation Deck at 300 is AED 75 for visitors, redeemable against AED 50 for food and beverage served at the venue. This entry allows you to take a walk and view, and have a drink or coffee whilst there. Hotel guests can enjoy complimentary entrance. If you are booking for the Afternoon High Tea experience in particular, the price per person is AED 175.

Proceed into the Hotel when you arrive and ask to be directed to the elevator which leads up to the Observation Deck. It’s to the left of where the taxi has dropped you off. You will find a payments desk before the entrance of the elevator. You will receive your ticket and be ushered up to the 74th floor.

Huge windows line the walls, allowing in the streaming sunlight and picturesque view over the gardens of The Emirates Palace and other notable landmarks in Abu Dhabi.

Once seated, you are offered an extensive tea menu curated by Singapore-based TWG Tea which has deemed to be the finest luxury tea brand in the world. TWG Tea is internationally recognised as a true innovator with the creation of new varieties of tea every season in collaboration with the world’s most renowned estates. Expect to spend at least 15 minutes deciding on which of the 24 teas on offer to try first, whilst sipping on a complimentary glass of Iced Tea with berries and Grenadine.

We opted to begin with the Royal Moroccan Tea which boasts one of the finest green teas and an exceptional blend of wild mints. With rare resins and fresh notes of the world’s rarest elixirs – ambry myrrh, musk, and precious calambac – this blend truly yields a majestic infusion. This is a tea of perfect elegance and sophistication. My husband opted for the Grand Oolong Fancy, who’s composition of Formosa oolongs are  considered amongst the finest and most distinguished in the world. This highly aromatic tea yields a smooth aroma and an earthy taste. Guests are allowed any combination of tea, however Mocktails and Coffee are at an additional charge. If you find yourself enjoying any of the teas in particular, head out to their Tea Salon & Boutique situated in Yas Mall on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi. Whilst you’re there, indulge in handmade patisseries, which are all prepared fresh daily.

Tea is on-tap, and accompanied by a varied selection of perfectly presented and delicate sandwiches and mini Pastries. To whet your appetite; Poached Herb Chicken Breast, Pesto Cream-Cheese in Rosemary Bread, Citrus Shrimps, Abu Dhabi Caviar, Chive Creme Fraiche on a Brioche Roll and Norweigan Smoked Salmon, Green Apple Slaw on Rosemary Rolls are one of the 5 savoury items that one can expect whilst dining there.

Promising it was indeed, with their small cakes being the best bits of the experience. Cherry Roulade, Linzer Torte and my favourite; the Toffee Banana Cheesecake was nicely proportioned and just enough to avoid you feeling completely sugared-out. The scones were presented with 2 varieties; Chocolate Chip and Traditional Plain Scones with Clotted Cream and Strawberry Jam. Rustic and crumbling in texture, these scones were served warm and very much inviting, as one would expect to feel at an Afternoon Tea. I’d say that they were one of the nicest that I’ve had, and proportioned large (or small enough) enough for a lady to enjoy without any wastage.

With the huge windows lining the walls, allowing in the streaming sunlight and looking over the gardens, Afternoon Tea at The Jumeirah Etihad Towers is a destination Tea which has proved to be modern and hip and one to add to your itinerary whilst in the UAE.

A few minutes from The Jumeirah Etihad Towers is The World Trade Center Mall. The Mall itself was of no interest! I was keen to get my hands on a bag of dried Rose Buds from the Souk across! The store is on the right hand side just as you enter the Souk.

roses

These Rosebuds originate from Iran, much like every other nut and spice in the store. They are used mainly as garnish on desserts, and I especially wanted them to gift to friends and family back in SA. I knew that they would appreciate something as delicate and seemingly difficult to find in South Africa.

Whilst the kids and my husband spent the evening at leisure in the Hotel, I spent this time sampling tea at the Dammann Freres Boutique “tea bar” in the Lobby of the Sofitel Corniche. Having tasted the tea on our first trip to Paris (and very much a novice at quality teas that young into my adulthood), I knew that it had then exceeded all my expectations that I had concluded about what luxury teas were meant to taste like. Later on into my travels, I had come across it again in Dubai, and purchased my first box of Dammann Freres Earl Grey tea in Cristal tea bags. The material, close to silk, permits to obtain an infusion with all the same qualities appreciated in loose tea, with less of the actual fuss of preparing. To this day, their Earl Grey tea has the best balance of tea flavor and bergamot that I’ve ever tasted.

It was befitting to say, that I would gift myself the finest box that was available, as it finally had it’s space in my Tea Room back in SA, for a bit of everyday luxury. Dammann Freres Tea Bar at The Sofitel Cornich is also a retailer of Canasuc sugars which add the perfect finishing touch to drinks. Each has a cutout, turning it into an edible centrepiece and conversation starter with a difference. I was first gifted these by a friend on her travels to Dubai. I knew that I wanted to add the new ranges to my collection, and to include Coeur Rouge Rose Blanc as a whimsical touch to my tea parties. Inquire about the tea-tastings when you’re at the Hotel and make it a point to attend them.

Day 3

The weather was perfect for what we had planned for Day 3 of our trip. The Sofitel Corniche arranges a shuttle to and from Yas Waterworld daily at 11am and returning at 16.05pm. The shuttle drops off guests at the entrance and collects guests in the same place. Make a reservation with the Concierge to ensure that you seat has been allocated. It is a 30 minute trip to Yas Island, so make certain that kids have been attended to before departing the hotel.

The  waterpark’s theme is based on a legend that represents local Emirati culture and heritage. Visitors will enjoy attractions that follow the adventures of the waterpark’s main character Dana, a young Emirati girl in search of a legendary pearl that brought prosperity to her village.

If you have younger kids, you might want to consider the following items to pack: Cossie and additional set of clothing to change into when departing, Sun hats (as the midday sun is harsh on skin and hair), Sunscreen (they’re available in the store but you can expect to pay at least double the amount as you would in SA), and comfortable sandals. Visitors are not allowed to take in any food items other than formula and baby food for very littlechildren, or if you have certain dietary requirements. All food that is on the premises is Halaal, so that’s not an issue with Muslim patrons. Although there are designated children and adult areas, if you pass the 1.2m height restriction, you can enjoy most of the Park’s attractions. Remember as an adult to wear appropriate swimwear, as traveling in the UAE means that scantily-clad women will be reprimanded. Be sure to pack special swim diapers for babies and toddlers as those are not on sale from the merchandise store on-site.

Tickets may be purchased from the main ticket counter once you’re into the complex. Tickets are sold separately or as a packaged Parks Pass in conjunction with Ferrari World. One-Day ticket prices range from the Bronze pass at 240 AED to 460 AED for the Gold Pass. The Gold Pass enables you to unlimited Fast Passes for rides, but with the Park being so quiet it might be a waste having to buy this ticket. There is an option of upgrading your existing ticket to the Gold or Silver (3 Fast Passes) should you go inside and find the queues too busy. Your entry wristband can be pre-loaded with money at the Concierge counter inside. This can be swiped against drinks and food inside the Park, and takes out the hassle of lugging around cash. The money is refundable if it is unused, which can be done at the same counter before exiting.

We opted for the 4-person Private Cabana which includes a water and soft-drink per person, fresh fruits, Yas Pearl Diving Experience for 1 person, sunbeds and 2 towels per person, a safety box to store valubles, a butler service and a great location in the Park with restricted access to Cabana guests only. This is available at the ticket counter at AED499. A great tip is to go in a day earlier and ay and reserve your preferred Cabana. We did this for the following day as we would be returning with friends of ours. Top tip: Request Cabana 25 as it has the best views of the Kids area in the Waterpark.

We spent most of the day with the kids at the Marah Zone. This area is dedicated to the tot’s playground and Infants pool. The play structure is designed for kids from 3 to 4 years up, but it doesn’t deter younger kids from splashing in the shallow water alongside. There slides of different skills sets and heights, so even the slightly older kids can enjoy climbing all the way to the top for a more thrilling experience. There are loungers for parents to chat on whilst the kids play so take your sunnies with to enjoy sneaking in some quiet time!

Food may be ordered directly from your Cabana using the telephone provided. The menu is hung up on the wall and includes a selection of Pasta and Pizza, an Indian menu, Burgers and Kid-friendly meals and desserts. Prices range from AED 45 for a full meal with soda to AED 60 for the Indian options of Biryani, Papar, Kachumar and a soft drink. The meal was average. Expect fast-food and nothing more than that.

You need to be mindful of the time from around 1515pm as you need to depart promptly at 16.05pm from the main entrance. The shuttle is on time as to avoid messing up their schedules in collecting other guests from the other pickup points, so don’t make them wait for you. If you happen to miss your time, you can get a taxi in the same area for approximately AED 80 back to the hotel.

We were rather exhausted from a full day out at the Park and retired early to bed that evening. We opted for in-room dining and ordered a selection of Biryani, Indian starter platters of samoosas and a Mushroom Velouté. The food was superb and definitely suited our palates.

Day 4

Friends of ours were arriving in Abu Dhabi later this morning. We opted to book into The Yas Viceroy so we would be closer to what we had planned over the next 2 days and it made sense to stay at the same hotel which would make transportation and planning easier. The Yas Viceroy is on Yas Island and a 30 minute drive from The Sofitel Corniche. We arranged our own transportation and wanted to get there early to be able to relax in the Hotel for that morning. I have a detailed Hotel profile scheduled for my next post and you will find more specifics there.

entrance

We checked into our Suite and I took the complimentary shuttle to Yas Mall whilst the kids stayed behind with their dad to enjoy the Rooftop Pool. The Shuttle service schedule may be obtained from the Concierge and the return times are also listed on the poles where you are dropped off. There are no announcements made whilst you’re on the shuttle, so you may need to ask to clarify that it is the correct stop. Ferrari World and Yas Mall are at the same stop, so you should jump off when you see Ferrari World in front of you.

Yas Mall is large and generous in space. Because it’s out of Dubai, I find it easier to shop with at least 2 to 3 attendants being able to assist at any given time. If you think it was a good idea to leave your husband behind, there are NO trolleys at your disposal so any shopping will have to be lugged back by hand, so reconsider! The stores are grouped together which makes navigating through the Mall easier. If you are on limited time, view what stores you would like to visit online and head to those first.
I had missed the Shuttle back to the Viceroy, but I was able to take a taxi for AED10. (I wasn’t prepared to wait for another 20 minutes!).
Upon meeting our friends who had checked in, our plans were to take the children to Yas Waterworld for the day. We had pre-booked our Cabana the day before, so we were fortunate to have 2 of the best views in the Park. We were also au fait with the rides and park facilities which made it easier to navigate our way around. Aside from that, the kids had their friends with and we were able to go on the Waterslides, which we are rarely able to when our kids are with.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you; the most exhilarating was the Liwa Loop; UAE’s first waterslide which retractable floor drops from underneath your feet and proceeds through the looping waterslide all the way to the splash pool. It was the most daunting of all the slides that we did but the most thrilling! Don’t take your slippers with as it’s a bit of a pain to lug around. If you find the ground too hot in peak Summer, you might need to reconsider. Try to do as many of the slides as possible as you won’t find a water park this accessible in a hurry. I would imagine it to be busy during the holidays, but we didn’t wait in queues or require Fastpasses on any of the rides.
Building on the legend, the park has a unique pearl diving attraction that showcases the role pearl diving played in the United Arab Emirate’s rich history, which is included in your ticket price if you book one of their private Cabana’s. You are asked to sign an indemnity form and will undergo a medical examination if the instructor thinks that it is necessary. You are then lowered into the Hairat Yas Dive Tank, which is a small enclosure where the air pressure is extremely condensed. This means, the lower you go, the higher the pressure becomes. If you have any ear conditions or aren’t able to regulate the pressure, it’s best that you avoid this Dive altogether. The instructor takes you though the process and the safety signals if you feel like you are in distress. You are then directed on how to proceed down the tank to collect the oysters which are in the buckets. There is a bucket at every meter, until you get down to the ground. Once you have completed all your dives, you can then take the oysters down to the desk to have them shucked. Every person leaves with a polished pearl in a drawstring bag as the end of the dive.
Be mindful of the closing time as announcements will be broadcasted over the speaker system. Check the closing times when you enter to make certain. With a group of tired kids, we departed for our hotel which was a brief 7 minute drive.
Later that evening, we went in search of a restaurant that we came across on Instagram. Because there are so many different versions of this name (No.FiftySeven Boutique Café, Dinner Club 57) you might have difficulty finding details online. Their physical address is:
NO.FIFTYSEVEN BOUTIQUE CAFE
Building Two, Al Marasy,
Al Bateen Harbour.
Abu Dhabi, UAE.
Make certain with your taxi driver if he knows where it is before jumping in! It’s a 30 minute drive towards the city, but situated in an up and coming area with dining and residential buildings. Because there is a lot of construction currently, it’s very difficult to find the exact spot, so I suggest making sure exactly where you’re going and allocate a bit more time to find the place.
The concept; Secret locations which change every month, with previous Dinner Clubs held at such far-flung locations as a construction site, an empty swimming pool, and a public bus – all transformed into picturesque settings. The Dinner Club ‘secret dinners’ concept became a distraction whilst the owners were busy planned their restaurant. The spot itself is unassuming. We expected a vibey place given all the hype that there was about it to begin with.   At this point, I must add that it has been one of the tastiest meals that I’ve ever experienced.
 The service and attention to detail is astounding. Although we were the only patrons there (quite late into the evening), all of the staff were on hand to attend to us. Because it’s labelled as a boutique café, it’s a little bit more than a typical everyday café; the food is more gourmet. And the service, individualised. To start with, we had the Deep fried Mac and Cheese with Tomato salsa, and spinach dip. The Mac and Cheese oozes as you bite into it, it’s still a taste that I can’t get out of my mind! My lamb chops were so succulent, and my knife cut through the meat with ease. Every item on the plate was a gastronomic experience, and yet the flavours managed to intertwine to create the perfect balance of light and hearty at the same time. It’s easy to speak so passionately about food when you love what you’ve just eaten. After having a taste of what everyone else had, the consensus was that the food was top-notch with top-notch service. If you’re in Abu Dhabi, this is the place to have your last meal at!
I mean, look at this dessert selection!
menu
If there’s one thing you should never skimp on in life is dessert. We went on Reggie’s recommendation of their signature ERMAHGERD, which is a Toffee crumble, cream, roasted marshmallows. Between the 4 of us, we had some pretty fantastic desserts, and none of them disappointed!
Day 5
This was the last day of our time in Abu Dhabi. With our flight only leaving the next morning at 2am, we pretty much had the entire day to do as we pleased. After breakfast at the Viceroy, we departed for Ferrari World. It’s a short taxi there and you can request a family taxi if you’re in a larger group. Some of the tickets were included in our room rate. The rest needed to be purchased. The facility is open 7 days a week from 11am until 8pm, and writing from experience, you only really require a maximum of 3 and a half to 4 hours at the Park. Because they work on a height regulation system for their Rides and Attractions, not all children will enjoy the park if they’re below 1.3m. With that in mind, don’t waste the trip there if your child is under 9 years of age, or below the required height. The children in our group only enjoyed a selected amount of rides only because they weren’t allowed to go on any of the others.
 If you have baby or require a stroller, there is one for hire as you enter. There are also lockers to keep your valuables, but it’s not necessary. Please adhere to a decent dress code, no short-shorts will be allowed and you will be asked to cover your legs if you do not obey to the dress code. There are retail stores dotted around the Park and they all stock more or less the same items, so there’s no need to walk through them all to find the item that you might have missed. They’re priced in relation to what one would pay for a branded and licensed Ferrari item, and the range is quite innovative and keeping with trends. You can also enjoy the Park ‘Handsfree’, all your purchases can be delivered to the Ferrari Store at the exit for pick up on your way home.
I’ve listed the minimum heights for each of the rides below to give you an indication of what to expect, or how to plan your trip based on this:
Formula Rossa: 1.4m (Accelerates up to 240km/h in less than 5 seconds, dubbed as the ‘world’s fastest rollercoaster) Tip: Tie up your hair if you’re a female.
Fiorana GT Challenge: 1.3m (Two GT coasters race to the finish line)
Scuderia Challenge: 1.3m and 1.5m (Racing simulators)
Karting academy: 1.5m (In-park go-kart based on a timed ticket system, first come, first serve basis. Time slot needs to be booked at the Karting academy)
Speed of Magic: 1.2m (4d Fantasy Dreamscape)
Viaggio in Italia: 1m to 1.30m and accompanied by an adult (Classic Italian road rally through the Italisn landscape. Seated in vintage cars for a scenic drive)
Driving with the Champion: 1.07m (Motion based simulator)
Tyre Twist: 1.05m (Whirling giant tyre)
Junior GT: 1m (A ride in a scaled down 430 GT Spider)
The balance of the attractions are suited for everyone, or suited for smaller children (ages 5 upwards) if accompanied by an adult. You will be able to request the brochure upon entry to suss out the suitable rides.
Although we did not dine whilst there, there are lots of eateries, which are all Italian-themed.
The Yaw Viceroy was extremely courteous in obliging to allow us a later check-out as our flight was later that evening. We were able to leave our luggage there and proceed for High Tea at the Emirates Palace.
The Emirates Palace is 30 minute drive from Yas Island. You may get there using a taxi for around AED70. Having tea in a Palace sounds like the most luxurious experience anyone might be able to have at least once in their lifetime. If you count the top Dollar that you pay for it, you expect to have the finest tea, inimitable service and agreeably magnificent pastries.
For me, the entire experience was mediocre. We were not given the option of an Traditional Afternoon Tea or an Emirates Palace Afternoon Tea. The difference being the latter is Arabic inspired with very sweet, and often not appreciated on our palates pastries and dainties. We later asked for any of the traditional tea pastries to enjoy with our tea. Although I’m making the whole experience sound dreadful, it’s based on my honest opinion, and it’s something that I hope that my readers value in my writing.
We were offered a choice of hot drink, which was limited to 1 tea per person, the signature Emirates Palace Cappuccino, coffee or hot chocolate. I must add that we were not explained what the ‘signature’ cappuccino was, and if there was any special about it. Our tiered selection was brought out but not explained to us. We tried to make sense of everything that was on it, and slowly made our way through the selection. The jam with the scones were dreadful; it was very artificial and the colour, very unappetizing.
A few things to note: The dress code is smart/casual, so please dress appropriately with men required to wear a collared shirt and trouser with closed shoes. You will need to reserve your seat with a credit card, so only book if you are serious about going. The seat is held for 30 minutes and any no arrivals will be charged for. Le Cafe is located on the 4th Level in the Lobby area, so rather ask for that upon entering, as the guards don’t quite understand that you’re there for Afternoon Tea. Be mindful when making a booking and quote the number of people going but request only the number of ‘sets’ of tea that you require. A set refers to the tiered stand and tea. Note that above the quoted price, you are liable for a 10% service fee. In the event of a change of plan, or the number of guests, a 24 hour notice is required. You can ask for your pastries to be packed to take with you (however class-less that might look), but they will be happy to oblige and present it in a nice box with a gift bag.
It was an average experience in a grand place. Having experienced both the Tea at the Observation Deck listed above, and The Emirates Palace, I would highly recommend going to the former. The service, quality, presentation and overall selection was far more commendable.
It was early into the evening so we headed back to The Yaw Viceroy to freshen up and have dinner before departing to the airport. We had gone through the pictures of our brief 5 day stint in Abu Dhabi and conceded that the UAE was amongst our favourite destinations to holiday in. We’re looking forward to our vacation in Dubai later this year and sharing our itinerary with my readers.
I hope that I have been able to share an overview of the Emirate’s appeal and I’m sure that you will find much to inspire you to holiday there with your own family, insha Allah (by the Grace of God).
4 Responses
  • Yasmin
    May 28, 2015

    Thanks for sharing, refreshingly honest and informative.

  • Ray
    May 29, 2015

    Jazakallah for sharing as we planning a trip to the UAE…would you say Abu Dhabi is better rated than Dubai?

    • Naqiyah
      May 29, 2015

      I think that you have to experience both at least once in your lifetime.
      They’re both very different with Abu Dhabi being the least congested of the two. I prefer Dubai as it’s more cosmopolitan with a larger variety of gourmet food. Please let me know what you decided on and share your experience with me! Happy and safe travels!

  • irfaan scilla
    May 31, 2015

    Slm Naqiyah. Great read. The introductory SAA offer R2500 is incorrect though. In March SAA had a mistake fare of R870 Business class, traveloyalty.com spread it, 640 people booked it. Saa dishonoured the fare and 1 week later each 640 patrons got a call to book a R2109 economy and R11000 business fare using the code :”abudhabi”. Traveloyalty.com again sent this out immediately and thousands of people booked it up to 03/16. To make things even better (and affordable) end of April there was R450 business class airfare on 2legs return journey. Many again got word and took advantage of this. Love the in-depth trip reviews, please keep up the great reads.