Some Like It Hot

August 2, 2015 - Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Despite leaving more than 30 minutes late and, according to the First Officer, battling a headwind our flight arrived in Abu Dhabi at 5:50am, right on schedule, after passing some spectacular thunder clouds lit from within by lightning every few minutes. At Abu Dhabi we were among the very few people to head toward Arrivals rather than Transit so we were through the Passport Control very quickly. Our Fast Track card took us to one particular desk and may have been subject to less scrutiny but otherwise would have made very little difference as we seemed to be the only arriving passengers at the time. We only waited a few minutes at the carousel before it whirred into life and ours were the first two bags to be delivered from the bowels of the machinery. A quick walk through with "Nothing to Declare", (which seemed to be the same path as "Items to Declare"), and we walked out to the Arrivals Hall where we were greeted by a fellow with a long list of names on a sign. Ours were but two in a list of about ten or perhaps a dozen. We identified ourselves to him and waited with him, fully expecting to wait for a "mini-bus load" of people. Our Greeter made a phone call and led us outside into a very warm sun, and it was only 6:30am. Several mini-buses and taxis were waiting and one Nissan people mover was called forward for just the two of us. (No Mercedes for us this time John and Sally.)


The drive into town was as expected. Very warm and very fast with a moderate amount of traffic that seemed to have a less regulated but more consensual approach to traffic management. The road from the airport is 8 lanes so changing lanes appeared riskier than we are used to but allowances were made and we cruised along. On the way we passed a series of Government buildings including the Ministry of Tactical Affairs and Media Security which suggests a less than enlightened approach but when we read local newspapers later, the media does not appear to be too controlled. As we approached the outskirts of the city itself things became more congested but it was less than 30 minutes to get from the airport to the hotel.

Of course it was very early to be checking in to our hotel but we could at least relax in the fairly smart foyer area. We stayed at Le Meridien in 2013 so were looking forward to the experience once more. (Not very adventurous, I know, but we knew it was close to the mall where we could catch the Big Red Bus and thus visit some of the sights.) In fact, when we checked in the desk clerk suggested that we might like to have breakfast while we waited as we would leave too early for breakfast on our final day. Soo he just wrote us a chitty for breakfast today instead. At least some coffee and toast would be a pleasant way to while away some time while our room was prepared. A little toast turned into something rather more substantial.

After a relaxing breakfast and a little walk around in the courtyard, pool and "beach" area we returned to sit in the cool of the foyer. Our room was ready soon afterward and we were taken up to the 3rd floor where we promptly collapsed into the chairs before leaping once again into action and unpacking before relaxing, AGAIN. In fact I took a short early siesta to help acclimatise in preparation for our time in Spain.

Later in the day we went down to the pool and beach area. There are change rooms with lockers so we left our travelling clothes in the lockers and, attired for pool or beach, we walked out of the air-conditioning and into the furnace outside. The pavers were too hot for tender bare feet so Margaret went back for her sandals. Too elegant for beach or pool but better than a seared sole. I hoped that I could tough it out. Along with all my classmates we had our feet toughened on our first day of High School by a PE master sending us out to play basketball on an outdoor, black compound, court in 40ºC temperatures ... in bare feet. Who brings trainers, or sandshoes to their first day? Even so I could only walk quickly from shady spot to shady spot.

Our choice was the beach where we could find a sun lounge in the shade (why does that seem like an oxymoron) but getting across the short stretch of sand was a trial in itself. From there to the water was a rapid walk if not a headlong dash to the wet sand. Ah, bliss (HISSSS). We headed for the water but that was about the temperature of a warm bath. Below body temperature but not by much. We swam a little and floated about in water that was salty enough to make your lips start to pucker and your eyes smart. I guess the Persian Gulf has quite restricted circulation and certainly the convoluted waterways of the UAE. So now we were refreshed, according to legend if not fact, we returned (at a trot across the searing sands) to our shade lounges and relaxed. What, one more time?

Soon though the temperature was just draining our reserves of energy, high though they should have been by so much topping up, and we returned to the indoor pool and spa for a slightly cooler splash around. The water jets were really good to encourage RELAXING. Have I said that enough, yet? We sat by the pool in air-conditioned comfort and read a few magazines which gave us insights into local events, activities and especially places to eat. One place with a good write-up was a Thai style buffet in the Hotel complex here so we resolved that tonight was Thai.

Oh, the best laid plans. The Talay restaurant where we had set our sights for dinner was closed for renovations. "Open soon" we were promised by the bartender at the waterfront bar nearby. "End of August", he said with a huge Filipino smile.

"Grrrr" said Max and we turned to retrace our steps. Well, second choice, and not far away was the Akropolis restaurant so we would be Greek for the night. In fact, the Moussaka, the Souvlaki and the house red was very good and modestly priced. Probably there was more food than we needed after such an day of inactivity but tomorrow we diet .... or not.

The modest bill was settled by charging it to the room with a little cash for the house here rather than a tip on the hotel charges and as we chatted with our waiter at the counter he invited us to take a sweet or two. Margaret couldn't resist the Turkish Delight, and after her murmurs of rapture I took a piece as well. Not overly sweet, not cloyingly perfumed, just very subtle. I would say the best I have ever tasted. Unfortunately it would not last if I took some home to the expert whose life's project is trying Turkish Delight. Olly, I am afraid, will have to take our word for this.


Our home for the next few days
Some things are memorable
The pool area
A sun lounge in the shade
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