12.12.2013 - 12.13.2013
After a nice rest we decide to go for a walk in the beautiful park across the street from the hotel. It's a beautiful, green, spacious park with fountains, landscaped areas, playgrounds and walking paths. Nothing is done on a small scale here! One major past time of Emirati families is to take picnics to parks where they set up blankets and food. It's against the law in Abu Dhabi to take pictures of strangers but I've tried to take a few surreptitiously.
Also within the park is the Al Jihili Fort. Originally built in 1891 as a residence of Sheikh Zayed the First, it was inhabited until the early 1900's. It fell into disrepair in the 1930's but was refurbished and established as a tourist spot in the 1980's. It's closed when we walk by today and also on an early walk tomorrow morning but we snap pictures of the outside.
Back at the hotel we check out the different restaurants, Trader Vic's and Min Zaman, a Lebanese restaurant. Min Zaman features Arabian food and belly dancing for entertainment. But when we inquire for reservations at Min Zaman we find that from 6:00 pm to 11:00 pm dinner is served outside around the pool. The entertainment and indoor dining is served from 11:00 pm until 3:00 am. My goodness! We're not interested in sitting outside as it's been quite a warm day so we make reservations at Trader Vic's.
Here's a view of the pool area from our balcony as well as the road up Jabel Hafeet lit up at night and our table by the Christmas tree at Trader Vic's:
Next morning we take a long walk through the park across the street after a sumptious buffet breakfast in the hotel. It's Friday so everything is closed. We check out about noon and the drive home is quick. There is a Christmas Craft Bazaar at the Abu Dhabi mall this afternoon. Chaz is not interested and the cleaning guys are scheduled to clean the apartment this afternoon. So...I drive by myself to Abu Dhabi Mall. Chaz has helped me with directions along with the use of googlemaps. But when I arrive where I should be able to turn left to the street the mall is on I'm at an entrance to an expressway! I turn early to avoid the entrance ramp and pick my way over to where I think the mall is. I drive straight to it but misread the Parking Lot sign and drive right past it!! I have to drive around 2 huge city blocks to get back to the same spot but somehow negotiate it and I'm in the underground parking. Now to find a parking space. There are numerous men standing around throughout the parking garage directing you into spaces but they also want to wash your car while you're shopping. They carry portable water in large cans that look like fire extinguishers. I decline the service but am grateful to find a spot.
Inside the mall it is completely decked out for Christmas. It's amazing how they have embraced this tradition without any regard for Jesus. Christmas trees everywhere and even a Santa Claus house. Santa doesn't arrive until 5:00 pm so I miss seeing if he's dressed traditionally. In the walkways between the stores there are lots of vendors set up - many with the ubiquitous Indian and Pakistani goods - carvings, scarves, jewelry and trinkets. One of the first tables that catches my eye is manned by Colin Roberts, a Brit who moved to Dubai in 1983 with his artist wife, Judy Roberts. Colin is a wood turner and sells handmade bottle stoppers topped with coins from numerous Middle Eastern countries. I find some gifts, a print of a watercolor of a beautiful falcon by Judy, and a few other items. He allows me to take his picture!
My next purchase is from an Emirati woman who paints pottery and small paintings. I purchase 2 that are the Arabic words for 2 of the names of Allah. I'm too shy to ask if I can take her pictures, especially after her husband arrives.
It's Friday afternoon and the mall is really getting crowded - lots of folks milling around Santa's house and having their picture taken. I drive back to the apartment - finding the expressway back without a hitch! I'm very proud of myself.