The Kathamndu airport and lounge was as good as before and when we were boarding for our flight to Mumbai (our stopover) we were upgraded to first class! I think the airline employees were a little racist, but we think we got that upgrade for being white, the other 2 white passengers on the flight looked like those hippies that haven’t heard of shampoo since 1995, so they gave it to us! Little did they know that we would behave like excited monkeys on that flight to receive such fancy treatment.
The flight was great, excellent food served in porcelain plates, unlimited alcohol and great service. The flight was too short though but we were happy. We were very loud and having so much fun that I’m pretty sure the airline staff regretted giving those seats to us.
Then Mumbai, yes, we came back unfortunately. We thought we would just go to the excellent lounge they have at the Mumbai airport and be done with that fast. But it only took 10 minutes to be reminded of the parts of India we did not like. From the moment we arrived the treatment was rude, unfriendly and inefficient. We walked to the transfer lounge just to be greeted by these workers that kept our passports for about 20 minutes until they called Etihad to confirm that we are transferring to Abu Dhabi. We then got issued a handwritten boarding pass, you know, like 1950. For real India, get your shit together. Mumbai airport is absolutely stunning and the service does not match at all.
We boarded the beautiful A380 plane which happens to be the one Eitan helped design (the first class). Eitan asked the flight attendant if he could go take a look at the first class area because he worked on that project but unfortunately after many tries, they wouldn’t let him go upstairs…. Company policy.
The flight was absolutely spectacular, the comfort, the food (much better than first class earlier that day), the service, everything. I praise to you Etihad, keep up the good work. I hope airlines in the U.S. learn something from you. We were exhausted but didn’t want to sleep so we could enjoy all the amenities of this airplane.
When we arrived we got stopped by customs after they realized we came from India. They opened our bags and inspected them item by item. Very slow and weird but we didn’t have anything to hide so we just awkwardly waited there. Our friend Sami from San Diego (he lives there for now) was waiting outside for us. He would be hosting us for the next 2 days in his awesome apartment in Abu Dhabi.
The next morning we started by visiting the Etihad towers for the Observation deck 300. Basically it is a 360 degree view from the deck on the 74th floor at 300 meters high. The ticket includes a meal so we enjoyed some a fancy rice salad and sandwich and a yummy mocktail (alcohol is hard to find here)
We stayed for about an hour up there to enjoy the view of Abu Dhabi. From the presidential palace, it is two buildings of 90,000 square feet, each with the most luxurious interior design you can imagine. Tourists cannot visit this palace.
The Emirates Palace, which we will be visiting after can be seen from here as well.
From up here you can see all the new developments they are doing, including the new islands they are making by pouring sand like crazy and wasting billions of dollars like if its pocket change.
After enjoying the view we walked to the Emirates Palace. We passed through the gates of the presidential palace. Behind us, the Etihad Towers (where the observation deck is) and other tall skyscrapers are visible.
Emirates Palace, built as a landmark showcasing Arabian culture. It is situated on 1.3 km of private beach and surrounded by 85 hectares of gardens and lawns, with 114 domes that are 80 meters high. Very golden and over the top decoration. Visitors are only allowed to stay in certain areas of the hotel which limited us basically to the reception area, well the toilets too, which are nice.
We were hungry (the fancy food with the view was not much food) and unlucky that we happen to be visiting the Emirates in Ramadan, the holiest month of the year. During Ramadan, everybody fasts all day and at 7:15 pm they break the fast with a dinner called “Iftar”. The problem is that they are not accommodating for non-Muslim people visiting or living in the Emirates. All restaurants are closed and if you manage to get some food or water you cannot drink it or eat it in public as it is an offence and it can get you into trouble. In other words, we were fucked.
We took a taxi to the marina mall nearby to buy some groceries at the supermarket (which surprisingly are open during Ramadan). Sarah was pissed, we were about to get a free chocolate sample from an amazing looking chocolate store but they couldn’t give it to us because it was Ramadan. This was starting to annoy us very very very fast.
The supermarket was amazing though. Dozens of different olives, a huge variety of organic honeys as seen in the picture below, many spices to chose from, etc.. We spent a good amount of time in there window shopping and wishing we could eat some of the items.
Then we walked around the beach while discretely drinking juices we bought at the market to get some energy to keep going. We heard that if an Emirati sees you drinking and reports you, you could get deported immediately. That would make a hell of a story but we were trying to avoid the next blog post to be called “I got deported from UAE because I drank water in public”.
After around 2 km of walking next to the beaches (they were closed because its summer) we took a taxi home to meet with Sami for dinner. We found this amazing local food restaurants with grill meat, middle eastern salads, dates, hookahs, etc… It goes without saying it was one of the best meals of the entire trip and we deserved it!
We went to a bar afterwards to drink a cocktail. Drinking alcohol here is banned generally but only allowed on touristy places like hotels, some malls, theme parks, etc… How are these guys trying to become a top tourist destination but keeping the same medieval religious rules? good question, I have no idea but I think they will have to adapt. At the end of the day when it comes to money, they will look to the other side.
Bonus Pic of The Day: UAE is filled with warning signs not seen in the western world. Most of them are banning affection to woman, warning about proper attire, etc.. But this one was hilarious to us, we found this gem next to the electric escalator and it warns that the outfit Muslim women wear could get stuck in there.
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They aren’t kidding about the getting stuck….some day have me tell,you about being on an escalator in Damaan, Saudi Arabia with two suitcases while wearing my abaya and hijab!