Abu Dhabi – An Emirate Worlds Away from Dubai

For this October break, we decided to try something new, that we’ve not really done before – take a road trip vacation.

Dammam to Abu Dhabi is roundabout a 7.5-hour drive so….not short. To begin, we made sure our car was in order. We went down to our parking garage to take it to find….a flat tire. Short story short, we replaced four tires, new suspension, and an alignment. Not how we’d hoped to start vacation, but made us feel better driving down.

The drive itself was pretty uneventful. Not much traffic, but pretty enough scenery with the dunes available. I had thought most of the drive was going to be all in Saudi, but it turns out it’s only a little over half in Saudi before arriving at the border.

We arrived at the border and we were immediately confused. It’s under a lot of construction so we weren’t entirely sure where to go and unlike the Saudi-Bahrain crossing, there was far less traffic so we definitely hesitated. After watching the few cars there, however, we figured it out and made it into the Emirates without any issues (now that we know what to do, it’s not confusing!). After the crossing, it was another couple of hours until we reached Abu Dhabi and, minus a wrong turn, arrived at our hotel easily enough.

We got into our hotel and immediately went to get a PCR so we could move freely about the city. After nearly 8 hours of driving, this was fine with us as we settled in with some delivery, wine, and a great night’s sleep.

Our first full day was a chance for us to meet up with some friends we’ve not seen in nearly 7 or 8 years. They gave us the Abu Dhabi tour and showed us where all the cool things are: the Corniche, Yas Island (home to Warner Bros., Ferrari World, Yas Marina racetrack, and more), the Louvre Abu Dhabi (whose area will soon include a natural history museum and a Guggenheim), the Grand Mosque, and the Palaces. After the tour, it was time for a lovely dinner on a boardwalk at a restaurant called Black Tap with amazing burgers and a wonderful beer selection.

After dinner, our friends drove us back to our hotel, we said goodbye and finished the night at our hotel pool bar watching some great EPL games (Man. City vs. Brighton & Man. U vs. Chelsea) whilst enjoying Heinekens and some great strawberry-mint shisha. It was a wonderful end to a wonderful day!

The Louvre Abu Dhabi

Day 2 started out a bit slow, but we decided to go check out the Louvre Abu Dhabi on the recommendation of our friends. To start with, the architecture of the building is gorgeous. Its dome shape allows for light to filter as you stroll around and see some outdoor exhibits.

The museum’s indoor exhibits were laid out beautifully. They followed a logical progression through the history of humankind across the world from early peoples to religious expansions to exploration and scientific movements to the contemporary world. They showcase some amazing pieces including spearheads dating back 800,000 years to a book owned by Marco Polo.

We had read reviews online which said it was not worth it, but at a cost of only around 60 Dhirams a person, it was ABSOLUTELY worth it. We thoroughly enjoyed it and are excited to make a return trip.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Following the Louvre, we took a short break for some food before heading to the one place in Abu Dhabi we knew we wanted to visit – Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Built in 2007, this Mosque is one of the largest in the world and houses some impressive statistics. It houses the world’s largest carpet at around 5,627 sq meters (60,570 sq ft) that weighs approximately 35 tons. It also houses the 3rd largest chandelier in the world with a 10-meter diameter and a length of 15 meters. Both of these were incredibly beautiful and added the

We were absolutely not disappointed as it was stunningly beautiful. The courtyard, mosaics, minarets, everything. It was certainly one of the most spectacular buildings we’ve ever seen. My words won’t really do it justice, so please take a look at the photos below.

The Emirates Palace & Corniche

On our third day, we took it easy and woke up late before heading out to the Emirates Palace. I had initially thought it had once been a palace, but it hasn’t. It was built in 2005 as part of the Kempinski group of hotels, but as of 2020 has been owned by the Mandarin Oriental. It is the 3rd most expensive hotel ever built, coming in at around $3 billion 😱. It is filled with gold and marble and is a truly gorgeous hotel we would love to stay in someday! Anyways, we wandered the halls and explored the grounds before settling down in the lobby for a couple of beers. It made us feel quite fancy to sit in such a wonderful hotel.

That evening we decided to take a stroll along the corniche (the area near the water as is quite common in many cities here in the gulf). It was lovely weather and there were quite a few people out strolling. We walked for some time before getting hungry and finding one of our go-to places here on the Gulf Coast…Shake Shack! We had some burgers and sat outside by a fountain enjoying the weather before heading back to the hotel to have some drinks at the rooftop bar (sweet sweet Carlsburg!).

Warner Bros World & Ferrari World Abu Dhabi

On our last full day, we opted to get a 2-for-1 deal and head out to Warner Bros & Ferrari World. It was a Tuesday and we got there as Warner Bros World opened, which meant it was quite empty (actually it was pretty empty the entire time and a number of shops & restaurants never opened). It was all indoors, which was very nice as sunscreen wasn’t needed. Warner Bros was very well done in terms of its design.

Gotham and Metropolis were very cool to see and feel like you’re actually walking through. Gotham felt like it was out of Tim Burton’s movies or the newer Batman video games. We rode as many rides as we could but we really loved the Batman and Green Lantern rides (I actively avoid any rides that just go in circles). There was the Hall of Justice where the Justice League meets, Arkham Asylum for the Joker’s Fun House (it wasn’t really that fun), Teen Titans training center, and the Daily Planet. I was, however, saddened by the fact I couldn’t go into the phone booth and pretend to be Superman. Overall, it was really cool to see some of these heroes come to life.

Along with DC, there were several cartoon worlds, including Bedrock (the Flintstones), which looked great, but wasn’t that exciting, and Cartoon Junction and Dynamite Gulch (a combination of Looney Tunes and other cartoons), which was amazing! We went on a fabulous Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote roller coaster (Fast and Furry-ous). It was a short, but wild ride and our favorite in the entire park. We also did an Acme ride (Animayhem) where you shoot bullseyes and compete against others on the ride. There was also (and this is awesome) a haunted mansion all about…..*drum roll*….Scooby-Doo! There was a Mystery Machine, the gang was there (minus Velma), and all your favorite villains (10,000 Volt Ghost, Blackbeard, the Black Knight, and more!). It was amazing! I loved it!

After a few hours, we walked over to Ferrari World, which we knew was a theme park, but also thought it included more of a museum component. It, unfortunately, did not. However, it did include some amazing rides and attractions. The first one we went on was the Fiorano GT Challenge. It was a pretty fun roller coaster and we both enjoyed it a fair bit though you had to be careful with your neck.

As Ana isn’t a big roller coaster person, I went on a few others without her. One was Flying Aces that we hit up right before the park closed. It was horrible. It had the possibility of being amazing, but it wasn’t. The design of the coaster was great, but the problem was with the seats. I’ve never been on a coaster where you go upside down and there aren’t over-the-shoulder harnesses. This particular roller coaster only had a brace over your knees and every time we went down or in a loop, I held on for dear life as it feels like you’re going to fly out (and if your harness isn’t secure enough, you could). With an over-the-shoulder harness, this coaster would’ve been amazing.

The best, however, was the Formula Rossa – the world’s fastest roller coaster that goes from 0-240 km/h (150 mph) in 4.9 seconds. You watch it as you’re in line and you think, “hey that’s pretty cool, but doesn’t seem that fast”. Then, as you sit there and it accelerates you into oblivion, all you can think is “holy shit…this is fast!”.

We also rode a few other rides like Formular Rossa Junior – an indoor roller coaster that’s not nearly as fast as its big brother. There was also an F1 simulator that we did a few times, where you were able to race as different F1 drivers. It was an incredibly fun experience! We also got to see a couple of Michael Schumacher’s Ferraris and a V12 one-seater (cannot remember what it’s called) that was super cool!

Ferrari world had some great rides and attractions, but as far as theme parks go, Warner Bros World had the whole package – rides, themes, and design. Regardless, it was a great day!

The next morning, after purchasing a couple of Middle Eastern-style lamps, we embarked on the 7.5-hour drive back, something I’m not overly keen on doing again. I want to go back to Abu Dhabi…but by plane. That said, we really recommend the city. It has a completely different vibe from Dubai, less party, more culture but all awesome!

If you’ve ever been or have questions or comments, let us know!

Published by Team McGregor

Living and teaching in the Middle East - previously in China, South Korea, Hawaii, and now Saudi Arabia. This site is dedicated to teaching others about International Teaching (and how to become an international educator) and our travelsa as we live and teach abroad.

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