Abu Dhabi days six and seven
21.03.2018 - 21.03.2018
Sunrise at the beach
Abu Dhabi sunrise
I woke early and decided to get up to see if there was an opportunity for some sunrise photos. I dressed quickly, grabbed my camera and headed downstairs to the beach area behind the hotel. The sun was already above the horizon but I got a few photos before it climbed too high, including several of a heron stalking the edge of the water in search of fish for his breakfast.
Heron on the beach
Talking of breakfast, as we ate ours about thirty minutes later, a mist descended and shut off the bright sun I had been photographing. The tall buildings on this short strip of hotels were all lost in the clouds, and when we left a little later the Emirates Palace and palm trees opposite were only hazily visible.
Etihad Towers, Abu Dhabi, on a misty morning
An invitation to the Palace
Our work today took us to the Presidential Palace, where a new library is being developed alongside plans to open the palace to tourists. Security there is incredibly, if understandably, tight. Our names had to be submitted in advance of the visit and ID (passports) checked against a list of expected visitors. Having been missed off that list I had to wait a while before being granted permission to enter. Once in I joined my colleagues and we were given a tour firstly of the main section of the palace that visitors will see, and then of the space to be devoted to the new library.
Frustratingly no photos were allowed (we hadn’t even been able to bring our cameras into the grounds, never mind the buildings) but I am unlikely to forget the sense of opulence and splendour conveyed by the decoration of the palace’s huge rooms in a hurry. In one, designed to host conferences and assemblies, I asked about the chandelier which was even more magnificent than those elsewhere in the building. I was told it weighed twelve tons and consisted of 400,000 separate glass crystals. Forty four of these, forming a circle near the base, are blue, representing the forty four years since Abu Dhabi had been formed as an Emirate state.
Photography is indeed tightly controlled and I could find only a few images of the interior of the palace online, but these should give just a little sense of what we saw:
Interior of the Presidential Palace
I also found a YouTube video of a reception there which really shows the scale of the building: Presidential Palace in Abu Dhabi. Bear in mind that this is just one room, albeit the largest! It would certainly be worth a visit here once it is opened to visitors - I just hope they relax the rules about photography at that point, as otherwise there will be a lot of frustrated tourists!
After a morning spent here we returned to the Nation Tower for lunch again at the Café Bateel (an excellent chicken wrap) and a couple more meetings.
View from the terrace, Café Bateel
View of the Presidential Palace
Chicken wrap at Café Bateel
These concluded our work appointments here. Back at the hotel there was time to relax, write up notes, check emails and messages etc.
Late afternoon I went out again with my colleague Ted to take some photos in the immediate area in the golden hour.
Hotels at sunset (ours is on the right)
Doorman at the Bab al Qasr hotel
We checked out the Emirates Palace hotel opposite and found some great foregrounds for sunset shots as well as seeing the opulence of the interior. The hotel is one of the Kempinski Group chain and opened in 2005. It is, according to wikipedia, the third most expensive hotel ever built, costing three billion dollars, and is on a truly grand scale. In addition to the main dome which stands 240 feet above the atrium, there are 114 smaller ones spread out over the building, and it stretches over a kilometre from one wing of the building to the other. Would I want to stay here? I'm not sure that I would, as I found all the gold, glitz and grandeur a bit overpowering, but it's certainly worth seeing!
Dome of the Emirates Palace hotel
In the grounds of the Emirates Palace, and the gate at sunset
In the grounds of the Emirates Palace at sunset
Along the Corniche the lights were coming on as the sun went down. I loved the design which I realised is inspired by the palm trees.
Lampposts on the Corniche
Then we walked down to the main gate of the Presidential Palace where we had been that morning and, being on the outside, could take all the photos we wanted in the early evening light as the illuminations came on. And I did take a lot of photos! Some of the ones below were taken from the hotel as we left, other later after the sun had gone down. I loved the way the changing light turn the building from white to gold.
Presidential Palace gate at sunset
Fountains at the Presidential Palace gate
Presidential Palace gate at dusk
We were back at the hotel in time to take advantage of the happy hour at the bar for a final time (I enjoyed my Ginger Cosmopolitan though it could have been more gingery for my taste) before going back to Li Beirut at the Jumeirah hotel for another excellent dinner there.
Then it was time to say our goodbyes for this trip, as the others will leave quite early tomorrow and my flight isn’t until after lunch. We’re all hoping that this work will give us the opportunity to return to Abu Dhabi, but not until the heat of summer (40 degrees centigrade is not uncommon here) has passed.
Time to go home
Misty morning in Abu Dhabi
The next morning I woke to see mist again drifting around the tower block hotels and Emirates Palace opposite, so I dressed quickly and headed outside to grab a few photos.
With several hours till I needed to depart I took my time over breakfast and packing, then caught up with Facebook and emails before checking out and taking a taxi to the airport. There I dropped off my bag (having checked in online the previous evening), did a little bit of shopping (make-up for me and some cookies to take home for Chris) and had a coffee.
Boarding went smoothly but then we just sat on the tarmac while departure time came and went. The pilot announced that there had been some problems with the luggage and the ground crew had to recheck it all. As you can imagine, that took some time and in the end we were over an hour and a half taking off.
Taking off from Abu Dhabi
Sunset from the plane
Once airborne lunch was served immediately. I was rather less impressed with this than on the flight over - my fish was fine and the sauce pleasantly spicy, but the rice stodgy.
The extra time spent waiting to depart meant that the flight dragged rather, although the good selection of films helped to pass the time (I watched 'The Hours', which I had missed at the cinema) as did a good book I'd had the foresight to download on to my iPad ('The Handmaid's Tale' by Margaret Atwood, which I've been meaning to read for years).
We finally landed about 80 minutes behind schedule, having made up only a little of the lost time en route. There was a long queue at immigration and an even longer wait for the luggage. I did start to wonder if the problems in Abu Dhabi hadn't been fully resolved and some bags left sitting on the tarmac, but thankfully my bag appeared at last. So it was off into the chilly London night to catch the tube home, very glad that I live so close to the airport and could soon be in a warm house