A midnight in Abu-Dhabi (1)

A 7 hour layover period. One city to explore. This mini-series is a narrative of my time spent in Abu-Dhabi, and is written in chronological order.


Plan for 7 hours:

    • 2 hours Check in and getting through customs
    • 1 hour Stash extra cabin baggage in airport, exchange currency, figure out taxi stand location and fares
    • 4 hours RUN around Abu-Dhabi

Flight landing: 1930 local time

With extra cabin bags stowed away in the airport services and armed with 300 Dirhams (equivalent of 81.70 USD or 64.20 GB), I set out to find a taxi that would take me to town at 9 pm (delays :/).

The first thing that hit me was the blazing 34°C night. Even with the majority a lifetime spent living in a tropical country (Malaysia), sweat escaped my pores within seconds, drenching me within minutes. That being said, stepping into any enclosed environment of any kind was relief, which in my case was pure elation when an airport taxi pulled up next to me.

The people here drive on the right side of the road, similar to the US. The speed limit on all taxis on the freeway is 100 km/h, which is monitored by the fare meter. Any time the driver exceeds the speed limit, they will be warned; any more than 3 warnings will result in the fare being nullified (and the passenger getting a free ride consequentially).
A bridge I spotted on my way to town. This was to be the first of many architectural wonders I’d see in Abu-Dhabi.

Normally, I’d head straight for the city center, but I needed dinner first. While not the smartest idea, I asked to be taken to a place where the locals frequented. A 15 minute ride ended up outside a small array of shops/offices, which was on the outskirts of the city. I kicked myself mentally after I got out for not asking the driver to take me straight to the city center. But to be fair, the fare was rather expensive (87 dirhams) and I’d much rather not spend all my money on taxi rides. Making do with the situation, I walked up to the Arab restaurant (below, with a green sign) and asked to see their menu.

The layout of these shop-lots is very similar to south-east asia.

They weren’t serving any more food, I was stumped, and so other options had to be considered. Where most Arab restaurants close their kitchens by 10 pm (which was when I arrived), their Indian counterparts are still open and serving customers. Walking around a corner, I ended up outside a tiny Indian restaurant, and was invited in by the owners.

Tiny it may be, but don’t let the look fool you. This restaurant does some pretty good curry.

With a glance through the menu, I came to the conclusion that an average meal in a shop like this would amount to about ~10 dirhams, which meant that I had plenty to spend. Going with the chef’s recommendation, I got myself a southern Indian-style beef curry, which came with a side of salad, and a plate of roti to go with, which cost a total of 7.50 dirhams.

Indian-style beef curry (bottom right), salad (middle left, eaten with salt, pepper, and a light lemon dressing), dhal (middle right), and roti (bottom left). Water is free, in containers on the table itself (top left).

The salad was simple but very flavourful, with the salt and pepper working wonders in combination with the raw onion, and the lemon making the salad more interesting, with the different flavours contrasting each other. However, the curry was what stole the show. The first spoonful was warm, with the typical Indian curry characteristics: heavy on curry powder, with a hint of cumin, zero sweetness. The surprise factor kicks in after a few seconds: a kick unlike any other curry I have ever tasted, a burn out of nowhere that literally infuses your taste buds with fire. I choked.

A second tasting, this time with the roti, and I start to notice the flavours through the burn: staranise, beef stock, onions, and more curry powder. With my third helping, the burn had almost completely disappeared, replaced by a warm, gentle tingling sensation on the tongue that didn’t numb, and after that point I really enjoyed the curry for what it was: a nice, simple work of Indian culinary art.

My kudos to these two for the great food, and for maintaining the restaurant as a popular spot for the local Indians. You guys are awesome.
These two (Jovy and John) joined in just after I arrived. Really nice folk to chat with.

With my food finished, I chatted with my fellow patrons, Jovy and John (above) on how best to get to town since the taxi driver pretty much dropped me on the outskirts of town. Turns out, we were about 10 minutes drive from the heart of the city itself, and you could walk along the road and get picked up by a local taxi (not an airport taxi, which is far more expensive) within minutes.

Thanking them, I left the restaurant and started down the main road, opposite the Khalifa University main campus, with my left hand stuck up in the typical hitch-hiker gesture (thumbs up if you get it :D) .

That’s the Khalifa University main campus. Too bad my poor phone camera couldn’t keep up 😦
Just next to the campus, this intersection goes in many directions. Twas a long walk to cross.

5 minutes of walking, past the university, and past a very complicated, busy intersection, I came by a bus stop where I decided to camp for a taxi. Admittedly, from what little I saw of Abu-Dhabi, I could draw many parallels with Kuala Lumpur, albeit with Abu-Dhabi being a more futurised/optimised version of my hometown. I wonder if-


Turning around, a cab (Toyota Camry) pulled up beside me, and the right door opened, revealing a smiling Indian man.

“Bro, do you need a ride?”

2245 local time

To be continued

One Comment Add yours

  1. Nigel Ng says:

    Sure, go for it. Sorry for the late reply though, thank you very much!!


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