A midnight in Abu-Dhabi (2)

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

Flight departure: 0230 local time

My target is to explore town then arrive at airport by 0030 local time.

2245  local time

“Bro, do you need a ride?”

Here’s a fact about taxis in Abu-Dhabi:

If you hitched a ride at the airport, your starting fee will be 25 Dirhamswhich is much more expensive than anywhere else in the city, where your starting fee is Dirhams. Given the fact that Abu-Dhabi is a large city, the best way to get around is either by buses, taxis, and cars.

That was the first thing Raja told me as we started our drive. As we pulled into the main road, I told him that my destination was the airport, but we’d take a ‘detour’ around town. Given that the biggest attractions such as Ferrari World and most of the shopping malls were closed by now, this would be a sightseeing tour than anything else.

One of the first things I noticed about Abu-Dhabi city center is the abundance of large buildings, with each one beautifully designed/decorated. The streets are wide and brightly lit, giving the city a metropolitan look, but with plenty of open space that you don’t feel like you’re in just any city (think Hong Kong or NYC, but with an abundance of open space).

Wide streets give the city a much more open feel, lending to a metropolitan impression.
The building designs cover a wide variety, each of them more fancy than the last. Imagine them during daylight.
Striking with their lighting, these buildings light up the night, similar with Hong Kong.

2300  local time

The first destination on our joyride was Al-Maryah island. This island, and others like it, more famous examples being the Palm islands in Dubai, were made with sand as the foundation. With construction started in 2007, the island was only completed later in 2017, and the beauty is self-evident. With a hospital, a finance center, and a massive supermarket (The Galleria), the island has an extensive underground tunnel network that employees working the island can use to get around, clearing the main streets for the visitors above.

A picture taken along the bridge to Al-Maryah island. Hard to believe that the entire foundation is made of sand.
Sadly the only barely acceptable picture I have on the island, this one is the hospital. Definitely an unusual choice of lighting, but impossible to miss.

According to Raja, Abu-Dhabi is a hardworking metropolis. Unlike its more renowned sister Dubai, I was initially surprised that Abu-Dhabi wasn’t a party city. Raja puts it this way (or at least from what I can recall):

“In Abu-Dhabi, we don’t party all the time, maybe on some Saturdays, where people go out to the streets and have a good time. Otherwise, we normally spend our free time relaxing in shopping malls. Me? I like good coffee and a movie.”

2320  local time

Speaking of malls, when we arrived at the Marina Mall, I couldn’t help but be impressed. From what I can tell, it is massive on the inside, and according to Raja, it is the place to go to for leisure, and I’m sure that the locals agree too. Shame it was closing by the time I arrived :/

The mall is actually much larger than what this picture suggests. The lack of people make the entire place feel empty though.
A ferris wheel outside the largest shopping mall in Abu-Dhabi, why not?

2330  local time

So many attractions in one spot. The Etihad towers, featured in the Fast and Furious 7 (where Dom and Brian drive the Lykan Hypersport through two towers), but sadly with the light pollution, it was nearly impossible for me to get a good picture of these towers.

Just needs a perfect sunset, two very specific people, and a Lykan Hypersport. Pretty cool though.

The Emirates Palace, a famous, well designed 5-star hotel, but even more gorgeous at night. At this point Raja decided to stop our taxi (and meter), and allowed me to get better shots of these attractions.

That’s Raja’s taxi in the background. The empty street gives one the impression of just how lively this place can be during the day.
Just as red as that traffic light 🙂

The UAE Presidential Palace. The residence of the Khalifa himself, it is nothing short of absolute splendour (at the gates). Due to security reasons and the palace being closed off to all but invited guests, we could not stay and take any pictures. Of course, your cheeky author got a quick, blurry snapshot from the ‘safety’ of the taxi.

Easily the worst picture, but I’d say worth?

With that being said, I had a flight to catch.

2345 local time

We hit the road, heading straight for the airport. Luckily, there was one last sight to see before I left Abu-Dhabi. The Sheikh Zayed Mosque, easily one of the more beautiful mosques I have seen. Being next to the highway, Raja slowed down for me to take these shots:

Taxi at 60 km/h, but the mosque is still pretty from afar.
Raja literally slowed the taxi down to 30 km/h for my shot, but I guess it’s either the phone camera or my skills lacking 😛

0020 local time

Meter fare: 108.50 Dirhams (For reference, my taxi ride from the airport to town cost me 85 Dirhams, and this taxi joyride took Raja and I approximately 1 and a half hours and cost 108.5 Dirhams.)

It was with slight sadness when I stepped out of Raja’s taxi. While at this point in time I have forgotten most of our conversation, I will never forget him being my friendly tour guide. I don’t know if you’ll ever come across this, but thanks for allowing me to me to catch a glimpse of another world not so different from home. You rock.

There ends my one-midnight adventure/joyride in a city not so different from all the places I’ve been to, albeit much more pleasing in aesthetics.

When was the last time you had an adventure like that during your layover? Where was it? Let us know in the comments, and have a great day ❤


P.S: Note that names in this post have been changed for anonymity purposes, upon request.

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