Last weekend, friends and I decided on a road trip to AUH. We set off from SHJ around noon made a few stops in Dubai and en-route to AUH.
I haven’t visited AUH in a decade, hence was sort of excited and sort of anxious – especially after having seen the changes in DXB the past 5 years or so.
The drive was beautiful – it was a bright sunny day – nice breeze and zero traffic. There were lots of traffic cameras and my friend got clicked just once : ) The entire drive took us about 2 hours, including all stops. The plan was to drive into AUH and sort of have plans impromptu.
As we got into AUH we drove thru the city, taking pictures – asking for directions and looking for a place to lunch. Whilst driving across the city, I couldn’t help but feel an intangible aspect, which sort of caught my sentiments off guard – the city reminded me of hometown SHJ – in the 1980's and mid 1990’s (before the traffic jams, high rises and crowds). I noticed the roads were simple, the city had that amazing "homely" UAE ambience, which we had in hometown SHJ a long time ago. Not sure if this was the weather or some sort of effect after driving in from DXB/SHJ – however I sort of felt I was walking across SHJ as child - most corners of the city reminded me of SHJ and my growing years – the street lights, gardens, quite ambience etc all - the simple life, the simple city, the melancholy & peaceful home I just about took for granted then.
For the most part the AUH city was made of average to a few high rise residential buildings with parking available (at least the spots we visited). A friend suggested lunch at the Emirates Palace (EP) – the rest of us agreed, as it’d be a neat opportunity to check out this 7 star hotel.
We drove into the front gate of EP, towards security – who inquired on purpose of our visit and if we had reservations (there was a royal wedding that day at the Emirates Palace). Given our impromptu weekend state of mind, we hadn’t made reservations! So we drove around for another 10 minutes, whilst I called Diwan L’Auberge – a Lebanese restaurant at the Emirates Palace for reservations. Fortunately they were kind enough to accommodate us. We drove back to EP – the guard cleared us on confirming with Diwan L’Auberge.
Parked at the valet – walked thru the hotel to the restaurant. Needless to say, the hotel is a majestic piece of Arab Architecture – it felt like a Palace, the ambience, the staff, the staff uniforms etc all – very well done and with much attention to detail. Personally I liked EP lots more - than Burj Al Arab’s interiors & concierge.
Since we walked in a little past lunch hour, Diwan L’Auberge was sort of quite. We were seated by huge Bay windows overlooking the pristine beach. The beach had lots of western tourists – (almost the entire hotel guests seemed western tourists). Ordered a few appetizers and drinks – followed by main course, dessert etc. The food was yummy, I had a grilled hummour which was quite tender and tasty. The desserts were slices of heaven, and more – all lovely!
After lunch we walked around the interiors of the hotel, took a few pictures whilst simultaneously letting out lotsa "Oooo’s" and "aaaaaa’s" at every detail of the architecture, the interior designing and just about everything – here is a hotel which was 7 star and beyond and very Arab.
We walked back to the entrance, valet brought up our car and as we drove out to the main gate, we took some more pictures and admired the rich detail given to each piece of the exterior – all lovely stuff.
We drove around for 10 minutes or so and parked at the AUH Corniche to walk across the beach – the weather was cool and beautiful with lots of sunshine. After about an hour we got back to our car, drove around for some nice tea (with rainbow milk : )
Whilst we had tea at a small Indian cafeteria– each of us could not help but feel the ambience in the city. It was quite, peaceful – very homely – just very UAE. We reminisced the growing up years in SHJ and shared experiences and memories. I have to say, it felt like I was in my old SHJ – it almost felt so real - I wish I could have just sat there hoping time would move back 15 years or so : )
The entire visit to AUH was lovely – not sure why I didn’t visit sooner? As we drove back to SHJ, I took a final look of the city streets, the city cabs – the ambience – all of which reminded me of the UAE I grew up, something I miss so much.
I am sure I shall visit AUH again, prior to returning to New York. My sister in law was raised in the AUH and her parents live in AUH – am going to call her mom for some home cooking and an opportunity to go back to AUH.