Sunday, 30 October 2016

Middle East trip - Abu Dhabi, Dubai (UAE) & Muscat, Oman

I'm not long back from an incredible holiday in the Middle East and I am late in doing a blog post on it. 
I flew out from Dublin to Abu Dhabi with two of my sisters. Lydia who lives and works in Oman had been home in Dublin for her annual leave so the plan was that we would tag on to her last few days of leave and do some travelling and sightseeing in Abu Dhabi and Dubai and then on to Muscat to see where she has been living for the last 4 years of her life!
While we had about 10 days in total (including travel) we spent just 1.5 days in Abu, then on to Dubai for 2 days and then the majority of our time in Muscat.  This suited me fine to be honest - I would choose Abu Dhabi over Dubai if I was to go again and Oman over the UAE.  Dubai reminded me a lot of Las Vegas so I was well ready to leave after 2 days.  Muscat felt very authentic Middle East which was nice.
I had actually been in Abu Dhabi about a year ago for a work project so that was handy because when we arrived in late on the first evening I knew a great little Turkish restaurant to go to for something to eat.  I was more than delighted to go back to this place I sometimes dream about their shwarma hummus!!!!!
We went for the traditional(?!!) expats brunch on the Friday and then on Saturday before leaving Abu Dhabi we visited the beautiful Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque.

Although only 2 days in Dubai we did a great lot in that time - sunbathing in the morning, a trip across the river in an abra (local's water taxi), visit to the souk (pictured above), saw the Burj Kalifa and the foutains/water show out front.  We also went to some lovely restaurants and bars - we had a particularly nice evening with Lydia's boyfriend, Hussein's lovely group of friends.  Hello to the Lebanese folk if they are reading!
From Dubai we drove to Muscat which was a very interesting experience.  Arid, desert land with the occasional camel farm along the way.  And three military/Government checkpoints, which while I found a little intimidating,  and took a little bit of (nervewracking) time to go through, we had no issues.  I was glad we had an Arabic speaker (Hussein) with us and to be honest would not recommend going by land if this was not the case - Katie and I had admittedly wanted to fly initially but Lyd wanted to drive (for a combination of different reasons).  Anyway as I said, we got through with no issues.
In Oman we stayed in Lydia's apartment which she shares with the lovely Modesta.  Their apartment complex is owned by the airline they work for and it contains all (female only obviously!) cabin crew. It is a big 2 bedroom/2 bathroom apartment but as each of them travels so much (and so far/long haul) it is really just a base to live in some sense...
This part of the holiday was lovely and relaxing. A lot of sunbathing in a hotel complex beside her apartment that she is allowed use for a small fee, plus sunbathing in a beautiful expats compound which again she is allowed use for a small fee - and which had a restaurant and a bar that served alcohol!  Lydia was a wonderful tour guide and showed us all around Muscat, including the two mosques (one newly built which looks particularly nice lit up at night), showed us the Sultan's yachts, the beautiful old town of Muscat and brought us to the souk and malls for some shopping.  We also ate in some lovely restaurants every evening - in Muscat this was much cheaper than Dubai, but there was no alcohol served in a lot of them (unless you went to a hotel) which was different to Dubai.
Old Muscat town. 
On the day/night before we went home we treated ourselves to a stay in a beautiful resort about an hour away from Lydia. 
The Shangri-La is situated in the most beautiful landscape, surrounded by mountains, with a beach that looked more like Thailand than what I'd expect in Oman.  The room/food/staff were all fabulous and we had a great time - sunbathing, afternoon tea, cocktail hour in the courtyard and then some drinks & food in a cool bar that evening, and the next morning the most incredible breakfast ever.
This is me at the cocktail hour on our last night. 
I look pretty relaxed - and sure why wouldn't I, it was an incredible holiday! 


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