Sex and the City had it Right, Abu Dhabi is the Next City to Love
Let a Punjabi in UAE tell you why Abu Dhabi is a much better travel option than its so-called big brother, Dubai.
There is this scene in the movie Sex and the City 2 where a group of Emirati women save Carrie Bradshaw and her trio in a souq. They then proceed to take off layers of burqas to reveal themselves wearing the latest collections of Dior, Chanel and Gucci.
The movie does not exaggerate.
This is very much a part of Abu Dhabi (the setting of the movie), where women in trademark red Louboutins shop for their daily grocery, while a news crew is sent to photograph an exotic butterfly in a country far away.
(It was the emirate, again, which had bailed out its more famous cousin Dubai when the latter was in a financial mess.)
Dubai is increasingly where upper class Indians go to party and where SRK spends his new year – but an hour away is UAE’s capital Abu Dhabi, that lives with the belief that slow and steady wins the race. As I tell any friend driving from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, when you see trees lining the desert, you know you’ve entered the richest emirate.
How Abu Dhabi has a Little for Everyone – Bollywood and Tourists
Abu Dhabi has grand plans that may be difficult to emulate. After Paris, the second Louvre museum will open in the city and Abu Dhabi has paid 525 million dollars just to be associated with the iconic name.
The annual Formula-1 race here is already a big draw and now Bollywood has also discovered that contrary to public perception the city is much more than seamless desert and blue skies. After Hrithik Roshan’s Bang Bang, John Abrahim and Varun Dhawan are currently busy shooting across the city.
But I still get pitiful stares when I clarify that I don’t live in Dubai. “Oh you stay in Abu Dhabi!” and I am immediately ready with my pitch: “unlike Dubai this city has a soul and couldn’t be more family friendly”.
Neither I nor any expats I know wear an abaya and I haven’t changed my profession to become a nurse. (Although given the migration from Kerala and Hyderabad I can’t blame anyone for thinking otherwise.)
But in this melting pot called the UAE, there is something for everyone. A French Mauritian couple I know are forever squabbling over whether Salman Khan is a better actor or SRK; an Italian happily picked out the samosa from the rest of the food on my table; and the Pakistanis are forever surprised that food could also have vegetables. Although undoubtedly, they themselves serve some of the best mutton ever had.
Then there are the taxi drivers.
Those from South India are quiet and reserved – others from across the border equally garrulous. Many of them have ‘spotted’ Zardari outside a hotel just as they also have clear estimates of his and Nawaz Sharif’s riches. The Pathans are vociferous supporters of former cricketer Imran Khan – but the one thing they all have in common is the love for Bollywood.
Abu Dhabi is an Exotic Mix of Luxury and Humble Hospitality
Once again, contrary to popular belief, winter does come here – though it is mostly pleasant. It is strange to see a foggy morning but it does happen and when it rains (which is no more than 5 days in a year), you can see everything and everyone crumble.
There is great love for the outdoors and during these ‘good’ months all the parks (and there is one every few feet) smell of lovely food. It is the barbecue season. In fact, there are concrete barbecue stations across the city where you can just set your picnic hamper. (Happiness comes in the easiest of things, something our civic authorities could learn a thing or two about.)
There have been days when I have seen more choppers (even ferrying trees) than taxis. A Rolls Royce parked outside the neighbourhood bakery is not uncommon – just as stories of generosity are legendary. My kids were at the receiving end of it once when a middle-aged gentleman gave them a bag full of coupons to redeem at a toy shop and walked off before they could even say thanks.
Abu Dhabi is a place where petrol is now cheaper than most things and its implications are being felt globally. But lifestyles here still cling to luxury, imagined and genuine. The 7 star Emirates Palace hotel with its gold dome is the epitome of it all. Legend has it, it was built for the royal family but became a hotel after they didn’t like the finished product.
The movie Fast and Furious 7 has been shot at this stunning hotel.
As I walk along the beautiful beach front promenade packed with families cycling and singles jogging, I realise no movie can justify the essence of this lovely city.
Visit Abu Dhabi once, you won’t regret it.
(Jyotsna Mohan Bhargava is a former journalist who now divides her time between blogging and being a full time mother. Tweet to her @jyotsnamohan)
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