One of my dearest friends, Jami, and her friend, Tarina, flew into Abu Dhabi on the evening of Friday, November 8. We picked them up from the airport and got them settled in the apartment. The next day was my birthday so we already had a day of pampering and relaxation planned out. Our morning started with waffles and mimosa’s before heading up to the Shangri-La Beach Club and Spa for the day. We arrived at 11:00 and the ladies were off for their massage at noon. Then an hour later it was our turn. That afternoon, we lazed by the infinity pool and watched the sunset over Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. In the evening, we went for drinks at Pool Bar and then enjoyed a light Italian alfresco dinner at Bice restaurant. The pianist even played happy birthday for me. It was really special to spend my birthday with friends.
The next few days Dan and I were at work and the girls spent their days down at the pool relaxing and exploring Abu Dhabi a little bit. They did some shopping at Marina Mall and Central Souk, went to the fish souk, and walked along the Corniche. On Wednesday, November 13 the four of us boarded a plane for Jordan. We landed in Amman, met up with our tour guide and hopped in our minivan bound for Wadi Rum. We arrived in the afternoon and were transferred to our 4×4 vehicle to explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is most famous for the movie Lawrence of Arabia which was filmed on location in Wadi Rum. T.E. Lawrence of Arabia based his headquarters here during the Arab revolt against the Ottomans in World War I. We watched the sunset over the natural rock formations and desert landscape. We then made the drive to Petra and had dinner. We wanted to try the local dish Mansaf. Mansaf is a traditional Jordanian and Palestinian dish made of lamb, cooked in a sauce of fermented dried yogurt, served with rice, and garnished with pine nuts. Our driver called the restaurant in advance and ordered it up. I even ate it the traditional way, using my right hand instead of utensils. We then checked into the Petra Guest House and went to bed early to get some rest for our big day at Petra.
Petra is listed as a World Heritage Site, 1 of the new 7 Wonders of the World, and is Jordan’s greatest tourist attraction. It was a city, carved into the sheer face rock, built over 2000 years ago by the Nabateans, an industrious Arab civilization, and was an important trading route before the Romans annexed the Kingdom. By the 14th century the city was lost before being rediscovered in 1812. Some of you may recognize it from the movie Indian Jones and the Last Crusade. We woke up that morning early to meet our tour guide at 7:00am. We walked through the Siq, passing tombs, beautiful carvings and natural rock formations, before reaching the impressive Treasury or Al-Khazneh in awe. Our guide then led us through the ancient city before leaving us to climb the 900 rock cut steps up to the gigantic 1st century Monastery (Deir). We hiked to the top to get the best view of Petra overlooking the Monastery. We stopped on our way down for a refreshing lemon and mint juice before breaking for a much needed lunch. Once we were fueled up, we went for our last hike of the day up Jabal al-Khubtha to get an aerial view of the Treasury. We were pretty tired by this point but it was worth the view. We then made the trek back through the Siq to our hotel for happy hour at the Cave Bar.
The next morning we met our driver who was driving us to the Dead Sea. We stopped at some sights along the way including Shawbak Castle, the Greek Orthodox Church of Saint George, and Mount Nebo in the Holy Land. Mount Nebo is believed to be the place where Moses was buried and the most revered holy site in Jordan. Our last stop for the day was the Dead Sea, which is located 427 metres below sea level and is the lowest elevation on Earth. It is also one of the world’s saltiest bodies of water in which animals cannot survive. It is so dense that you basically float on top of the water and bob around like corks. It is also known for the healing properties of the mud. So we all went for a float in the sea and lathered ourselves in mud. We rinsed off once the mud was dry and watched the sunset over the sea. That evening we went to a Bedouin restaurant and tried Zarb, which is traditionally cooked underground in a mud oven, accompanied by some local Jordanian wine from Mount Nebo. It was a relaxing evening to end our great tour of Jordan.
The next morning we were off to catch our morning flight back to Abu Dhabi. We got in that afternoon and picked up some sushi for dinner. The next day Dan and I were back at work and the girls relaxed by the pool. On Tuesday, the girls went up to Dubai to spend a couple of days touring the sites. They visited The Mall of the Emirates to check out the Ski Hill and Dubai Mall for some shopping before heading up to the top of the Burj Khalifa for sunset. The next day they went to the old Textile and Spice Souks before heading to the Burj Al Arab, a seven star hotel, for afternoon high tea. They arrived back to Abu Dhabi late that evening to find out that Dan had to go out to site for the next few days so we were on our own! The next day the girls went to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, had lunch at Central Souk, and then did some last minute shopping. On Thursday the girls decided they needed another massage and went to Talise Spa. Unfortunately Dan was not back from work yet but the 3 of us went out for dinner at Emirates Palace Hotel for their last night at one of the few Emirati restaurants in Abu Dhabi. Dan surprised us at the airport the next morning to see the girls off on their next adventure in NYC. We hope the girls enjoyed their visit as much as we enjoyed having them and that they come back for some more pampering!