My mom, Bev, and her friend, Bieny, decided in early January that they needed to escape the cold winter back in Canada. The ladies arrived the evening of Wednesday, February 19th, 2014 and both Dan and I took the next day off of work to spend with our visitors. On Thursday morning we went on a two hour tour of the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital which is something we had been wanting to do for some time and is a main tourist attraction. On the tour, we learned about the history of falconry, witnessed free flying falcons, saw their talons being groomed and the tour ended with holding and petting the falcons.
Afterwards, we had a nice lunch on the water at Ornina in Al Bandar Marina. That evening we walked over to the Palace Hotel for some mojitos before we went back to the apartment for Dan’s famous Penne Arrabiata. On Friday, we spent a lazy day by the pool as we were gearing up for Friday night. When we found out Bev and Bieny would be here on February 21st we immediately asked them if they would be interested in seeing the Rolling Stones. They jumped at the opportunity and we were lucky enough to score 2 more tickets. We made our way to Yas Island for a couple of drinks at the Yas Viceroy Hotel, which overlooks the F1 track before heading over to the concert at the du Arena. We arrived and minutes later the Stones appeared on stage playing Start Me Up. I think we were all a little surprised at how many songs we knew. They put on a great show and it was the largest concert ever to come to the UAE with over 30,000 people in attendance.
If you can believe it or not, we still had more on the agenda for the weekend. We took it easy on Saturday morning and then we made our way back up to Yas Island to go on an island beach boat tour. It was actually pretty chilly on the boat but the ladies had the wind in their hair and we had a nice picnic lunch on an uninhabited island. The mangroves of the island are home to pink flamingoes. On the way back we drove past Ferrari world, Ornina, the Cookie building and we ended the tour back at Yas Marina. It was a great way to get a different perspective of Yas Island. That evening, we had my cousin and his wife over for dinner including her parents who were also visiting. We had an Arabic themed night including kebbeh to start, tabbouleh salad, maqlouba and baklava for dessert. I think my mom enjoyed meeting my cousin on my granny’s side, whom neither of us had met until I moved to Abu Dhabi.
After our first action packed weekend, Dan and I were back to work for the week but the ladies kept busy sightseeing. They visited the Grand Mosque, rode the big bus around Abu Dhabi, and went window shopping at Al Maryah island. On Wednesday night, I took the ladies down to Qasr Al Hosn Fort for the annual Emirati Heritage Festival. We enjoyed some local Emirati cuisine and then went to Cavalia, a performance often labeled as an equestrian ballet which included over 50 horses and trick riding stunts. Unfortunately, Dan couldn’t make it as he had been working out on site. I think the ladies enjoyed learning a little bit more about Emirati culture.
By the time the weekend came around we were ready for our next adventure to Sir Bani Yas Island, the largest natural island in the UAE and home to Arabia’s largest wildlife reserve. The reserve was established in 1971 by the late ruler and founder of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan. It is now home to thousands of free-roaming animals and several million trees and plants. We set out early Friday morning to make the 2.5 hour drive south of Abu Dhabi to catch the 10:00 am ferry. Upon arrival, we checked into the Anantara resort situated inside the wildlife park and enjoyed some lunch out on the patio. At 1:00 we were ready for our adventure safari around the wildlife park. Our objective for the day was to catch a glimpse of the “Big Three” which includes the ostrich, giraffe and cheetah. Our first spotting was of the Indian black gazelle, then the Arabian oryx, and then the male ostrich. We continued on to see a herd of giraffe and finally the two cheetah brothers who were relaxing in the shade. Our guide said that it was the best drive she had been on in a while. That evening we had a great meal back at the hotel before retiring for the evening.
We would have liked to have stayed longer on Sir Bani Yas Island but the next morning we had to get the first ferry out because Dan and I had tickets to the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship and the ladies were excited to see Dubai. We made the drive past Abu Dhabi back up to Dubai, got the ladies checked into their hotel, and then dropped them off at Dubai Mall to catch their 5:00 booking to go up to the top of the Burj Khalifa. We were off to the tennis match where Robert Federer won against Thomas Berdych in three sets. We drove back to Abu Dhabi that night as we had to work the next day. On Sunday, the ladies spent most of the day touring around on the Big Bus in Dubai. They crammed in a lot but I think they could have spent more time there. They returned to Abu Dhabi on Sunday night after a full day of sightseeing. That week they enjoyed high tea at the Palace Hotel, dune bashing and camel riding on the half day desert safari, and walking along the Corniche. On their last night, we decided to go to Scott’s, a seafood restaurant we had been dying to try. The food was amazing and they had a jazz band playing so it was a great way to spend our last night.
The next morning we awoke to a surprise to learn the ladies flight was delayed and they would unfortunately miss their connection in Toronto. It was a long journey home for them but they made it eventually.
It was so great to start off the year with a visit from my mom. Bev and Bieny both said they thought they would never make it to the Middle East so I am really glad they made the trip to visit us.