Eid al Adha occurred last week. It is a three-day celebration about 70 days after the end of Ramadan, beginning with Arafat day (named after the awful time Abraham had on mt Arafat thinking he was sacrificing his son to a cruel God – fortunately God was kind and swapped Ishmael with a ram so everybody was happy – except the ram of course).
Muslims celebrate this with much feasting and merriment, and often throwing the family goat in the back of the Land Rover and taking it to the abattoir. The beast is apportioned into three – the family, the friends, and the poor. Gotta say, I do love the way Islam includes all (did you read my post about the wedding?), but still getting used to all the required sacrifices – be they beast, beer or bikini…
Positioning of the holiday was Monday to Wednesday, and given we have a Thursday/Friday weekend here, it was not surprising that 564,340 people called in sick on Sunday. Nobody even bothered to call in sick on Thursday because they realized the boss wasn’t in either. (I also admire the work ethic here…)
We would usually head away for Eid, but this year in our loathing of increases hotel prices (e.g. the Mina al Salam went from 990 Dhirims to 3000 – about $800) we decided that on principal we would not. Of course we realised at the last minute that we did not want to be the only people left in Dubai without a share of goat, and so headed for hotelium in search of something nice in Fujeirah, Dibba, or even Al Ain for goodness sake. But of course they were all booked, except for skanky three-stars and more 3000AED prices. So we went to the only place Hambone didn’t want to go – Abu Dhabi (he works there 2 days a week and doesn’t want to share). Because, surprisingly enough, the Emirates Palace – Abu Dhabi’s signature hotel, seemed to have forgotten it was Eid, and actually reduced their rate. Super! (Imagine that in my new english accent – syoooopeer)
We only booked for one night because as you probably gathered already, considering we are lushes, we are quite cheap. And we have figured out that if you turn up early, you can jump in the pool and order margaritas while a lovely lady runs around the entire resort looking for you so you can enter your ready room, because you can’t hear the mobile phone over the kids squeals of excitement and your own guffawing. And you can do exactly the same thing on the day after until at least 5pm before they realize you have already checked out and the names on the room and your bill no longer match (oops!)
We were allowed in through security that was equivalent to a UN convention (and we still got through with the scissors, bomb-shaped Lego and a bottle of non-resort wine – yes, I’ve already said we’re cheap), and entered the lobby to be greeted by 100 beautiful hosts and enough gold to make you think your brain cells had finally given up and fried your optic nerve. Kids were presented with gifts, and they fought over the BMW X5 because neither of them had seen a Volkswagon Beetle before (I know anything goes here in the UAE, but I am talking about toys) and ladies got roses. Hambone got nothing but the valet parking ticket. Then we were given one of our rooms (even though it was only midday), and they promised to give us our connecting one very soon. Did not even have to fight for the connecting one – usually we do.
First impression is quite surreal. We are talking about a building about the size of Versailles, complete with art galleries, shops, restaurants, conference rooms, water features, probably an indoor cricket stadium too, but I got tired walking. It’s all made of shiny brown granite (or marble, I’m not big on geology), and to be honest, it’s not the most beautiful Arabian building I’ve seen.
Apart from spending an enormous amount of dosh on a fairly clunky building, they have been very clever. They put all the families down one end with a massive pool, lazy river and waterslides. Cascades rain down in pitter-patters or deluges, depending on your fancy, and beside the pool one can lounge on a lounge and drink a drink, and chew the fat with a fatty – because we all know that they hide all the skinny beautiful people away in the honeymoon half of the hotel.
We watched the sun go down over the Arabian Gulf (also known as the Persian Gulf, but definitely not here), and drank cardamom tea with Sa’ala, a bedouin from Liwa who had kindly brought down a couple of camels and set up a tent on the sand complete with rugs and camel bags and old teapots and other kinds of incredibly photogenic stuff.
We ate good room-service food (with real morel mushrooms – where on earth did they find those?) on silk coverlets and drank our home-brought rose wine, and then chased the kids around with enormous feather pillows before cornering them and tickling them to sleep.

Breakfast was the typical stupendous affair, but at 180 dhirims a pop ($50), I wished I had been hungrier. It was followed by another visit to Sa’ala and then 400 more goes down the waterslide, and then an incredibly boring drive back to Dubai.

Lesson learned – there is no McDonalds on Sheikh Zayed Rd in the Dubai direction after about 20km out of Abu Dhabi – no promises to the kids unless you are prepared for 45 minutes of whining. 

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