Abu Dhabi - Home Of "Phone A Friend".

Trip Start Feb 01, 2005
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Trip End Dec 31, 2018


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Flag of United Arab Emirates  ,
Tuesday, November 25, 2008

People often wrongly assume Dubai is the capital of the UAE but Abu Dhabi has that honour and in our minds and memories also the honour of being the capital of "phone a friend" taxi drivers! This is the practice mentioned in our Dubai story of taking a passenger even though you don't understand them or their request and then phoning someone who speaks that language, handing the phone over, the passenger then explains to the friend where they want to go, and then the phone is handed back to the driver to explain to him. This is often only partially successful and the success is relative to the language level of the friend phoned and our (often wrong) pronunciations.

We had the usual adventure of catching a taxi to get to the bus terminal to take us from Dubai to Abu Dhabi. This time the first turban clad driver that stopped had absolutely no English and even pronouncing Bur Dubai Bus Station very slowly and clearly did not help and he didn't seem prepared to try "phone a friend". We waited again and flagged another, and this time after several attempts were able to get our destination across and arrive at the bus station right on time to catch a bus for the two and a half hour trip to the capital. As we mentioned before it is doubly difficult in Dubai as we could point to the words in Arabic from our phrase book but 9 times out of 10 the drivers were Hindu speakers, so even that did not help and we didn't have a Hindu phrase book! Ahhh the adventure of travel....

On arrival we were swamped with taxi drivers wanting to take us places, but not all had meters and attempts to have a driver understand "Heritage Village", a premier tourist site in Abu Dhabi, was just not happening. After a "phone a friend" it was still not happening, so we fell back to an oldy but goody used in Dubai, look at the map and find the nearest shopping centre and get taken there. Seems taxi drivers only learn shopping centre names! That achieved, we ended up at the Marina Mall a massive, glitzy high end shopper's utopia with barely a western style dress to be seen on the people shopping, but in total contrast the shops are full of high end western dress and very filmy, delicate women's night attire and underwear. Emirates must have a lot of opportunities to wear these clothes at home one thinks!   From above the mall looking down one sees groups of men in beautiful spotlessly white dishdashas in deep conversation sipping their coffees at Starbucks.

Time to brave the taxi's again and our wish to see the White Palace Fort the capital's oldest building, was not understood so it was on to "Phone a Friend". Avan took the phone, and with the Lonely planet map in the other hand worked out it was near a Mosque and Mr "Phone a friend" said OK and then explained to the driver. We took off totally in the wrong direction and then the penny dropped - we had passed a huge mosque on the way in to the City but about 20 km's out of town!  "La, La" (Arabic for No, No) we yell, and Avan points to the phone miming phoning again. The driver gets "phone a friend" back on line and tries again but we are not sure if we have got the right idea across. At that moment we see an old building like a fort and yell out to stop, but the driver can't stop in the traffic and takes us around the block - a big block.. When he finally stops we are quite a way, away and we seem to be in the car park of a Islamic training college. He points to the steps and beams thinking he has delivered us to where we wanted to go! We pay him and use our good old trusty legs to walk back, only to find the Fort has now been closed to the public. Someone said it is the journey that is the adventure, rather than the destination - truly so with the White Palace Fort of Abu Dhabi!  
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