Visiting the Capital

Trip Start May 01, 2008
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of United Arab Emirates  ,
Friday, May 30, 2008

That weekend was my Abu Dhabi visit.
There was no way I would have delayed that more, and for a simple
reason: I wanted to visit Mathilde, who I certainly met in my very
early days, although I don't remember. Mathilde has been living in
AbuDhabi for years, with Steve and their two daughters Louise and
Nina. So in fact I had not seen them for quite a few years, and
Actually I think I had not met Nina previously. Now I have to report
on all of this before my mum, Mathilde's mum, and all the rest of
the families start sending me a continuous stream of emails asking
how well, how good, how great, etc...

The first evening we had dinner with
friends, and it was interesting to be with long-term residents. The
food was great, and Steve treated us with a Margaux 2000, it was

I had planned on getting gup early to
spend time with the girls... eventually slept through my alarm clock,
and got up just before noon. The girls had religiously not opened the
door to my bedroom. But once I was up, and after the first 5 minutes
of shyness, my attention was required full time!

We took a drive on Abu Dhabi Island,
all together, for a first visit. First we drove past a number of
palaces, that would occupy a full block. I thought that was already
insane, but then later on I saw some real palaces along the water, it
was completely stupid. And of course, they have to build them one
next to another. Not that they want to be able to visit cousins
without taking their Porshe or their Maserati... It feels more like
they are competing on who's got the biggest. Anyway, that is part
of the Arabic culture to show opulence and an indefectible sense of
hospitality (to your peers). It's just at another scale than in
Algeria, for example.
And some of these big buildings are
definitely interesting, architecture-wise. It's just not meant to

Mathilde and Steve drove me to a place
which was in fact more of a yard, with remains of a recent
demolition. That, they explained, used to be a place with hangars
where they would fix the dhows (traditional wooden embarkations used
for trade or fishing), or where the locals would bring their jetski
to get fixed. And on the other side, there used to be a strip of
small restaurants, hole in the wall, Indian groceries and mechanical
shops I imagine. Nothing was left. Big signs were proudly shining in
the sun, with the view of a 5 star marina and high rises all around.
You could see the actual small bay, full of crappy boats, lively wood
and machinery that had been on the water for years, having a bit of a
rest in that haven... and the picture of what it was going to be...
all clean and shiny and dead.
Well, we've been doing the same in
western countries, but here it's real time, especially for people
like Mathilde and Steve, who see the changes happening over the

We did manage to sneak into a highly
private compound, and drove around. There was an insane number of
luxury car, but these were just the normal day car. Then there were
the Porshes and Maserati, Jaguars, Ferrari, etc... and then there
were a few unique cars. Incredible. Normally people don't own
these. These are just for some siliconed blonde to lay on during a
car show. These are not supposed to rest in an alley!

The fish market was a refreshing halt,
a normal place, a real place. We went on shark hunt with Louise, but
once we found them I was not so happy to see them baby sharks all
dead and... really dead. Anyway, it was important that the girls
could try out the interesting bit: touching shark skin, in one way,
and then in the other.
Nina could not help but touch all kind
of dead fish, and I even found her poking into a big fish eye with
her finger.

For lunch we went to a "small simple
restaurant" on the harbour, which had in fact turned into a classy
outlet. It was really a nice place, but instead of a light and quick
lunch we just ended up full and sleepy. The chocolate fountain had
such a power of attraction on the girls!

Outside there were dhows, resting there
for a few days before going out at sea again for days or months.
Fishing nets, a wall of high rises I the background, and there a
drilling platform on dry dock, a panorama with all levels of depth,
intensity, meaning?

Emirates Palace was our last stop
before heading home. A few things to get an idea: the road from the
airport comes straight there. And by straight, I mean that even the
roundabouts are straightened! There are flowers and water fountains
and there you are getting to this huge clear brown reddish building.
The long side of the edifice is 1km long, Steve told me. Inside, the
architecture is impressive, and there is marble and gold everywhere.
Luxury watches, a hotel, delicacies... Felt like Dubai, but with a
difference. And quite a big one actually: There was art in there! We
went to see, too quickly, the Picasso exhibition, a very very nice
one, as numerous pieces from Musee National Picasso were displayed.

I'll stop there that quick account of
the short weekend, but it was so, so good to see Mathilde and Steve,
and I fell in love with Louise and Nina (and reciprocally I think),
and their friends were all good people, agreable and interesting, it
was a real refreshment.

Will be there again within a few weeks,
for sure!
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