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Safely back on shore, we wandered the souk and Jen was thrilled to find some macaroons in a chocolate shop, which were especially appropriate since it was Mardi Gras. I took pictures of chocolate sculptures and marveled at the profusion of dates. Dates, dates, everywhere, even whole gift shops devoted entirely to dates. My favorite store at the Shangri La, which I plan to return to once I have money, took my breath away. It sold ethereal fabrics for clothing, pashminas, pillow cases and table cloths in the most incredible colors. Some had translucent fabrics; most were embroidered with intricate, swirly, sparkling patterns made of sequins or thread. The day I go back, I’ll say, "Wrap up one of each, please."
Our shopping needs satisfied, we scoured the hotel for Turkish coffee. Despite the profusion of high-end cafes and restaurants at the hotel, there was no Turkish coffee to be found. The Arabic cultural tendency to avoid saying, “no,” even when it’s the truth, was hilariously displayed at Starbucks. We asked the barista if they served Turkish coffee and he smiled broadly, spread his hands and said, “This is Turkish coffee!” We cracked up because we were thinking, “Just because we’re in Arabia doesn’t mean that Frappuchino you’re holding counts as authentic Turkish coffee. Anyway, we eventually found what Jen confirmed to be pretty authentic Turkish coffee at the supermarket in the hotel. I didn’t really like it. The texture was thick and a bit gritty, sort of herbal, bitter and then sweet from all of the sugar we had them dump in. Glad I tried it but probably won’t drink it again.
After a particularly nauseating cab ride home - traffic, high speeds, harsh accelerations and jolting stops - we arrived back at Jen’s gorgeous apartment. It’s so nice, looks brand new, came furnished with nice furniture and shiny tile floors. She even had a large flat screen TV, all paid for by the school she’s working for, run by the Abu Dhabi Education Council.
Dinner tonight night was delicious – salmon and Egyptian rice, which had much more flavor than plain white and was speckled with tiny noodles. Yum! Dessert was caramel pie, which Cynthia's boyfriend, Jeremy, created by boiling a can of evaporated milk for four hours. It was awesome but very rich. It tasted like a gigantic caramel candy in a crust.
After dinner, Cynthia and I went to the Emirates Palace Hotel. It’s the most expensive hotel ever built and has a special, grand gate which the Sheik alone uses when he hosts conferences there. The showpiece of the hotel is its big main dome. There’s real gold everywhere and elegant, comfy sitting rooms and a Persian carpet reflecting pool. We illegally peeked into an elegant auditorium but were sadly unable to evade security and explore the legendary hotel gardens.
To finish the night, Cynthia drank tea and I had hot chocolate at a café in the hotel. I think I’d expected heaven, or maybe something closer to rich European sipping chocolate, but that must not be how they make hot chocolate here. It was good, but too closely resembled Swiss Miss to justify the inflated price tag. I also tried some from an expensive-looking tin at Cynthia’s house and it also tasted like Swiss Miss. Nonetheless, it was a cool experience and a necessary one because the Arabs love their tea and coffee. There’s even a giant coffee pot statue in downtown Abu Dhabi.