Abu Dhabi's a funny place. I've been here for a few days now, and I'm beginning to settle in - y'know, getting over that ‘phwoooar, I'm here’ disorientation you tend to get when you're 4000 miles away from home in a country that doesn't speak your language.
I have no doubt at all that I'm seeing a very sanitised version of Abu Dhabi. I'm seeing, more or less, the capital that the leaders of the UAE want me to see. It's a metropolitan city that's full of tall building, enormous malls, big roads and big cars. Not totally dissimilar to my experiences in the States. Of course, this time I'm right in the city, not in the ‘burbs.
My experiences here are, at this point, particularly limited. I've flown in, been driven to a hotel, been given a large suite. I've gone to work in a very industrial part of the city, and come back again. I've gone to the mall next door. So, let's talk about the mall.
Yeah. This mall is big. It's the biggest in Abu Dhabi. The tagline for Al Wahida mall is ‘Have it all & more’. This seems completely appropriate - Looking at the shops alone, it appears they've taken every chain store I've ever been in or heard of during my travels of the world and placed them in one area. Not just bits and bobs, but every fucking shop I've seen BHS, Tammy, Victoria's Secret, Nike, Adidas, Starbucks, Tim Hortons, Costa, Olive Garden, McDonalds, Red Lobster… the list goes on. The one that surprised me most was Virgin Megastores… That chain's long dead in the UK. There's food outlets, a cinema, a hypermarket, a gym… everything you could imagine under one roof. With it being huge, it's easy to get lost. I did… a few times. Woefully inadequite mapping and a bizarre layout due to the extention it underwent at some point in the recent past isn't exactly helpful. It does make for an exciting journey of discovery, however - I found a Laura Ashley tonight but couldn't repeat the trek there to make sure I had actually seen it!
Work's happening. Obviously, there's only so much I can say about it, but it's good thus far. It's odd being called ‘sir’ by people, however.
I did go for lunch with some folks from the warehouse today, instead of the in-house cafeteria. It was totally worth it - the Indian guys took me to a local Indian run restaurant. We went in, hands were washed first and then we sat down. Curries were ordered and appeared - I got a chicken curry with roti (bread) to minimise any issues I may have. It was absolutely fantastic. I had some of their Biryani, which was also delicious. What puzzled me at first was the lack of cutlery - it was an unashamedly hands only meal, hence the pre-food handwash. Once I got over that bit, I had to navigate eating chicken from the bone - a pet hate of mine for as long as I can remember.
Y'know what? I just manned up. It was great. The curry was excellent, the roti bread was ideal. And it cost 10 AED per head. This translates to about £1.70. The food I had for dinner (a large salad & a fresh orange) cost as much as lunch for 5 did… Cheap food exists in this country. I need to find it, as it seems it's much more interesting, exciting and probably better than expensive food. Now, where to start the hunt - the city centre as I've seen it is ruled by big, expensive shiny foreign businesses, so I'll need to explore on my day off.