While both are Arab countries, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are worlds apart. Saudi is steeped in tradition, UAE on the other hand is almost as modern as the West. Being a relatively open country, especially Abu Dhabi and Dubai, its locals have also somehow adapted to the ways of life of the expats it is trying to beckon albeit still keeping its own norms alive.
My first “home” in the UAE is Abu Dhabi. Being the capital city, one can feel the power that it wields as it hosts most government offices and big businesses. Tall and sleek buildings adorn its wide boulevards, alongside powerful mosques. We landed at night time, and despite the lateness of the hour, the city was throbbing with vibrancy. Also, much like the huge urban places I’ve been to, it is teeming with huge malls that would the shopaholic’s heart skip a beat.
Of course, as it is the main purpose of our visit to the Middle East, we inspected the Philippine schools here. And again, I will save my boring official report for the office, and stick to blogging the more fun parts of the travel hehe.
Our office is also co-convening the Regional Summit in the Middle East, a brand of our Global Summit, which we have first introduced in Rome, Italy, where the husband went in 2012, and are now bringing to Abu Dhabi later this year. Since we are in the preparatory stages, we met with Philippine Ambassador Grace Princesa and the Bayanihan Council, an umbrella organization of Filipino associations in the UAE.
And conducted an ocular inspection of the summit’s venue, the Dusit Thani Hotel.
We had another meeting with other Filipino groups, this time, at the Ambassador’s residence called Maharlika House. The place was a showcase of abaca, a local plant from which cloth, furniture and other products are produced.
Was also elated to have been able to hear mass in Filipino. Yay! Due to the large number of Filipinos and Catholics at that, they were given a special time and place to have masses in one of the big churches there. Several times that evening, I lost my head for a while and forgot that I was out of the Philippines. Out of the thousands that attended mass, I think I only saw about a handful of foreigners there. Very cool.
The hotel we stayed in, though, was quite forgettable. It was so-so. The Embassy booked us there, and while we had a bigger budget, it was not a good idea to ask for a higher star hotel as we were supposed to be prudent since we are part of the government. But still, it would have been nice to have stayed in a newer and a bit swankier joint than the Ramee Apartments. I would have loved to experience more than threadbare sheets and dim lights. I guess I should just be thankful that the place was clean enough, and they had wifi, even if only in the table nearest the door. And that it was just a stone’s throw away from the Al-Wahda Mall, other discount stores for pasalubong, and restaurants.