Circle Cafe: An Adorable Oasis in the Middle East

One of the things I love about visiting unfamiliar places where friends live is that they have had the advantage of time to find all sorts of hidden gems around their area. (For our friends that visit us in Los Angeles, I have a ton of them!) So we were thrilled to visit some of our friends’ favorite places in Abu Dhabi.

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On our second day there we had a delightful and delicious lunch at Circle Cafe. It was a lovely place with enormous windows that let in an incredible amount of natural light, which was soothing and hapiness inducing. AbuDhabi150

I’d not thought about creating a design theme around one geometric shape before, but somehow the “circle” theme was inspirational to this interior designer and became a successful grounding element for the entire cafe.  Circles were repeated in the tables, chairs, ceiling, and lighting fixtures throughout the cafe. Even the placemats were circles.AbuDhabi151

And smartly, those circles were broken up by beautiful brown leather chairs and natural wood tables that were set up in an invitation that seemed to say “come in, stay a while, bring your laptop or borrow a book and be our friend for the day.” And there were a few people there who had done just those things it seemed.AbuDhabi157

I loved the unfinished wood pieces along the sides of the space as well. I am a total sucker for combining modern and vintage/antique furniture, so this subtle nod to that method made me feel right at home.
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Of course I also felt at home staring at their baked goods all during lunch. Yum! I should also say, they had chosen the perfect gray wall color to contrast with the white furniture and trim. This place feels much like what I hope our kitchen will feel like when we’re finished redecorating it!AbuDhabi152

And I loved their paper lighting fixtures. They are definitely decorative (I don’t think these would light the space at night in the slightest), but I love the way the light within glows through just enough to highlight the edges of the strips that make up this whimsical design.AbuDhabi139

Ok, I know this isn’t design related, but I can’t resist mentioning how delicious these juices were. The green one was the best mint lemonade I had the whole trip. Yum!AbuDhabi137What do you think? Do you like the design of this cafe?

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Architecture of Abu Dhabi and Dubai

One of the things I was most excited about when planning our trip to Abu Dhabi and Dubai was the chance to see, in person, some incredible architecture that I’d only previously heard about in books or on the web. Because the area is so new, and so rapidly developing, there is a tremendous amount of innovative, almost futuristic looking design on their skylines. Some of the skyscrapers will make you feel like you’re living in a science fiction movie. By contrast, there’s also an effort to create full-experience environments in some other cases. Those buildings seem to emphasize opulence, sometimes boast a specific theme, and have a bit of the feeling of Las Vegas or Disneyland. Going from one to the other can seem a little disjointed at times, but it’s all an important part of the look of the cities.

In Abu Dhabi, there was a recurring style element of buildings that almost looked like sliced sausages, with the roof sitting at an extreme angle. We saw this all over the city.

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Of course there’s the surreal environment I talked about last week created at the Grand Mosque. This design was the result of a combined effort by architects and designers from Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

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We also stopped by Ferrari World to take a look at that architectural feat. It’s an indoor theme park (so imagine a structure big enough to house Disneyland), home of the fastest rollercoaster in the world. Designed by Benoy Architects, the scope of the structure is hard to describe. There’s no easy way from the ground to get a good view of the entire building, but from the pictures I’ve seen of it from above, it doesn’t look real! The design of the building and it’s entryway were quite modern and futuristic feeling. And very smartly, the architects included a light funnel to bring daylight into the center of the structure.

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In the more residential parts of Abu Dhabi, we came across a different kind of design style altogether. These buildings were much more modest, and seemed to embrace the desert and Middle Eastern cultures and traditions much more than the competitive skyscraper designs.

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I loved these bridges, which combined so many different shapes; they were geometric but also somehow organic at the same time. They were always a really interesting view on the water.

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Next to a museum we spent some time in, we also stopped to take a look at the UAE Pavilion. Designed by Foster and Partners for the 2010 Shanghai World’s Fair, the entire structure was reassembled in Abu Dhabi and is now used as an international art museum. Unfortunately it was closed the day we went, so I didn’t get to see the inside. (Side note: Right nearby they are working on building a Louvre and a Guggenheim museums, which promise to be spectacular!)

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Our friends who live in Abu Dhabi have an apartment high up in one of this cluster of buildings. They are new skyscrapers, built within the past couple of years, and definitely seem to fit with the efforts to build now with future design in mind.

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But then they have a view of Emirates Palace, which is just about as opposite as you can get. Emirates palace has a bit of the pretend-world feeling that Las Vegas tends to have.

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Dubai sometimes took that Vegas-like pretend world to another level. We took a stroll through Atlantis, a huge, over the top, themed resort that made me feel like I could be in the king’s castle in The Little Mermaid. No corner was left untouched by the ocean theme. They even had a very impressive aquarium.

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The Dubai Mall also had an amazing aquarium, sharks and all. And outside of the mall was a dancing water fountain, designed by the same people that designed the water fountain at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

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Dubai’s reputation in architecture is a bit more well-known, largely because of two buildings. One is the Burj Al Arab, designed by architect Tom Wright. Built to look like a sail, it is currently the fourth tallest building in the world. It’s a high end luxury hotel and sits on a manmade island, connected to the mainland by one bridge.

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And the other is, of course, the Burj Khalifa, by architect Adrian Smith. The Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world. It’s hard to mentally process just how incredibly enormous this building is. It only starts to become clear when you realize just how much taller it is than any other building that surrounds it. It is so tall in comparison that it gives the impression of being the only building in the sky. To put the sheer height of this incredible structure into perspective, there is a new project I heard about recently in Los Angeles to build the city’s tallest building, which will sit 78 stories high. The Burj Khalifa has 163 floors, and you would be able to see the curvature of the earth from the top. Aside from the extreme height of it, it is a beautiful building. It really seems like this perfect precious gem among all that surrounds it. This was my favorite building we saw, and having drinks on the 124th floor was one of my favorite moments of the trip. Only since I’ve been home have I begun to realize how rare of an opportunity that was.

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Dining and Design in the UAE

For our entire vacation in the Middle East, it struck me how well we were eating. We never had bad food, not even once. It also struck me that the service at restaurants in the UAE was always top notch. Really impeccable. We certainly felt spoiled! Here is a highlight of our favorite dining experiences from the UAE.

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One night, the friends we were visiting took us to their all time favorite restaurant in Abu Dhabi, called 18 Degrees (named because if the building it resides in, which is built at an 18 degree angle). It was an opportunity to meet their friends (mostly expats from the US and the UK) and for them to share with us one of their favorite places.

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The interior embraces the building’s lean, and seems to use the steel reinforcement as an important element of the decor, rather than trying to disguise it.

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The kitchen is open to the dining room, and we were lucky enough to be sitting right next to the kitchen so we were able to watch the magicians at work.

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When we got to our table, the restaurant manager had left this note for each of us, addressed to each individual person. This was not prearranged by our friends, just something that they did to make us feel welcome and well taken care of.

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All of the food was incredible. They had started us off with a variety of appetizers, already divided into a sample plate of sorts for each of us, to ensure we could all try each one. Then our main courses arrived. I ordered their duck leg (which was our friend’s favorite dish there… which such a shining recommendation, I couldn’t resist) and it did not disappoint! Definitely the best duck I have ever had. And we even had a chance to tell the Michelin rated chef as much. He came out to our table a couple times to see how we were doing and to chat with us a bit.

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They treated us all to complimentary champagne, and then of course we drank lots of wonderful wine. And after our meals were done their cheese specialist came downstairs with these unexpected and quite decadent variety of cheeses, some as old as 15 years and all unpasteurized. The staff described each cheese in detail, just as they had done with each appetizer, meal, dessert, and cocktail (each by their own specialist). If you know me well, you know I love cheese… a lot! So I was in heaven!

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AbuDhabi610Just the next night, to cap off a day in Dubai, we had reservations for another incredible place. Rather than pay an entry fee to ride an elevator to the observation deck of the Burj Khalifa, we opted to have a luxurious evening of cocktails at the bar and lounge on the 124th floor, called Atmosphere.

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Yes, the cocktails were unique and delicious. And yes, the service was once again amazing. But I was in interior design heaven, surrounded by what looked to be glossy bent mahogany, like something you might see on a very expensive yacht. The warmth of the wood exaggerated the warmth of the sunset coming in through the windows.

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And yes, we were 124 stories up for sunset. This photo will not do the view justice… it’s hard to describe just how far you are able to see while looking out a window at that height. It doesn’t seem real!

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On our final night in Abu Dhabi, before the four of us jumped on a plane to Istanbul, we took my hubby to Emirates Palace for dinner at Hakkasan, an awesome Asian fusion restaurant (which I understand has locations in several cities around the world).

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I loved the decor! Once again, we felt surrounded by beautiful wood, but this time in a form much more open.

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There were a couple different seating set-ups, but all were both modern and comfortable with great use of materials like wood and leather.

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Outside, there was what seemed like a bridge or boardwalk leading to beautiful, almost tropical looking, outdoor lounge areas.AbuDhabi706 AbuDhabi708

Once again, the food was to die for. It started with some delicious, tender, perfectly flavored dim sum.

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Then we shared a few main courses, family style if you will. My favorite one was the sea bass cooked in wine (I’m sure the menu described it much more eloquently!) But the lotus root dish was pretty amazing too, I’d never had anything quite like it before.

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And when they learned that it was his birthday, they brought this dessert out so we could sing to him embarrassingly. Because what would a birthday be without that.

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One thing I feel certain about is that Abu Dhabi and Dubai are doing it right when it comes to hospitality and dining. No expense seems spared in the design, and the service could make any average joe feel like a millionaire!

What do you think? Do you like the design of these restaurants? Does the food look intriguing?

Abu Dhabi’s Grand Mosque

While in Abu Dhabi, we took some time to visit the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi’s grand mosque. This was the first mosque I had been to, and quite an extravagant one for me to make my introduction with. (This mosque is worlds away from the seemingly ancient mosques we visited in Istanbul the following week.) As I mentioned earlier this week, Sheikh Zayed was the president of the Emirates and the beloved leader who was responsible for the oil lease arrangement that ensured the wealth of their country and its natives. This enormous structure is a striking symbol of both that extreme wealth and of their dedication to the Muslim religion.

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This mosque is the source of the daily prayer for the entire city. Unlike the centuries-old mosques of Istanbul, which seemed to almost compete for your attention, in Abu Dhabi the call to prayer is broadcast out to all of the surrounding mosques in one unified declaration.

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The outside of the mosque features pools of water meant to shows the mosque’s own reflection when lit up at night.

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The floors and columns throughout are climbing with vines of inlaid stone floral designs. An incredible variety of stones  were used for these designs, and they are the most colorful ornamentation on the grounds.

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Gold leaf is also used in detailing and on columns, highlighting the opulence of all the materials used.

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When you first walk into the lobby area, before entering the courtyard, you immediately begin to get a sense of the scale of this enormous place, with high ceilings and the even higher inset undersides of the domes. Each dome is ornamented like lace, and each seems to be of a different design than the last.

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A little bit of a precursor to our trip to Istanbul, there were also a couple walls of Iznik tile designs. We would be seeing lots and lots of this in Turkey!

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Even the ablution room (where worshipers go to wash their hands and feet before prayer) is an incredible place, built almost entirely of green marble.

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The entire structure is constructed of white marble. Between the marble and the bright, hot sun, when you enter into the courtyard you feel like you might be in a glowing white dream world.

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There is an incredible amount of detail carved into the marble, again in the form of these beautiful, lace-like vines.

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Each dome is topped with a crescent moon, an important symbol for Islam.

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The lobby at the entrance to the prayer room boasted a different kind of design. Almost a combination of the inlaid stones and the carved white marble, these flowery vines used the same tremendous variety of stones but were embossed rather than inlaid.

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The chandeliers throughout use Swarovski crystals, including this one in the lobby, and were surrounded by even more elaborate ornamentation.

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You are greeted by more gilt gold as you enter the prayer room.

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The grand mosque’s prayer room is large enough to house 40,000 worshipers at a time.

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Upon entering the room, the first thing you will notice is the giant Swarovski crystal chandelier, estimated to be the third largest chandelier in the world. It’s also surrounded by a tremendous amount of beautiful ornamentation, some carved and some inlaid.

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It seems that little goes untouched by ornamentation here. Inlaid mother of pearl, carved marble, and gilt gold details can be seen throughout.

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Not even the wood elements, like the carts that hold copies of the Quran for worshipers or the wood panels that line the room, are free of this incredible detail and craftsmanship.

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The wall opposite of the entrance is not only peppered with the names of the profits (written in Arabic), but the detail around them glows from daylight being subtly let in from the outside through the vine-like designs.

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The carpet that lines the floor in the prayer room is the world’s largest carpet, handmade by more than a thousand people. It is one piece that covers the entire floor, and is even made to perfectly fit around the flower-petal column bases.

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The Sheikh Zayed Mosque is otherworldly, a sight I am so glad we took time to experience while we were there. A product of architects and designers from around the world, the craftsmanship is impeccable and the use of materials and ornamentation seems to be of another era altogether. It’s hard to imagine this was just recently built (in 2004). It’s such an integral part of the Abu Dhabi horizon, it seems that it should have been there forever.

What are your thoughts on the ornamentation and inlay?

The Real Abu Dhabi

Admittedly, I did not know much about ABu Dhabi before we visited there a couple weeks ago. I knew it was a city with a lot of money, oil money, and I think I thought it was like a less developed Dubai. (Not that I knew a whole lot about Dubai either, for that matter.) But what I found was a city much more diverse. There are a huge number of ex-pats and immigrants living and working there. A majority of the immigrants come from India and Pakistan. And while the class structure there keeps an extremely wide divide between these immigrants and the native Emirates, there is an epic amount of construction happening at all times as the area grows, as well as tons of service jobs in any of the numerous upscale resorts and restaurants in the area. Not unlike the immigrant communities in the US, many of the UAE’s immigrants are sending money home to their families, working tirelessly toward a better future for their children.

Visiting a faraway country when you know someone who lives there offers a huge advantage in that you are able to see how people really live. To be fair, that also means mostly you see how your friend lives, and in this case we had the most exposure to the lives of ex-pats like them. But we were able to experience a much wider view of Abu Dhabi, and learn a bit about the history of Abu Dhabi and its social and political structure. We also were able to simply enjoy the refreshing beauty that it has to offer while we were on vacation. This is just a taste of Abu Dhabi, meant to give you a broad sense of my impression of the place.

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people lounging under the shade of public umbrellas at Saadiyat Beach

Abu Dhabi is essentially an island in the Persian Gulf. Interestingly, the beautiful beaches you see all around were man-made using sand shipped in from Japan.

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Saadiyat Beach

The water is beautiful, bright blue, almost tropical looking, and the beaches are so perfect it feels surreal.

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a view of one skyline from the Corniche

The buildings there make you feel like you might be in a sci-fi thriller. The city is very new, only around 45 years old, so each new building uses the very latest in design and technology, and almost seems to try to out-do its predecessors.

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a walk on the Corniche

The city seems to make a real effort to create spaces for people to gather, walk, ride bicycles, etc. Since we went at the beginning of summer it was already getting very hot during the days, but in the evenings around sunset you could see all kinds of people taking their evening jog or pushing baby carriages for a stroll as the air began to cool down. Corniche is the word the locals use to describe this boardwalk-like walkway, which stretches pretty far through the city. It’s also the name of this beach area. It seemed like any public space we visited while we were there had workers on standby to clean up any little piece of trash that might fall, so every park and walkway was spotless.

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the fruit market in Abu Dhabi

Away from the resorts and sky rises, we visited the markets where plenty of locals go for fresh local fruits and vegetables. There were dozens of stands cascading with tempting produce. So many sellers to chose from, most with the same items for sale as the next guy, so it was tough to chose who to buy from. They try persistently to sell you on their own so you don’t wander off to someone else’s.

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sellers at the fruit market in Abu Dhabi

We went toward the end of the day, so it wasn’t very crowded. People mostly seemed to be waiting for the next customer to pop by.

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piles of dates covered in plastic to ward off flies

In the same industrial port complex you could find dozens of date salesmen as well. This particular one is a favorite of our friends we were visiting.

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We like to call this a sheik date.

These were the best of the dates, housed indoors. Posted above them was a poster featuring Sheik Zayed and his two sons. Sheik Zayed was the much loved leader of Abu Dhabi (the capital of the Emirates) who is responsible for the arrangement regarding oil between the British and the Emirates that lead to the widespread wealth that is so apparent in the city today. No longer living, his older son is the current leader of Abu Dhabi. Photos of Sheik Zayed seem to pepper the city, sometimes in the most unexpected places.

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the fish market in Abu Dhabi

My husband, the master chef of our house, was in heaven in the fish market. You’ve never seen such beautiful fresh fish.

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colorful fresh fish

The fish in the market were so colorful, and almost seemed to still be swimming.

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taking a rest after a long day

Once you pick out the fish you want to take home, you can have it cleaned out at a station like this, although this guy seemed to be done for the day.

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delicious prawns, fresh from ocean to oven

Then, you can take that fish to any of the cooks in the market if you’d like. You could walk out of the market eating one of the freshest meals you’ve ever had.

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a fisherman takes a rest on his boat after a long day

Just outside of the market, there are probably 100 of these boats docked, ready to go out fishing the next morning.

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rusty old fishing boats out of service

And in the parking lot next to the fish market you will find these boats, clearly not fit for use, just resting sleepily. We saw lots of feral kittens living around these, probably waiting for the next little piece of fish to drop.

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the infinite pool at the Shangri-La Resort

In contrast, we got a taste of resort living in Abu Dhabi as well. We had a morning of swimming and lounging at the pool, where the service was incredibly luxurious. The service people there make sure you have plenty of water and walk around with cold towels, fruit to munch on, and even clean your sunglasses for you if you’d like.

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A view of the Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque

The Shangri-La also had this incredible view of the Grand Mosque. It is such an enormous structure, dominating the skyline. After seeing it like this I couldn’t wait to go there and see it up close.  (Come back Thursday for more on this spectacular place.)

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sunset at the St. Regis

Later that same night we went to the St. Regis for some outdoor yoga at sunset, and the view from my mat was magical.

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getting into the first pose of the evening

Our friend we were visiting was the yoga instructor for the class, and I was so pleased to finally be able to take one of her classes! We were incredibly relaxed at the end.

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a Muslim couple in traditional dress walk along the beach after dark

I loved catching this little glimpse into another way of life, actually not all that different from my own. Plus the skyline across the water was so bright. Abu Dhabi at night could almost be a completely different city than Abu Dhabi during the day.

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one of many stray cats by the beach

Even though I mentioned earlier that the public parks were all spotless, that doesn’t make them immune to cats. We encountered tons of stray cats, surprisingly affectionate but infected with fleas. They all seem to be pretty well fed though.

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a view of Emirates Palace from the 58th floor next door

One of the most opulent places we saw while we were there was Emirates Palace. It’s mainly a hotel and houses a variety of wonderful upscale restaurants and cafes. And yes, it is as huge as it looks. We barely scratched the surface when we went there for dinner on our last night in Abu Dhabi.

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top left: the most expensive scotch in the world

Emirates Palace is home to a scotch and cigar bar that sells the most expensive scotch in the world, a 57 year old Macallan that sells for over $4,000 per shot. No, we did not try it, but wouldn’t that be a story to tell!

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Gold To Go

And yes, the rumors are true, you can indeed buy gold from a vending machine there.

Are you intrigued? What would you most like to see in Abu Dhabi?

Top Vacation Photos: UAE

We’re home! Back from an unforgettable adventure with great friends in some incredible locations. As I recover from some wicked jet lag and take care of some of those regular life things that I allowed myself to completely forget about for the past two weeks, I thought I’d at least share some of my favorite photos from our trip. Today, I’ll start with a few favorites from Abu Dhabi and Dubai. (Photos of Turkey coming in my next post, so stay tuned.)

Enjoy!

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A fisherman resting, docked next to the Abu Dhabi fish market.

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A view of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque from across the waterway. (Abu Dhabi)

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Sunset at the St. Regis before a wonderfully refreshing outdoor yoga class. (Abu Dhabi)

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The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque courtyard. (Abu Dhabi)

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A photo break during a dune bashing trip through the Empty Quarter. (Abu Dhabi)

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Camel at sunset. (Abu Dhabi)

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Aquarium at the Atlantis resort in Dubai.

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Yoga in the park in front of the Burj Khalifa during the midday call to prayer. (Dubai)

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The Burj Khalifa at night. (Dubai)

Today We Are In: the United Arab Emirates

At this point in the week, we have been in the UAE for four days visiting with these wonderful friends.

469We’re spending this week in Abu Dhabi, where they live. Abu Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates, and is second to Dubai as the largest city in the UAE. Because it is a quickly developing city and one of the most expensive cities in the world, we are expecting to see lots of newly constructed skyscrapers and gorgeous resorts. We’re also expecting a hot sandy desert surrounding the city. We’ll be staying with our friends right near Emirates Palace.

Abu Dhabi is also home to Ferrari World, which is “the largest indoor and first Ferrari theme park.” It looks gigantic!

We’re also planning to get into Dubai this week, since it’s only about a 45 minute drive from Abu Dhabi. Dubai is a bit of an older city, and so we’re expecting more historical structures among the giant sky scrapers there. Dubai is home to the tallest building in the world and architectural phenomenon  the Burj Khalifa. I’m super excited to see it in person, and even better we will be celebrating my husband’s birthday over dinner there. It will be a birthday to remember, for sure!

Have you been to Abu Dhabi or Dubai, or do you want to go? What would you want to see there?

The Importance of Travel

Yesterday I took a leap and bought plane tickets for my husband and I to go on a trip to Abu Dhabi, UAE, and Istanbul, Turkey. It wasn’t a leap because of a lack of desire to go (we’ve been looking forward to this trip for quite some time!), but it was a leap because it’s not a cheap trip to take, nor is it a quick flight (and my husband is not the biggest fan in the world of airplane rides.) But travel is important! Traveling can change the way you look at the world, get you out of your comfort zone and put things into perspective a bit. Plus, as my husband was quick to point out while I was laboring over the cost, no one ever regrets spending money on a trip like this!

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Why Abu Dhabi and Istanbul, you may ask? Well, we are fortunate to have close friends currently living in Abu Dhabi, and who share our desire to explore Istanbul. So this is a combo visit-and-adventure trip! The UAE is probably not someplace I would normally think to vacation, but when opportunity knocks you have to answer! And since none of us have ever been to Turkey but keep hearing incredible things about how beautiful is it, we’re using the opportunity of having traveled such a long distance already to all take an exploration vacation together. (We’re not going until May, but don’t worry, I will certainly be writing about it when the time comes!)

So in honor of taking that travel leap, I thought I’d talk about why travel is so important. To be clear, travel doesn’t have to be defined by a 16 hour flight. Travel could be simply visiting someplace by car, either because you’ve never been there or because you love going there. Travel is leaving home for someplace different, and taking the time to experience things you don’t normally get to experience.

Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone

Sometimes it feels so easy to just stay at home. After a long week or a particularly rigorous project at work, I’m the first to admit that the last thing I want to do is to go somewhere! But sometimes that is exactly the time when you should leave the house. It can be like pushing your restart button, reminding you that there is more to the world than the few-mile radius you typically operate in. (Work, home, grocery store, home, work, gas station, home, etc.) One of our favorite quick-and-easy getaways to relieve ourselves of the hustle and bustle of LA life is to take a night or two in a bed and breakfast in Santa Barbara. It’s less than 2 hours away, but feels like we are far far away from Los Angeles!

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Santa Ynez Valley, just outside of Santa Barbara

There’s Always Something New to Explore

A good friend of mine one, a highly traveled travel-blogger, once told me that the more she travels the bigger the world feels to her. This surprised me! I guess I expected that at some point she might feel like she was running out of places to go, but in fact it is quite the opposite. For everything she sees, there is something more to be seen. It’s a little overwhelming to think about it that way! But what that means to me is that there is always going to be someplace you haven’t been before, so you will never run out of new experiences to have! In today’s web-centric society, the world feels somewhat small. You can look anything up at any time, and connect with people all over the world with just the click of a mouse. It’s easy to forget that in fact the world has a huge surface area, covered from head to toe with places you can explore.

Open Your Eyes to Other Ways of Life

When you visit someplace else, chances are there are people there living life quite differently than you are at home! Even just the difference between living in a big city like Los Angeles and living in a countryside only a few miles away like in the wine country of Santa Ynez Valley can be stark. The difference in lifestyles around the world became abundantly clear to me about a year and a half ago when my husband and I visited Costa Rica. We didn’t want a resort vacation, but rather an exploration of the rainforests and wildlife there. Along the way we became friends with our guide, whose family runs a wildlife reserve and animal rescue center, driven by their passion for the earth and the natural Costa Rican wildlife. We met naturalists all over the country, learning about their passions and love for their country and it’s habitat. We even met a fellow whose home is a make-shift house along a river and who makes a living by crossing people over the river in his canoe. He then puts some of his small income into sea turtle preservation. When we got home from that trip, our perspective on what was important in life and how we are affecting the environment around us changed forever.

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signs about Ricardo’s turtle reserve

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Ricardo invited us in for some coffee and cookies

Traveling Can Bring Friends and Families Together

In the most literal sense, traveling can allow families and friends who live far apart to come together, show their love for each other, tell stories of their experiences apart, and create new experiences together. This is becoming more and more important as our society becomes more national and even global, and we move further and further away from the families that raised us and the friends we grew up with. Between my husband and I, our families live in Arizona, Utah, Maine, Michigan, Western New York, Virginia, Vermont, and even Germany! Additionally, we have friends all over the world, in the US, UK, UAE, Europe… But I look at it more as opportunity. With some smart saving and planning, these are all places we may be able to visit and explore one day, with our friends and families by our sides!

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the view from a hike near my in-laws’ home in Utah

More figuratively, traveling together can create so much opportunity for bonding. My husband and I have bonded over some incredible experiences on our honeymoon in Napa, over a Christmas vacation in Chicago, our adventures in Costa Rica, and the list goes on. Perhaps even a better example is a trip my husband took with his oldest brother a few years back. They spent weeks hiking from the Irish Sea to the North Sea in England, through rain and mud and stampedes of cows, and it was an incredibly special experience they will always share with each other!

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the Coast-to-Coast trail in England

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one of the coasts on the Coast-to-Coast trail in England

In the case of our upcoming Abu Dhabi/Istanbul trip, I’m looking forward to the four of us discovering all sorts of things we have never seen before, and discovering them together!

Ortakoy Mosque looking towards the Bosphorus Bridge, under a cloudy sky.

Is there a trip you have taken that was life changing for you? Or is there a trip you have always wanted to take? I’d love to hear about your adventures!