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Saturday, April 15, 2017

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Spent a low-key first day in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates, mostly recovering from jet lag, becoming acclimated to the heat, learning our way around the Corniche district of the city that we are staying for three days, and learning what is available to eat and drink! Among other things, this Persian Gulf city is noted for its modern and dramatic architecture, a glimpse of which can be seen from our hotel, the Majlis Grand Mecure Residence. 

Finding un-exotic things to eat and drink would, unfortunately, be about the easiest thing to do here, as this city is rife with American chain restaurants like KFC, Pizza Hut, McDonalds, Wendy's, and even Denny's! These sorts of places might be popular with ex-pats living or working here, Westerners visiting from places in the region without such amenities (e.g., most of Africa), or even non-Americans, but they are the last things were are interested in when traveling abroad. Not much was open during the day when we wanted to get lunch, so we walked over the the Abu Dhabi Mall and found a shawarma place in the food court and had a decent meal there. 

Then, in the evening, we walked around for about an hour before deciding on a place called Lazeez, one of the many Indian restaurants that can be found in the city and which cater to the large South Asian workforce living here. 

At Lazeez we had what seemed like some very authentic lamb biryani, and some sort of grilled chicken skewers that came on their own little smoking charcoal brazier, along with traditional sides and sauces. 

It is, in any event, very hot during the day and, consequently, quiet on the streets throughout the afternoon, with very few people walking or even driving around, giving the city almost the demeanor of a ghost town. Once sundown hits, however, people come out in droves to sit outside, lick soccer balls, and go shopping, restaurants open up, and the streets are crowded with vehicles, all until about 11 p.m., when activity begins to taper off and then pretty much ends by midnight. 

A few random perceptions and bits of trivia follow: 

* "Gents" is the term of choice used to refer to men in signage (e.g., on restroom doors, hotel prayer rooms). 

* Many toilets have two, side-by-side buttons for flushing them, sometimes in slightly different sizes, but both of which appear to function identically. I have no idea why. 

* Alcohol cannot readily be found, as U.A.E. is a Muslim nation, but is available at some places, primarily at hotel restaurants and bars. Some non-hotel restaurants do make big play of their "mocktails," but for those of us in the mood for an actual drink the "mock" part of that word feels all to personal. 

* "Cafeteria" is a word used in the names of many of the more casual eating establishments in the city. 

* Many non-hotel restaurants have separate sections for men, unaccompanied women, families, and couples (e.g., in the Indian restaurant we ate at men were seated on the ground floor, women and children were on the second floor, and we were seated on the second floor in a private booth separated from the rest of the area by a curtain). 

Abu Dhabi is pretty green for a desert city, and has more than 2,000 parks, gardens, and green spaces of various sorts! 

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