My husband and I spent the holiday at the amazing JW Marriott Marquis in Dubai. Yes, Dubai…the site of the horrific fire last night. More on that in a moment. We made our reservations six months ago and everything was perfect. Our evening began with photos in the lobby and dinner at the Tong Thai restaurant in the hotel. The set menu, served family style, included five different appetizers, soup, sorbet, six main course dishes, and dessert. Apparently since I stay at Marriott properties a lot, the staff knew my birthday was in just a few days and surprised me with cake and a song. So much food…and this was only the beginning of the evening.
Afterwards we headed to the Vault on the 72nd floor. We had reserved our table, looking onto the Burj Khalifa. To my surprise we were table #1, and had the very best view of the Dubai skyline. On one side we could see all the way into the dessert on the outer limits of Dubia; on the other, we could see the beach and the Burj Arabia.
Unfortunately, this also meant that we were witness to the terrible fire that engulfed The Address, a luxury hotel and apartment building attached to the Dubai Mall and near the Burj Khalifa. At first, we thought the flames shooting up the side of the building was a video, but quickly realized they were real. Everyone in the Vault stood at the windows helpless, watching the flames engulf the building. All only prayed that everyone makes it out safely.
As of this afternoon, the fire was out; only 16 minor injuries were reported. One person did suffer a heart attack and there has been no word on his/her condition. This is stunning given how fast the fire spread and knowing that the hotel, all 63 floors, was booked solid, and their bars and lounges on the top floors would have been packed.
What a start to the new year. One we will not soon forget. So Happy New Year to you all and here’s to all the joys and adventures of 2016.
One of the biggest adjustments to living in Abu Dhabi has been that the leaves don’t change; a visual reminder that the holidays are approaching. The temperature has dropped from the 110+F to a more comfortable low 90s, but it is mid November and all the vegetation is still green. For me, November is time for Thanksgiving (yes, I’m American) and the site of holiday decorations in the stores. But in Abu Dhabi this is the time to go outside and enjoy the pleasant weather. Restaurants have set out their outdoor seating and the beaches are crowed. I’m not complaining…I spent last weekend on a paddle board exploring the Eastern Mangrove region. (That’s me in the pink top.)
But not to fear…the holiday season, complete with Christmas blend Starbucks coffee and mall decorations, is fully present in Abu Dhabi.
My husband and I stopped in the local Ace Hardware store last week and I immediately turned into a giggly 5-year old girl upon seeing the huge Christmas trees and rows and rows of holidays decorations. Everything one could possibly want to add holiday cheer to the home. It was all there…lights, wreaths, life size Santas, tree toppers. I couldn’t resist and added a small tree and this lovely book to our cart.
All the malls add traditional holiday decorations to their stores, but the ones nearest the expat areas really show their holiday spirit. The Abu Dhabi Mall, shown below, features a three story Christmas tree and Winter Village, complete with a jolly old British Santa. Photos with Santa are free and come with candy! I love watching families of all faiths and nationalities que (line up) to have a moment with Santa.
This year, we are staying in the area for the holidays. We have made reservations at the JW Marriot Marquis in Dubai and will spend a few days there to ring in the new year. We have reservations at the “Vault” on the 72nd floor for New Years Eve. Our table looks onto the Burj Khalifa which will be the site for a huge fireworks display at midnight.
So although the leaves don’t change and layers of clothing are not required, the holiday season is certainly present in Abu Dhabi!