Thursday, November 15: We have our Big Bus Tour drop us off at Abu Dhabi Heritage Village, which is supposed to give a glimpse of Abu Dhabi in its pre-oil days. A sign at the entrance says “(Closed) ON Tursday – Islamic new year holiday,” which we first take to mean TUESDAY, since the door is open and people are milling about.
However, it becomes apparent as we wander around that in fact it is closed today, THURSDAY, as all the exhibits are closed. This doesn’t stop people from making their way past the police barricades into the village. The village boasts a re-creation of a souq (closed), a traditional mosque (closed) and a Bedouin encampment with goat-hair tents and a barasti house (closed). The place is also supposed to have craftsmen making pots, blowing glass, and weaving on a traditional loom, but of course all these artisans are absent today. There is also a museum on site, but needless to say, we can’t visit that either.
We do wander down to the beach in the village, where we see some traditional boats. An Emirati boy on a jet ski is showing off and spraying water on some Chinese girls standing on the beach, to their obvious delight. Across the water, we can see the modern skyline of Abu Dhabi. Of course, modernity is what Abu Dhabi is all about these days, and it’s really hard to find much of tradition here.
Yes, the Heritage Village is closed today, but it actually looks quite shabby and we are under-impressed. I don’t think it would have made any difference if it had been open. I tell my friend Tony that we can see more of tradition, and the real thing (not a tourist trap like this) in Oman.
Abu Dhabiis the largest and wealthiest of the emirates. It makes up nearly 87% of the UAE’s total area. In 1966, soon after oil was discovered here in 1958, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan took over from his brother who had ruled Abu Dhabi since 1928. A visionary diplomat, he used the oil revenue to build up the infrastructure in Abu Dhabi and the other emirates, gaining respect and great influence. He helped create the UAE in 1971 and became its first president. When he died in 2004, his eldest son, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahyan, became ruler of Abu Dhabi and president of UAE. The country’s oil wealth is predicted to run out sometime after 2100.
We leave the Village and wander past the marina, where we see some nice boats but not the super yachts I have heard about. We have asked a number of people where these super yachts are, but we are never able to find them.
Then we go into the sprawling Marina Mall and I have to say I’m disappointed. Everyone has told me there is great shopping in Abu Dhabi, but I don’t see any stores different than what I have found in Muscat City Center. The mall in fact doesn’t look that much different inside than Muscat City Center.
We have another day here tomorrow, but I have no idea what we will do except go to see Emirates Palace and go on a desert safari in the late afternoon. I’m afraid we’ve done most of what there is to do in this city in one day.