The reasons for this trend are primarily twofold: they either have to carry on with the work in these months, or simply cannot afford a holiday abroad.
But for those who do stay back, whatever the reason, Abu Dhabi has a lot to offer.
“This is my first summer in Abu Dhabi,” admits Helen Russel, an expatriate, while cooling off in the swimming pool of one of the hotels here. She recently quit her job as a public relations manager in Dubai to join a similar position in Abu Dhabi, which implies she is not entitled to her annual leave until next year. “I never thought I’ll say this, but I’m starting to miss the cool, grey and rainy Manchester, my hometown,” she quips.
But for many like Russel, there is lot to look forward to here in the capital – the malls, the hotel resorts, the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA), the Emirates Heritage Club or the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage, that offer a wide range of entertainment.
“I am fairly new to Abu Dhabi and I do not know the city that well, so I normally just go to the beach in the weekends, usually to Hiltonia or the Intercontinental,” says Russel. She has also tried out the newly-opened Lulu Island. “The island is very beautiful and peaceful and it’ll become even better when fully completed. The problem is you have to rely on buses for transportation, which are not very regular, so you can’t explore the island easily,” explains Russel.
The three-minute journey to Lulu Island starts from the Emirates Heritage Club, on the breakwater. The boat trips are free, but entrance to the island costs Dh15 per person and another Dh5 for bus rides or train tours. There is a forest of palm trees, two artificial lakes, horse and camel rides, and a cafe (several more cafes are planned).
In fact, island hopping is one of the favourite activities among residents here. According to ADTA officials, there are more then 200 islands along the coast off the emirate, although only a few are opened for visitors. Those wishing to visit these islands or to stop over for a day or even overnight, can either arrange a sea trip through one of the major hotel-resorts here or simply rent a boat from an independent company. Most of these companies also offer diving and fishing trips.
Grazyna Rygiel is lucky enough to have her own boat. She is a real estate investor who has been living in Abu Dhabi for a few years. Almost every Friday she takes Al Minzah, her boat, and a few friends for a picnic in the sea. “We usually go to the Al Bahraini Island. I have two umbrellas and a small plastic table that we fix on the edge of the sea coast and we sit in the water all day, eating, chatting and swimming. Some people say it’s too hot to spend a whole day outdoors, but the water keeps us cool,” says Grazyna.
Al Bahraini is, in fact, one of the most popular islands near Abu Dhabi. Every Friday, after the prayers, locals and expatriates alike come here to enjoy an afternoon out. They put up tents, make barbecues and some bring their own water jets. “It’s a lot of fun just to watch them enjoying themselves,” points out Grazyna. When she doesn’t spend the day on the beach, she joins her friends sailing, fishing or even in diving trips.
Mohammed Al Abbas likes his feet firm on the ground. “I grew up in the desert, so I’m not much of a sea person, although I like to sit by the sea,” explains Mohammed, who works for a travel agency. Whenever he gets the chance, Mohammed likes to go camping in the desert, although his family prefers to stay in the city.
“Last Friday I took my wife and my children to the Heritage Village. The kids simply love it there, although not much is going on in the Village during the summer months. The festivals, with the local music and dancing, will not start until after Ramadan, but they keep open some shops, where they make and sell traditional items like daggers, carpets, ceramics and perfumes,” says Mohammed.
When the weather is not too hot and humid, he likes to sit with his family or friends at one of the cafes along the seaside on the breakwater, enjoying a shisha, a Turkish coffee and the corniche view on the other side of the water.
Malls, though, are the most popular day out destinations, not just for Abu Dhabi residents, but also for the tourists. Marina and Abu Dhabi malls are the most preferred ones, not only because they have a large variety of shops and cafes, but also because of their cinema theatres.
“Every Thursday we have a women-only outing and we go either to Marina Mall or Abu Dhabi Mall to watch a movie,” says Embalm, who last Friday went to see the latest Harry Potter movie with her friends. “Before the movie, we indulge in window-shopping for a while. Afterwards, we have some food in one of the cafes,” reveals Ekbal.
Like most mall addicts, she loves the combined experience of shopping, dining and entertainment.
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