After the unpleasant circumstances of my prior blog post, it was nice to meet a friendly face back in DAR. Our hotel, Triniti, was staffed by a pleasant Zambian employee named Xavier. In case you didn’t know, Zambia is one of those African countries that’s adopted English as their native language, so our apologies about our lateness (due to cancelled and rebooked flights) were met with complete understanding and sympathy, without a language barrier in the way. Xavier gave us free water, on the house, and also waived the $5 airport transfer fee to get us back to the DAR airport the next day for our flight to Abu Dhabi. Bottom line – Triniti Airport Hotel, a 5 minute drive from the airport: highly recommended by us.
Being back in the Arab world, if only for 12 hours, was something I’d been looking forward to. In my two years of living in Jordan, I’ve never once been to the Gulf Countries, and I’d always been curious about them. My sole interaction with “Khaleejees” as Jordanians called them, was usually with speeding, honking, black SUVs with stone-faced men driving groups of fully covered women in them. As a Wisconsinite, they reminded us about our friendly jokes about Illinois folks – rich southern neighbors who come north to buy all the good land and can’t drive properly. Haha! Just some good natured ribbing, my dear Illnois friends.
Anyway, Abu Dhabi was….weird. No one spoke Arabic. Almost no one we interacted with, was an Arab. All of our taxi drivers were Pakistani, the grocery store staff were Filipino, and the hotel staff were a Malaysian and a Moroccan, who admitted that he knew a bit of Arabic but of course mostly spoke Berber.
One taxi driver, a handsome young Pakistani with a wry tone named Omer, explained that Abu Dhabi was like Las Vegas for the Arabs. They don’t live here, he said. They’re all in Sydney or in other countries. They come back occasionally to drive their Mercedes, Corvettes, and motorcycles in a country they can treat as their playground. All of us foreigners, he pointed out, just keep the place running for them as they jetset around. He said he’d just arrived in the country three months ago, looking for well paying work – hopefully not as a taxi driver for long; he had several accounting degrees and was just paying the bills while looking for a real job. He said it was too expensive to live anywhere close to Abu Dhabi itself; he had to drive 100 kilometers from a village of 4,000 people every morning – it was all he could afford the rent for.
We donned our Arabic robes, carefully packed away in our suitcases for the past two weeks in anticipation of this moment, and went out on the town, or tried at least. The city seemed basically dead – despite the incredible cool and calm winter weather – almost no one was on the streets but a few joggers and the occasional Arab in a robe walking about, usually on their phones. I tried to speak some Arabic, but was usually met with blank, apologetic stares. There were no restaurants on the street – due to restrictive liquor laws, only hotels had them, and they were mostly closed by 11 or so, even though it was a weekend night.
Our restaurant plans stymied, we ended up at a Carrefour grocery store at 12:50am, with it closing at 1am, frantically searching the aisles for a package of tortellini and some tomato sauce to make in our hotel room, which had a stovetop in it. It wasn’t how we had planned our return to the Arab world – in Abu Dhabi’s defense, we were rushed and had no internet apart from what we looked up in our hotel room ahead of time. Moral of the story – carefully plan your night plans while in Abu Dhabi, otherwise you’ll be glumly eating tortellini out of a pot at 2am.
Things went much better in Paris. Our AirBnB rental was right next to a direct train line to the airport and getting between the two places only took 40 minutes. Our host, Franck, had a lovely, tastefully decorated apartment on the edge of Le Marais, a district so packed with fine dining that we could have stayed there for months and eaten at a new place every night. We drank 5 euro glasses of wine at a lovely little cafe called Le Mesturat for hours, escargot-stuffed mushrooms, and wild boar in a wine reduction. It was heaven and I was very sad that we only had 22 hours in the city. Next time I’m in Paris I will almost certainly be looking for a place in Le Marais again – Franck, if his spare room is available.
Now, we’re on the plane back home – for real, this time. No timestamp changing funny business. In the next couple days/weeks I’ll be sorting my camera photos and updating almost every post I’ve made with fresh, high resolution photos from my actual camera. The smartphone does great for close-ups, but for a safari trip, nothing beats having an optical zoom. For everyone that’s been reading about our two week adventures – Guahari, Deylo, Ma’salaama, and Au Revoir! And thank you for taking an interest!