It's been a crazy week for Doug as he found himself still working for NYU but in a totally different capacity as CIO (Chief Information Officer) for the Abu Dhabi campus. He's been in on all kinds of briefings to bring him up to speed on the situation here, and because he still works closely with the NYU folks in NYC, he's been on conference calls late at night to accomodate the 8, soon to be 9, hour time zone difference. On Thursday a meet-and-greet was scheduled, and he met his new staff of 50 or more. It was a good week but a frenzied one, so he was more than ready for his first weekend, which in this Muslim part of the world runs Friday-Saturday.
During the past few years in Hoboken we've gotten into the habit of going out to brunch at least once during the weekend. It's our time to sit and relax together after the work week and get caught up. Thus it seemed perfectly natural yesterday to decide to go out to brunch, and not just any brunch, but a really nice one to celebrate our first week here.
I've learned that some countries aren't really into brunch. It's not even in their vocabulary, so I was happy to discover a long list of "best brunches" in TimeOut Abu Dhabi (yes, there is a TImeOut Abu Dhabi!).
Years ago Doug had been to the Beach Rotana Hotel, just a short cab ride away from here, and because it had a highly-rated brunch, we chose that as our first destination. We knew it would be a splurge, but this was a special occasion. Reservations were a little tricky because there is a real smoking culture here, and non-smoking seating is hard to come by.
We had several hours free in the morning, so we headed off to Sama Tower to pick up my new NYU ID card, something I will need to get into that building a week from now when we move in, assuming everything goes as scheduled.
Sama Tower - temporary home to the NYU Abu Dhabi administrative offices; some lecture and meeting spaces; and faculty, administrative & student housing
We decided to check out a little mall nearby Sama because we'd heard it had a co-op market and another grocery store which around her are called HyperMarkets. This name just tickles my funny bone as I imagine all these shoppers jazzed up on caffeine, frantically dashing around the market, tossing items into their carts. This was not the case - all was very civilized. The co-op and hypermarket (Lulu's) turned out to be quite adequate, and there were a variety of other shops in the mall as well. So far, so good.
Next we decided to walk over to the Central Souk. "Souq" (pronounced "suke" as in "fluke" or "cuke") is Arabic for "marketplace" and originally they were in the open air under tents, sort of like flea markets or farmers markets. Every manner of goods are sold from produce and meats and fish, to clothing and jewelry and persian rugs. Now in many of the souks the vendors are set up indoors, out of the sun and in the comfort of A/C.
So we wandered the several blocks to the Central Souk. And we wandered....... and it finally sunk in why I see so few pedestrians. "Why don't people walk around here?" I groused to Doug several times this past week. When I'd ask how to get somewhere, even if it was a relatively short distance away by NYC standards, I was told to get a cab. When I'd blithely reply that, "no thanks, I'll just walk" I'd be treated to a look of astonishment. But as we wandered around town looking for the Central Souk, I felt light-headed as the sun beat down on me, and even though I was drinking constantly from a bottle of water, I found it hard to breathe.
We finally did find the Souk, but although the doors were open and some coffee shops had customers, it was clear that there were no vendors, at least not at that hour on a Friday morning. So we decided to return another day and headed home. By cab.
We showered off the morning, changed clothes, and took a cab the Beach Rotana. And OMG, talk about over-the-top! This hotel has 11 (eleven!) restaurants in it. Several of them are clumped in a central area, so the Friday brunch has buffets set up all around this area with food from these different restaurants. We were seated in the Benihana area, but we were free to go to the buffets for all the restaurants. I have never, ever seen such a variety of food: all manner of appetizers, main dishes and desserts. The cuisines ranged from Arabian to Italian to German to French to Japanese to Greek to American (a turkey carving station complete with gravy and cranberries, and the turkey was SO juicy). It was overwhelming.
Since we were celebrating, we ordered a bottle of champagne (sadly, no mimosas). We went back several times, taking tiny portions so we could try the different cuisines. As we ate we watched the Benihana chef entertain some children with his knife-wielding, spatula-flipping skills. The children were entranced, and one young boy announced to his amused mother, "That's what I want to do when I grow up!".
As we finished up with dessert, Doug and I noted the wide variety of peoples and dress around us. There were the obvioius Westerners and Europeans wearing clothes that ranged from cringe-worthy tacky to very tasteful and classy, and then there were people wearing what I assume was their traditional dress: all manner and colors of robes, and very different styles of head coverings. I assume these people were from surrounding Arab countries and probably Africa as well. It was fascinating.
When we finally got home in the late afternoon, I was utterly exhausted and fell sound asleep on the sofa. I almost never take a nap, but I could not keep my eyes open. When I awoke it was dark, and I thought, "Great! Now I'll never fall asleep tonight', but when I got up I still felt completely and utterly groggy, so I changed into my nightgown and crawled in bed and once again fell sound asleep. I woke at 1:00 and then fell back asleep till I woke this Saturday morning at 6:00 feeling refreshed.
I am sure it was partly the food and the champagne, but mostly I think it was the 3 weeks of craziness finally catching up with me. I think my body simply said, "STOP!" and I had no choice but to sleep and sleep and sleep.
It's a new day, it's the start of our second week, and I think I am finally on Abu Dhabi time.