Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque 1

We had a long weekend last week for the Islamic holiday, Isra wal miraj and we chose to spend it in more laid back Abu Dhabi.

What is a visit to Abu Dhabi without checking out the grand mosque? We’ve visited so many times, taking friends and family visiting us in the UAE. I wrote 13 facts about the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque after we first visited it in 2008. We visited a few times years and years after but what makes it different this time? It will be Benjamin’s first time! I want to see his reaction.


The grand mosque, one of the few in the world open to non-Muslims is about an hour drive from Dubai.

So many things has changed since we last visited a couple of years back when a friend from Japan visited and we played tourist guides, and included Abu Dhabi and of course the never to be missed grand mosque in the itinerary (see that post for pics!). First – there’s already a cafe and an Etihad Modern Art Gallery souvenir shop. We loved hanging out at the cafe, with lots of natural light coming in and great view outside.

But one thing never changed and never will – that if you go visit this religious site with arms and legs exposed (we were in shorts and shirts), you will have to wear the abaya for women and khandura for men. Before it was just a black robe though but now, there’s brown and blue abayas for ladies with attached covering for the head, like a hood. I prefer it this way than the separate cloth for head scarf as it keeps falling off.


Some other change is that people can’t freely roam anywhere they want now. The main square is off limits to visitors when it wasn’t restricted area way back in 2008, 2010.

Processed with VSCO with s2 preset
Processed with VSCO with s2 preset

There’s security guy who sits at the square and wards off people trying to enter the area. Since so many people want to take pics of the beautiful view behind him, he must be in thousands of photos! He is so chill and would just do some sign language to tell people not to proceed further.

gm 1
gm 2

There’s a specific cordoned route for visitors to follow. The place is more crowded on, unsurprisingly, weekends, especially on Fridays that it’s impossible to take photos without someone’s uncle or auntie in the background. Hold your children and never leave them out of your sight, it’s going to be tough finding them through the crowd!

b happy
p and b

So what was Benjamin’s reaction after visiting the grand structure? He said, it’s beautiful and can’t take his eyes off the massive chandeliers inside the mosque. And then? He asked why we were in robes and he wasn’t!

Have you visited the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi? If not, maybe plan it in the near future. It’s definitely a very popular tourist spot with what else but throngs of tourists you can’t avoid but I still believe your trip will be worth it.

World’s first Hyperloop coming soon to the UAE!


I must admit, even with exciting things going on and being built in the UAE’s capital city of Abu Dhabi, the at least 2 hours drive gets to me. There’s a public transport (bus) but not really an option for many people and as of this writing, there is no railway system that connects Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

But who needs the usual railway system when there’s the option of The Hyperloop One!

Today Hyperloop One announced a historic agreement with the Roads and Transport Authority in Dubai to study high-speed routes that reduce travel time between Abu Dhabi and Dubai to 12 minutes. Here’s a video to see it in motion.

The nitty gritty details of the Hyperloop

  • Hyperloop is a proposed method of travel that would transport people at 740mph (1,200km/h) between distant locations.
  • It was unveiled by Elon Musk in 2013, who said it could take passengers the 380 miles (610km) from LA to San Francisco in 30 minutes – half the time it takes a plane.
  • It is essentially a long tube that has had the air removed to create a vacuum.
  • The tube is suspended off the ground to protect against weather and earthquakes.
  • Passengers would sit in either individual or group pods, which would then be accelerated with magnets.
  • Capsules carrying six to eight people would depart every 30 seconds.

The Hyperloop One is a very futuristic transport system that promises BIG – Dubai to Abu Dhabi in 12 minutes instead of 2 hours! I like it! I know that sounds like a scene from a science fiction movie but in this part of the world where the ‘impossible’ is always challenged…you know what will happen next.

When we arrived in the UAE in 2007 and the Dubai Metro was still under construction, we vowed not to leave Dubai until it completes. The Hyperloop One is said to be realized in five years time – I guess we’ll be staying till then?

Where we stayed: Traders Hotel Qaryat Al Beri

lobby 1

We spent a wonderful weekend at Traders Qaryat Al Beri in Abu Dhabi and couldn’t be happier.We’ve never been to the Qaryat Al Beri area before but within minutes of arriving, we’re already pretty sure we would like to be back soon. Just a little over an hour drive from The Dubai Mall on Sheikh Zayed Road, Qaryat Al Beri is a little piece of paradise very close to Dubai.

sunset under maqta bridge

TIP: When you go to the hotel around sunset time, don’t miss to stop when you drive beneath Al Maqta Bridge.

We were lucky to be at the right place and at the right time to witness this beautiful sunset with the silhouette of Sheikh Zayed Grand mosque against the crimson sky.

When I first heard of Traders Hotel, all that was in my mind was that this must be strictly for business hotel. However, internet research showed it is not just for business but for leisure and families as well. The lobby is huge and welcoming and the vibrant, funky colors are proof that this hotel is upbeat and modern – certainly not just for the modest business traveller!

lobby 3

View outside the hotel – you can easily tell this is a resort type hotel.

traders front 1

Traders is managed by Shangri-la and follows all the protocols, service and food quality standards of the Shangri-la brand.


Traders Hotel is located within the Qaryat Al Beri complex and is a 10-minute drive from Abu Dhabi International Airport, five minutes from Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre and 15 minutes from the city centre. It overlooks its own private beach and is directly across the water from the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque (covered by another property but visible as you walk towards the neighbouring property Shangri-la).

Christmas tree on the beach

The beach area out at the back side of the hotel is well kept and the sand is clean. There are lots of sunbeds and other comfortable seating available .

beach side morning


We stayed at interconnecting rooms (perfect for families staying with children) at the Traders Club floor. The Traders Club Superior rooms on the 7th, 8th and 9th floors are sleek and modern, affording guests access to the dedicated Traders Club Lounge and full Traders Club benefits.

room 1

room 2

The rooms are very spacious, with king sized beds which were very comfortable.

The bathroom is large with a monsoon type shower, amenities and a separate bathtub. A hotel with a separate bathtub is always a winner in our book!


We had a sea view room on a top floor with magnificent views from the balcony. One of the first things I check after entering a hotel room is the view outside. I couldn’t complain…

view from balcony 1

TIP: Booking a club floor is such a great value. Guests who stay at any rooms in the club floor get access to the Club Lounge with breakfast, all day tea/coffee, soft drinks and alcohol and nibbles between 6pm and 8pm, and of course, free WiFi and a place to work, overlooking the private beach.


The property was very family friendly, starting with the staff who never fail to make us feel at home, especially our kids. There’s plenty of space to run around and a playground to boot!

playground 2

playground 1

If swimming on the beach is not your bet while staying here, there’s also a pool, which unfortunately small for the size of the hotel. We did not have a problem with the crowd though as not many were keen to swim at the time we went there (around 10am).


But how many would prefer to be in the pool if the beach is so close by?


The hotel is serviced by the all-day dining restaurant Afya that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. The breakfast buffet was good and staff were alert and attentive to everyone’s needs. You can also opt to sit outside for al fresco breakfast while enjoying the lovely sea breeze.


afya 2


Every Friday is barbecue night at the beach with wide spread international buffet, mixed grills of meat and seafood. Shisha also available.

bbq night 2

bbq night 4

What’s great about it, other than the food? There’s a play setup for kids which means quiet dining time for the parents!

bbq night 3

It was quite chilly when we were there so we’re glad there were heaters placed all around the dining area to keep us warm. Strange things happen when you live far too long in desert land – you become sissy with the cold once the temps drop below 20C!

bbq night 5

We enjoyed the lovely dinner under the stars (that sounds so romantic, I know and it was) while the children played in the bouncy castle and in the sand. It is really the loveliest time of the year to be outside.

bbq night 1


great weather

Our stay at Traders Qaryat Al Beri was faultless. Everything from the rooms to the service was ace. Add to that, the property was really a nice getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city – the green surroundings, the soft sound of the lapping waves…it is a breath of fresh air, literally.

walkway to Shangrila

We really liked our early morning walks in the promenade to the Souk/Shangri-la Hotel and back.

walkway to Shangrila 2

water across mosque

Souk Qaryat Al Beri (the souk between Traders Hotel, Shangri-la Residences and Shangri-la Hotel), is a contemporary adaptation of a typical Arabian market, with abras (water taxis) ferrying visitors round the waterside complex via meandering man-made canals.

abra 2

abra 3

The children are thrilled to be in the small motorized boat. We passed through the narrow canal to Traders from the Souk and back again to Shangri-la. Hotel guests can enjoy this service free of charge.

abra 4


If my photos don’t do this place justice, you simply have to go and see for yourself (you won’t regret it). I would have no hesitation recommending this hotel to anyone, whether travelling on business or leisure and highly recommend for families. We had a great time and would love to celebrate family milestones in this hotel or simply a long weekend staycation in the future.

santa surprise

If you’re looking for a high quality class of a hotel and not at 5 star prices, then give this hotel a look. 

sunset from the balcony 2

To learn more about Traders Hotel Qaryat Al Beri and their special offers, check out their main website as well as connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.

We were guests at Traders Hotel Qaryat Al Beri but all opinions are my own.

Where we stayed: Yas Island Rotana, Abu Dhabi

yas island entrance

We had an impromptu trip invite to Abu Dhabi last week to attend the press conference of the “Kids Rule on Yas Island” at Ferrari World. My husband had been out of town so me driving all the way to Abu Dhabi was out of the question. (I never drive past Maktoum bridge – shameful, I know!).

Thankfully, another blogger friend Sheila of AbandMe blog was going so we squeezed into their car for a fun ride to Abu Dhabi!

It’s about 2 hours from where we live and then after Ferrari World, Sheila and I thought, why don’t we just spend the night at Yas Island, the next day is a weekend anyway? I said, why not! But at this short notice, would there be any hotels to accommodate us?

We chose to stay at Yas Island Rotana, right in the neighborhood of Ferrari World because it’s near from the information on their website and according to Google Map. (And it’s true).


Yas Island Rotana Abu Dhabi is just a 10-minute drive from the Abu Dhabi International Airport, and a 20-minute drive from Sheikh Zayed Mosque and Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center.


The check in was fast and smooth, staff were friendly who assisted us with a smile on their face though it was already late. I think it was already 11 pm when we checked in.


I was travelling to Abu Dhabi with two kids in tow and got the other one an extra bed. We got the classic room which was enough for the three of us. If you want more space, you may want to book for other room types. 


The rooms were clean, bed was big and comfortable. We had a pleasant night sleeping here.

room 2

We had some sweet welcome inside our room.


sweets 1


The big pool at the hotel was under maintenance the time we were there. Thankfully, the shaded children’s pool was open.

childrens pool

childrens pool with b and b


Since the hotel is very near to the airport, noise coming in and taking off can be heard from our room. I slept really late and was only bothered for about a few minutes till I dozed off. We had breakfast next morning at Choices all day dining restaurant at the ground floor and the food quality was good and great variety of dishes available. We are particularly happy there’s miso soup!


* The other dining outlets are closed during daytime.

In-room WiFi was complimentary, which was highly appreciated!

The main pool at the hotel was under maintenance, however, the pool at the hotel’s sister property (Centro Yas) was open and accessible for Yas Island Rotana guests as well.

We also had massage at BodyLines Spa and Wellness and one of the best deep tissue massage I had so far. The spa therapists were lovely and very attentive to my requests. If there’s one thing I was not too happy about, it was the lack of relaxing music inside the spa…maybe it’s just me but it’s weird without those healing, soft music in that kind of environment. The staff told me that it was because it’s Ramadan and they are not allowed to play music…

Generally good, standard business hotel in a prime location with good facilities and excellent breakfast. I would recommend this hotel for location, value for money and food – think about it the next time you visit Yas Island and feel too tired to drive back to Dubai.

To learn more about Yas Island Rotana hotel and their special offers, check out their main website as well as connect with them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

We were guests at Yas Island Rotana Abu Dhabi but all opinions are my own. 

Where we stayed: Park Rotana Abu Dhabi

lobby 1

After living in Dubai for more than 8 years, we feel we’d like to explore the other Emirates more and spend some time there on some weekends. We previously explored Fujairah again and had a day trip to Ras Al Khaimah lately. We have found family friendly hotels during our stay. School’s out and it’s summer, Eid is also coming around soon. If you’re not going out of the country like most of the expat population, you might want to check out this hotel we stayed in Abu Dhabi: Park Rotana Abu Dhabi just off Maqta bridge, near Khalifa Park.

The drive took us about two hours from Dubai. The hotel is easily accessible from Dubai (with the help of Google maps) but it’s a bit far from Abu Dhabi city center. The hotel offers shuttle buses to the city center as well as there are plenty of taxis available right from the hotel entrance.

lobby 2

We were assigned at the 7th floor and excited to see the view outside. This is the chic hotel lobby.

hotel lobby

We had interconnecting rooms, perfect for families with children so there’s more space. Family rooms at Park Rotana features two rooms: one with king size bed and the other, with twin beds.

king size bed room

It is ideal for families or friends and could sleep up to 4 people. The rooms were clean, spacious and nicely decorated.

twin bed room

Look at this sweet welcome not just for me but for the kids too!

welcome sweets

It was the first day of Ramadan when we arrived at the hotel. We had our first Iftar at Ginger Restaurant, the hotel’s all day dining restaurant. I’m not only impressed by the variety of the dishes available (mostly Arabic, though) but also the taste. After indulging in so many iftar buffets in the past, I found that the more I dine ‘buffet style’, the harder it is to please my palates. Confession: I easily get bored or had become sensitive to bland food. But to be honest, the food we had here did not disappoint. Kebabs and Arabic mixed grill was really tasty.

iftar june 18

This was the view from our room. This is part of Khalifa Park, if it had not been too hot, we would have loved to go out and explore this very huge park with the kids.

khalifa park

After a good night’s sleep, (the bed was nice!), we look forward to breakfast. As I’ve said,  it has been difficult for me to appreciate buffet food because most of them are either too common or just don’t have anything special. These are just some of the food at the breakfast buffet. I think it could cater to anyone’s breakfast needs.

breakfast collage


Coopers Bar is open from 9pm during Ramadan while the Italian fare Teatro is closed till Eid holidays. Ginger all day dining restaurant is open all throughout the holy month.


The green space between Park Rotana and Park Arjaan by Rotana was wonderful with pool , lounges, a tennis court and mini playground for kids.

green spaces 2

green spaces 1

The best part of our staycation was definitely the pool! 


pool 2

There is a small shallow children’s pool which had shade so it’s perfect for the little ones!

childrens pool


  • Only 20 minutes drive to the airport so it’s convenient for travelers.
  • Very close to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque (a must see when you’re in Abu Dhabi!)
  • There is a shuttle to take you to the grand mosque
  • has Bodylines fitness and wellness club. The gym is very well equipped!
  • In-room WiFi is not free but according to their website and other reviews online, the hotel is regularly reviewing competitor’s services and assure that their rates for wireless internet is very competitive.
  • The bathroom has no tub. It wasn’t an issue for us as we really don’t have time to soak in the tub and spend most of our time in the outdoor pool
  • 20 minutes drive to Yas Island (Ferrari World, Marina Circuit, Yas Waterworld, Yas Mall, Yas Beach)

It was a very pleasant staycation and I would highly recommend this hotel for families who want something different, a drive out of Dubai. We had a very chill time and the children really enjoyed the pool. Staff were very polite and very attentive to guests. I think this hotel can be a great staycation hotel in Abu Dhabi for this coming summer!

To learn more about Park Rotana Abu Dhabi hotel and their special offers, check out their main website as well as connect with them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

We were guests at Park Rotana Abu Dhabi but all opinions are my own.

Team SCA in the Volvo Ocean Race in Abu Dhabi

abu dhabi foggy

Have you heard of the Volvo Ocean Race? I know I’ve heard of it before but never took notice – I am not into sailing, although very much love the water (beach, ocean, seas, whatever as long as it is not rough..). The UAE, having coastal cities is hosting one of the stops for this prestigious race in the capital city of Abu Dhabi.

The route of this race: started in Alicante, Spain to Cape Town, South Africa on to Abu Dhabi, UAE, to Sanya, China to Itajai, Brazil next to Newport, USA to Lisbon, Portugal to Lorient, France then to The Hague, The Netherlands and finishes at Gothenburg in Sweden.


What makes the Volvo Ocean Race unique this time that has caught my attention?

This time, there is an all female team to compete in a sailing race around the world – a first, since 2002!Team SCA with 11 crew members and 1 on board reporter is participating in this very tough and challenging race to sail around the world!

team sca boat 2

SCA, a leading global hygience and forest products company based in Sweden is supporting an all female team in the 2014-2015 Volvo Ocean Race to build greater awareness of the company and its leading global brands TENA and Tork, and regional brands, such as Libero, Libresse, Lotus, Nosotras, Saba, Tempo and Vinda.

SCA is supporting a female team since globally more than 80 percent of SCA’s consumers are women.

Furthermore SCA supports women’s freedom to participate fully in society – socially, educationally and professionally – across the world by giving them access to and education about hygiene products and solutions. Through its participation, SCA also makes it possible for women to participate in an arena normally reserved for men.

team sca boat 1

At the Abu Dhabi Racing Village, I got to know what’s life (and challenges) on board: sleepless nights, surviving on freeze dried food, no flowing water for shower for weeks, not seeing land for a long time and sometimes (maybe most of the time?) the rough and unforgiving seas.

I can only imagine.

We get to try what the crew eat on board. Freeze dried food is quite a challenge to eat all the time – someone on board said, the minute they dock, all they could think of was food. And after tasting what they eat on board, I could understand why! Also, I get to try out their waterproof gear as well. Someone helped me putting this on but on board, everyone gets on their business by themselves and as fast as possible.

waterproof gear

I may be smiling here but it was a real struggle to put this on, especially in the neck and wrist area where it’s made of really hard rubber that’s made to be snug fit so water can’t get in your body.


Head on to the Abu Dhabi Racing Village near the Marina break water to check out the participating teams as well as lots of entertainment for the whole family. Each participating team has a pavilion that provides information and entertainment to guests. There’s this cool “Take your selfie with the team” at the Team SCA Pavilion and I did take a selfie…of course you can recognize me in this pic?

sca selfie

I am not sure what’s my role here, it looks like I am just sitting and doing nothing but I am sure in real life, this is a very important crew on board! You can also see that the boat is tilted to one side which the crew said, is the case most of the time!


~ Me and other bloggers and photographers (from left to right: @ialbeshari, Travel Junkie Diary, Eugenia Applebum and her husband, @kripty) ~

Photo credit: Jessica Pepper Peterson

Team SCA invited a me and other bloggers from Dubai to see check out the racing village in Abu Dhabi and meet the amazing women sailors. We went out to sea in a small motorboat to find the Team SCA boat who set out to train. I was excited we’d have a chance to get on the boat while it’s out at sea but unfortunately, we were not able to see them as it was foggy and we were pretty far from the shore already. We were only able to get on the boat and see what’s inside and talk to the crew when they came back to dock in the afternoon.

The Racing Village in Abu Dhabi is only open until 3rd January 2015. After then, the whole venue packs up as the boats leave for Sanyang, China for the next leg of the race. Many thanks to Team SCA for hosting us in Abu Dhabi!

You can learn more and be inspired by Team SCA by checking out the following social media platforms:

A day at Yas Waterworld, Abu Dhabi

Yas Waterworld Abu Dhabi

We finally got around to visiting Yas Waterworld in Abu Dhabi last weekend! We love water parks but this latest one in the UAE is far from us. It’s in another emirate and about two hours drive from where we live.

With 43 rides and experiences, it’s hard to get round them all. Others will probably opt to try the most extreme first, while we first dipped our feet to the cool waters of the artificial beach, the most tame among the attractions there.

Yas Waterworld Abu Dhabi

Most of the rides are for those with height of 110cm and above so Benjamin wasn’t able to join in. But he had so much fun anyway, just hanging around Amwaj – a cool place that looks like a beach, without the sand but with waves!

The water play section for kids won’t fail to entertain the water bugs!

Yas Waterworld Abu Dhabi

The ride with the huge funnel called the Dawwama was closed for maintenance so we were not able to try it out. To be honest, I was happy it was not available otherwise, I would have lost excuses with my thrill-seeking daughter.

Yas Waterworld Abu Dhabi

My favorite ride was Sebag as it is a combination of fear and delight. It’s only a few seconds of your life which could either be your best or your worst. LOL! It’s unique because you lie belly down on a special rubber mat with handles to hold on to and then slide down with super speed. You can race with your friends who gets to the finish line at the bottom. Super fun!

We also got into that suspended roller coaster called Bandit Bomber – a one of a kind ride that  will keep you hanging on the Middle East’s longest suspended roller coaster for 550 metres!

Another one we experienced was the Slither Alley. The name says it all, it has sharp snake-like turns (some in pitch dark – my absolute fear!) that’s very exciting. You either go on your own floaters or a team of two.  Pristine and I went together and she almost lost her voice when we landed in the pool below!

Yas Waterworld Abu Dhabi

We survived one day in Yas Waterworld in August (when some people highly discourage it as it is still so hot). It was pretty manageable we just needed to be in the water always and in the shade as much as we can.


When you get there, don’t miss this big bucket challenge at the children’s area!

TIPS {a few hopefully helpful tips based on our experience}

1. From now until maybe the end of October (or when you decide midday is still hot), it may be better to arrive at the park at around 4 pm when the breeze is cooler and the sun’s rays are tamer. The park closes at 8pm so even if you arrive at 4 in the afternoon, you still have time to enjoy. Otherwise, prepare to get really tanned and with the humidity still high, it is tough especially for younger kids.

It might even be wiser to wear sun protective swim wear than regular swim wear, at least for the younger kids (although I wore my UV Skinz too!).

Yas Waterworld Abu Dhabi

2. Lockers and towels are to be rented so either prepare cash for it or bring your own towels.

3. Buy the Premium tickets (can also be called “fast track” tickets) if you can. Premium ticket holders have a separate queue and it’s generally quicker as there’s virtually no one in the queue (at least when we were there). Otherwise, be prepared to wait for up to an hour on popular rides especially on the weekends!

4. You may already know this but bringing outside food is not allowed inside the park. Security at the entrance strictly checks all the bags. There are food outlets inside if you get hungry of course.

5. Be prepared to climb to several flights of stairs for most rides. It is exhausting but that’s what makes the rides so thrilling as the drop is from so high!

Yas Waterworld Abu Dhabi

We recommend this part as a great day out for families! If you’re in the living in the UAE, do not miss it!

Tickets cost Dhs240 (regular), Dhs440 (premium), Dhs195 for children under 1.1m tall. Kids under the age of three go free. For more information about other ticket options, visit

St. Regis Abu Dhabi

Where we stayed: St. Regis Abu Dhabi

St. Regis Abu Dhabi

It’s summer time in the UAE. While it’s also known as “exodus time” among stay-at-home moms and kids, some stay behind and schedule staycations within the country. Hotel rates and promotions are best during this time so we checked out hotels within driving distance from Dubai.

First up: Abu Dhabi

My family and I stayed at the St. Regis, Abu Dhabi hotel for one night with their Arabian Summer Escape promotion and very impressed with the overall feel of the hotel. If I could describe the hotel in one short phrase, it would be: “luxury in every inch” or “every inch is a luxury”. See that above photo and tell me if I’m wrong.

The check-in was fast and smooth, the staff were charming, friendly, out-of-the-box helpful and very professional. They went out of their way to ensure that we had a memorable stay, even called me by my name! My children had the impression that mom was a very important person! LOL

We were given the sea view superior room with twin beds on the 35th floor overlooking the city and can see the beautiful shoreline and turquoise beach.

St. Regis Abu Dhabi

At St. Regis, they only say “twin” to mean two beds but the beds were queen sized, perfect for our family of 4.

St. Regis Abu Dhabi

The room was very spacious even with the two beds and we certainly felt that ‘newness’ of the hotel – clean all over, fluffy carpets and just that general new and clean feel.

St. Regis Abu Dhabi

THIS. Marble walls and floor, this bathroom makes you feel like royalty.  We also love that the shower and bath tub is separate. That must be one of my biggest hotel pet peeves.

Breakfast at Rhodes 44

Breakfast at St. Regis Abu Dhabi is served at the ground floor restaurant Rhodes 44 – the hotel’s all-day dining venue that offers reinventions of classic British and European dishes, complemented by Arabic influences by chef, restaurateur, celebrity and author Gary Rhodes. Don’t you just love to wake up to these perky colors?

chairs at breakfast Rhodes 44

Breakfast has a great selection of breads, gluten-free muffins!, salads, Arabic mezzehs, Indian food (my son refused to eat anything than rice and butter chicken!), the usual toast, pork section with bacon and cold cuts, baked beans, cheeses, fresh juices, yoghurts.

Rhodes 44

We love the hotel too much we didn’t want to leave and go back to reality. However, I wished the pool and the beach weren’t that far. St. Regis Abu Dhabi is basically a “city hotel”, while the beach is walking distance, it is across the road and they made a very good job of building an underpass (I wouldn’t call it a “tunnel”) which is beautifully adorned with marble flooring and walls and with aircon. The pool and the beach club is reached by this  air-conditioned corridor beneath the main road, allowing for very easy and cool access from the hotel. It’s too hot at this time of the year in the UAE and going to the pool in the heat and then going back to the hotel through the cold tunnel was a bit uncomfortable. Maybe it’s best to cover the kids with a big towel before walking back into the hotel after swimming.

pool 2

One of the best hotels we have stayed at, The St Regis is a fantastic city getaway for the family. The kids club is one of the best of its kind with excellent staff to care for the kids. Our kids had a lovely time in their cozy Treasure Island Kids Club near the pool.

kids club at St. Regis Abu Dhabi

One of the highlights of this staycation is the Spa – Remède Spa had fantastic facilities, ample supply of towels, very clean area and the staff very helpful and friendly. I had a customized 60 minute massage that felt only 5 minutes. Then I knew the reason – I was unconscious for 55 minutes. Duh. What a lovely treat!

dinner at Rhodes 44

The hotel certainly lives up to the St. Regis brand of luxury and class from the spacious rooms, impeccable service, ample amenities, great food and uncompromising luxury.  Very family friendly too! We thoroughly enjoyed our stay from start to finish. A winner in our book.

It is also very interesting to note that in St. Regis Abu Dhabi, you don’t need to stay in a suite to be able to use the butler service. The white gloved butler is one phone call away and services include luggage packing and unpacking (which could be fantastic to others but we didn’t use)! 

The Arabian Summer Escape at St. Regis Abu Dhabi Hotel details:

  • Superior Sea view Room
  • 60 minute customised massage for two at Remède Spa
  • Breakfast at Rhodes 44
  • Daily group activity at Nation Riviera Beach Club
  • Late check out until 4 pm

Stay two nights or more for AED 860 a night! You can find other exclusive offers here.

We were guests at St. Regis Abu Dhabi however, all thoughts and opinions are my own. For more information about the hotel, please visit their website. You can find other photos I posted in social media in my Instagram account, @sandierpastures with hashtag #StRegisADventures.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Playing tourists in Abu Dhabi

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

We toured Dubai for a day, now it’s time to head to the next Emirate of Abu Dhabi!

Our first stop was Yas Marina Circuit and it was eerily quiet. We asked if we could get inside and the security at the gates said yes. We can see the sprawling wide Ferrari World roof at a distance but other than a few gardeners tending the green spaces, no one was there because there was no event.

We were lucky enough to catch a corporate racing event at Yas Marina Circuit. I don’t know anything about racing…except that boy, it makes so much noise!


There were only a handful of cars, less than 10. What happens during the grand F1 race (happens once a year)?

It was very hot that day in Abu Dhabi too, with temperatures swelling up to 37C. Our friend was amazed how lucky we are to be blessed with this kind of weather most of the year – yeah I almost forgot about that. How lucky we are to hang our wet laundry in the morning and get it in dry at midday. 

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque looked majestic against the perfect summer sky. The incredible Sheikh Zayed Mosque or Grand Mosque as it is also known, was named after the UAE’s former ruler and President – Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan whose body was also buried at the grounds in 2004. It was Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan’s dream to build a grand mosque meters above sea and street level in order for it be seen from miles afar.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

We’ve been to the Grand Mosque a couple of times before – this is a staple tourist spot that won’t disappoint but I think this is the first time we visited when it’s summer. It’s so hot outside you would want to run and seek cover inside an airconditioned room.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Did I mention, the mosque really looked beautiful against the sky that day? I wish I took more photos.

If it was beautiful outside, wait till you see what’s inside. This snowy white mosque – conceived by Sheikh Zayed himself – can accommodate up to 40,000 worshippers and is architecturally impressive inside and out.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Taking design cues from Morocco, Turkey and even India’s Taj Mahal, the interior is a made-to-impress mix of marble, gold, semi-precious stones, crystals and ceramics. The mosque also houses the world’s largest Persian carpet with seven massive gold-plated crystal chandeliers dangling above the domes.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

The large Persian carpet was made in Iran by 1200 female weavers working in 3 shifts over 2 years, the mammoth carpet measures 60,500 sq ft and weighs 47 tons.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

I love how the photos turned out so well (for my standard, at least!). I’ve attempted to get these angles since the first time we visited but with the lack of proper camera, I wasn’t able to. See the red cords? I am surprised they have blocked off the center part of the mosque. There were no restricted spaces and tourist trail when we visited a few years ago.

Other side of the mosque and my favorite blue chandelier.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Blue chandelier

The other changes include the abaya counter being more organized now and located at a different venue, at the basement of Building B. Also, you now need to present and leave an identification card when borrowing an abaya (women need to wear an abaya to get inside the mosque).  I left my wallet in the car so I did not have any ID with me.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Building B is at the farther side from the entrance, it’s a long walk.

I dreaded the idea of going back to the car but my ever reliable husband was luckily carrying my driver’s license! It as a coincidence that we had the car serviced the day before and he removed the important stuff there like my driver’s license and forgot to put it back. Otherwise, I could not bear think of walking through that hot and humid basement and to the car park in that heat!

p and me at grand mosque

You have no idea how fast we ran towards the shade the moment the camera clicked!

The Sheikh Zayed Mosque is open to non-Muslims everyday except Friday. Entry is free. Please note to dress conservatively when visiting Sheikh Zayed Mosque. Women should wear lose clothing, either long trousers or skirt and cover their hair with a scarf (this can also be provided when arriving at Mosque). Men should avoid wearing shorts. No shoes permitted in the building. No intimate behavior is permitted i.e. holding hands even if you’re a married couple.

Being a tourist is all about feelings of novelty and awe – it gave us a renewed appreciation of the place we live in. Have you played tourists in your own city lately?

Top photo credit

Camels in the wild!

Camels in Abu Dhabi

It’s been a long while since I last saw and got near a camel so my brother brought me this photo.

I’ve always been fascinated by camels. These are creatures I only saw in my story books as a child so when we first came to Dubai in 2007, I took a lot of camel photos: during our first close encounter with these humped animals, camels in Ras Al Khaimah, camels at the Camel Racing tracks, and in so many other camel meetings.

My brother works in a camp in Abu Dhabi, in the middle of nowhere. There’s nothing there but sand, more sand, seemingly unending roads and THESE.