I came into Abu Dhabi on the 13 hour flight from Washington, DC. It’s a new service and they’re advertising it everywhere around town. In the airport they have a real lounge, not just the contracted one they use in JFK.
I touched down at 8pm and caught up quickly at baggage claim, sitting down and hammering out email replies and seeing what changed in the world overnight while I was eating Indian food and sleeping on my lie-flat Etihad bed.
Outside I took a car to the Aloft hotel, which I had booked for the night—or technically, the next 9 hours. In the early morning I’d be back out again, having failed at my attempt to change the ticket to allow for a day’s stopover before hitting up Istanbul.
No matter. There’s always time to sleep, but not always time to live.
Thirty minutes later I rolled up to the Aloft hotel and checked in. One more hour of real work in the room before heading up to the rooftop bar—the hottest place in town on Thursday nights, I was told.
Fortunately or not, this was Tuesday. It wasn’t empty but it wasn’t packed. I ordered a drink and looked out at the world. Abu Dhabi! Here it is.
I remember coming to the United Arab Emirates for the first time way back in 2007. At the time I was just beginning the quest to go everywhere, and UAE was an initial training ground. I rented a car and drove to every emirate—six or seven, I believe.
This time the only driving is in the taxi to and from the airport.
I was drained from DC, worn out from “extrovert mode” after speaking to 600 people. This is how it always is. It’s always worth it but it’s often hard to recover.
So I escape. I leave for a few days to get back to the work I’ve committed. And here I am, back in a place that is simultaneously strange and familiar.
I finally go to bed at 1am and wake up at 4. I lie in bed for a while, resting but unable to sleep. I hear the call to prayer. Sometime between 5:30 and 6 the sun rises in an instant. There is no preamble, just darkness, a brief moment of haze, then sunlight. Good morning, Abu Dhabi.
An hour later I’m in a taxi heading back to the airport and on to Istanbul. There are no new countries for me anymore, but there are always new adventures. Welcome to a new day.