Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Review of Today, January 26, 2011

Brian and I had a bunch of errands to run today, so I took along the camera and thought I'd provide a play by play.

We started out about noon and decided to walk because it was a beautiful day (high of 78) and we need the exercise. We headed off to the Novotel hotel to inquire about an apartment for one of the Epic employees who is arriving with her cat (we're having a hard time finding temporary housing that will allow pets). Brian had looked up the location using Google Maps, but when we got to the location, it was a Persian restaurant and a different apartment business. We decided to go in an inquire anyway and as expected, found out they don't allow pets. Strike one.

Since we were close, we decided to check our PO box for mail and are now the proud owners of our first piece of UAE junk mail ... a furniture catalog (which actually might just come in handy later.) From here we decided to walk to the bank where Brian was to pick up our checkbook and ATM card. We weren't actually sure how far the walk would be so decided to head in the right direction and grab a cab if it got to be too long. Along the way, we ran across these beautiful buildings ...

I thought maybe they were villas, but as we walked down the street we saw a sign describing this as the Embassy for Ukraine. I was happy I hadn't taken any pictures further along the road as I probably would have been stopped (the embassies don't take kindly to cameras!)

We continued on our route and figured we'd stop if we ran across a Starbuck's. And sure enough, we did!

I have to be subtle when trying to get photos of Emiraties as it's impolite to take their picture without asking permission. For this shot, I was pretending to show Brian a photo on the camera!

Just as I was settling in to my iced mocha, Brian noticed an Etisalat building across the street. This is the phone company and Brian needed to stop by to get his account corrected (yes, I think this would be trip #5 or 6!) The Etisalat we had been going to was on the other side of town, so this was a lucky break to stumble across one on our way to the bank. We headed off.

The phone company was a repeat of the last 100 times we've gone there ... wait, wait, wait. While Brian settled in to wait, he suggested I go to the Abu Dhabi mall to return a power converter we had bought there a few days earlier. I set off. And along the way, I snapped a few photos. They are all a view of the city from one of those over the road pedestrian bridges.
You can get a small sense of the parking from this photo, but what you can't see clearly is that cars will also park right down the middle of this area. As long as you leave enough room for cars to get by on either side, you can park in the middle as well. It gets pretty tight in some places!
This is a view down one of the side streets. The orange & white barriers are for construction, which is everywhere!!
You can't see it too clearly, but straight ahead is the entrance to the Abu Dhabi mall, one of the hundreds of malls in Abu Dhabi. The mall is three stories, so I'm not sure what the rest of the large building behind it is for.
I made it to the mall and to the Abu Dhabi Co-operative, which is like a Super Wal-Mart with a full scale grocery store. They call this a hypermarket and you can find them in the lower basement level of many of the malls. I found the reception and asked to return the adapter, which was still in the original packaging and had the receipt (and we bought it 3 days ago). After about 5 minutes of hemming and hawing and trying to call many others, the manager said, "just 2 minutes madam, let me go check". While waiting, I read the clearly outlined return policy which said I could return items in 'pristine condition, in original packaging and with receipt". After a while, I decided to take a few photos to pass the time.
Grocery stores are pretty much the same all over. No self-checkout lines here, though and the cashiers have nice chairs they get to sit in.
One difference is that most businesses (probably all) display a picture of the President, and this looks like some other high level officials with him. Can you imagine a picture of Obama hanging in Wal-Mart?! :)
The section on the second floor has electronics, appliances, clothes and household goods. The place is huge!
After the 3rd photo, one of the baggers informed me that taking photos is not allowed without permission, but that I could ask the manager (who was helping me with my return) for permission if I wanted. Ooops, guess hypermarts don't like cameras any better than embassies! :)

Eventually the manager came back and informed me that he couldn't give me my money back, but could provide store credit, which I could use for anything in the grocery store. (sigh) I got my voucher and headed upstairs as we needed a USB cable, some adapters and a file folder system. I found the USB right away and had to pay for it at their special check-out counter. I handed over my voucher and was told, "I'm sorry madam, you can't use that here." ... yeah, you can imagine. Apparently, the electronics department is separate from the grocery and my voucher was for the grocery ... gah! So, down to the grocery to find enough stuff to use up my voucher, which I did.

Meanwhile, at Etisalat, Brian was having his own fun. He was told to go to this office and talk to the woman in there. He waited politely outside the door and after the second person walked in front of him into the office, he stepped in too. The issue is that his name isn't the one listed on his account, which we found out by accident when he attempted to change his number from pre-paid to post-paid. He explained the situation to the manager and she said he had to have the person who is listed on the account come down and sign for the change ... the problem is we have no idea who the person listed on the account is. We think it was a mix up at the airport where Brian bought the pre-paid account. Brian explained this to the manager and she said, okay, then we'll just need a copy of that person's passport and a letter from your company explaining that the person is no longer on the account. ... ... ... Brian was eventually able to explain the situation and after signing away his rights to dispute any charges on the pre-paid account, he was able to transfer his phone service. j

When we met up again at the bank and shared our experiences, we both decided taking up yoga or meditation might be a good idea. :)

The bank was a fun trip too as we went from downstairs to get the checkbook to another counter to get the ATM card, upstairs to get the PIN for the ATM card, back downstairs to get information to set up the online account, back upstairs to get a TIN number that goes with the online account ... oh such fun! But at least everyone was very polite and efficient when we got the right person for each step of the process.

After the bank, we took a taxi to the real Novotel (not even close to where Google maps said it was) to inquire about a hotel that will take cats ... no luck! By this time it was almost 3pm and we were starving so we set off back towards the hotel and on the lookout for a place for lunch. After a few blocks we found The Curry House, which had everything from Indian, Chinese, Nepalese and Thai. We had a huge lunch with enough to take home for another lunch or dinner and for only about $18US, which is probably what we would have spent at the Hardee's we passed on the way to this place. That's one nice thing, if you find a 'local' restaurant, you can eat pretty cheaply.

We continued on our way back home and kept a lookout for a typing center, which is the next step in getting Brian a UAE driver's license. The typing center is used to translate your passport and US driver's license into Arabic, which you need to apply for your Emirates ID card, which you then need to show to get your driver's license. It's a tedious process of paperwork, administrative fees and waiting. The good news is we found a typing center pretty close to the hotel and got the next step underway.

Along the way back, I took a few final photos, mostly to prove that there is some green in Abu Dhabi. :)

Whew! I'm tried and my feet are killing me - time to relax and watch some TV. :)


  1. hi there.. I am thinking about moving to abu dhabi and was wondering how walkable it really is.. your post was pretty helpful but for example in order to get to Abu Dhabi Mall is there a pedestrian bridge or did you have to cross streets? Thank you!

  2. Hi Tabry - I would not describe Abu Dhabi as a walkable city although, yes, there was a pedestrian bridge to get to Abu Dhabi Mall and there are several underpasses so you don't have to cross the busy streets. However, there aren't enough of them so you sometimes need to go a block or more out of your way to find a good crossing point. In addition, from May to September it's REALLY HOT so walking a long distance just isn't that feasible. With that said, I do think it's fairly easy to get by without having to drive yourself or own a car as the public bus system and the taxis are clean, reliable and safe. Hope this helps. If you have other questions, feel free to contact me directly at