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travel + culture

on the road and what's out there.


out of office : i found Chicistan (it's in Abu Dhabi)

Caitlin Surakitbanharn

in July, Jao and i set off to Europe for two conferences and by the luck of the Irish (i've got some irish blood in my veins so we'll just go with that!), we got the opportunity along the way to have some pretty glamorous lay-overs and meet up with some friends.

our flight out of Japan was on Etihad Airways (most amazing airline ever, FYI), with a 48 hour stop over in Abu Dhabi.  yes, we got to have a layover in the complaints here.

OK so Abu Dhabi is the capital emirate of the UAE and omg it's so GLAM you guys.  the UAE is LITERALLY Chicistan, and Abu Dhabi is the capital.  we had interesting timing...we were there in July during Ramadan, the Muslim Holy Month, and since the UAE is a Muslim state....everyone was fasting during the day and overall the city was pretty quiet.  but at night...the "breaking of the fast meal" which is Iftar, was INCREDIBLE....and seriously you guys.  it's the most glam place EVER.

upon arriving at literally 4 am, we got our rental car and headed to our hotel to rest and then first up... visiting the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.  and we were blown away....

it was so peaceful, so exquisite, so beautiful and so ornate.  the inner area, shown above, is all Swarovski crystal and beautiful mother of pearl inlays and gold and on and on.  it's just stunning.  however i will let it be known that damn, it was hot.  it was about 116 degrees when we were there and those pants, long sleeve shirt, sweater, and head scarf were....pretty intense.

however, we were able to get some pretty cool insight from our guide for the tour.  she was a gorgeous Emirati woman, and she was explaining the traditional Muslim dress for women, called the Abaya (the black dress/head dress that is commonly thought).  she explained that for her, as a Muslim woman, she wears that because she wants to only appear beautiful to the people she chooses.  in her home, with her friends, and with her husband or boyfriend (in private of course), she wears normal clothes like everyone else and loves to dress up and look beautiful, but when she's in public, although dressed up and beautiful underneath, she wears her abaya because she doesn't want people she doesn't know to look at her and have lust or desire.  i thought it was so cool to hear that and actually, pretty amazing.  Muslim women are often depicted in the media as being totally oppressed, and i know that some are, but it was SO COOL to hear from a woman that for most Islamic women, it's a very personal choice.

photo credit: Front Row Mode, instagram

and what i found the coolest...was that these women are SERIOUSLY glamorous.  underneath those abayas...we're talking Tom Ford python pencil skirts and 160 mm Louboutins and some of those abayas...are CUSTOM MADE Chanel and Dior.  so uhhh...i don't think "oppressed" would be the right word for these ladies, i'd say more like...AMAZING.

anyways, that kind of ornate design was common all over Abu Dhabi, and our Iftar meals were equally as elaborate.

Iftar dinner at Jumeirah Towers

Emirates Palace Hotel

we finished our visit to Abu Dhabi off with a visit to...Ferrari World!  they have the fastest and longest roller coaster in the world and was pretty intense. that's all i can really say about it.  but it was fun nonetheless!

so the reason i say it's totally Chicistan...i mean omg the service, you guys.  during our first day there, i spent about two hours laying out at the EXTREMELY glamorous pool at our hotel (Viceroy), and while i laid there in the scorching 117 degree heat, about every 20 minutes or so, a pool boy would pass by, bringing me a fresh glass of lemon iced water, a freezing cold towel to cool my face, a fresh glass of watermelon and mint juice, favorite...a cucumber, mint and lemon smoothie.  all for free, no charge...just bringing it over to cool me off and keep me comfortable.  I MEAN...DAMN.  it was the most glamorous "lay out in the sun" experience i've ever had.

and everyone was just so nice.  the men had such gracious and polite manners, the women were kind and beautiful and amazingly cool, the shopping was insanely high-end and glamorous, and every person...from the valet guy to the security guards to the waiters and waitresses...everyone was next level nice.  it was so refreshing!

no doubt...the UAE IS Chicistan.  i've finally found it.