My mom arrived in Abu Dhabi on Sunday so I've been a little busy with preparing for her visit and keeping her entertained. There wasn't anything that interesting to write about picking her up from the airport apart from her plane being 2 hours late because of snow in Amsterdam. I asked her if she brought us any brownies from Amsterdam, but she said that the coffee shop in the airport only had cookies so I'm pretty sure that she didn't get my joke.
The day after she got here, we just took my daughter to the park and walked along the beach walkway. Today, we went on a bus tour of Abu Dhabi with a group called Big Bus Tour. It's a company that has limited itself to five major world cities: London, Hong Kong, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Philadelphia. (All I have to say is that I hope the statue of Rocky is on the Philadelphia tour.) I've been meaning to go on a tour and have been waiting for my mom's visit as an excuse. The system is pretty handy. You pay for the tour fee and there are a few stops. Buses come every half hour and you can hop on hop off. The concept isn't anything new, but it's the first time I've been on a tour like that so it was new to me.
The tour included really uncomfortable headphones and a choice of eight different languages. The language options were listed by flag and at first my mom got mad because she couldn't find the American flag. I was tempted to let her figure it out on her own but suggested she might want to try the British flag. My wife was thinking of coming with us but she had to pick up my daughter from the school bus. In the end, I don't think she would've enjoyed the tour that much because there was no Japanese option. I ended up using my i-pod headphones and my advice to anyone considering one of these tours is to bring your own headphones and bring a pair with a longer cord if you can.
The tour started pretty close to where I live. We got there for the first one so there was me, my mom and one other woman. The first stop was the Grand Mosque, which was what I've been waiting to see. It was pretty amazing and ostentatious. I also found it funny that they made my mom wear an abaya. While we were there, I noticed a Japanese tour group so my wife could've followed behind them to hear about the mosque. Our tour guide was a last minute fill-in for someone who must've not shown up. She was knowledgeable about the mosque. In fact, I think she was a little too knowledgeable because her explanation of the mosque and the leader of the U.A.E. who commissioned the building of the mosque and Islam was about twice as long as she said it would be.
I felt that her explanations were interesting, but a little more thorough than I was looking for at that point. Also, I could see my mom getting a little antsy, so we broke off, wandered a little bit on our own and went to catch the bus for the rest of the tour. We needn't have worried because for the most part, there wasn't anywhere else that we really wanted to get off. The place were either places that I was going to take my mom later, or places that were nice to drive by but nothing special. It was still nice to get a good view of the city and to hear a bit about the history of Abu Dhabi.
At the end we could use our tickets to go up the tower in Marina Mall. We were also entitled to a 20% discount on the coffees that we had to buy to go up there. The view was nice and I was glad that I was able to relax up on top with a coffee, but thought that it was a bit deceptive of the company to promote what an awesome deal the 20% discount was, only to have the cafe tack on a 20% "view charge" along with a 15% gratuity.
Overall, it was pretty good. We have other fun stuff lined up for the rest of her stay that I'll write about later.