Where We’re From: Safia, Abu Dhabi

“I’m freezing.” My first thoughts after stepping outside the airport a year ago. Following that, never before have I experienced such perfect weather in the months following the cold and the months leading up to the scorching heat. This time of year is idyllic. The ocean’s blues and greens make a perfect backdrop for the dolphins that you spot while jet skiing. The dramatic sunsets frame the minarets and create gold sparkles on the windows it illuminates. You open the windows to your house ignoring the dust just to hear the birds, just to feel the soft breeze.

It’s taken about a year to explore the heart and soul of Abu Dhabi. I get around by helicopter, my own car and taxi. I love to fly over the dunes, drive myself to the multitude of spas in the city and taxi it whenever the night turns into a long one, like the night of the Formula 1 or when Chris Tucker was in town.

Abu Dhabi. I certainly would never have dreamed it would have been the most perfect temperature I have ever experienced in my life in the months of March, April and May. I’m from the Caribbean so I love the warmth. In June it starts to heat up again and by mid-July, it’s scorching. You learn very quickly what you can and cannot do from July till mid-September. The malls are a welcome distraction from the 50 degree Celsius temperatures outside their doors. Dubai, which is only an hour’s drive, welcomes you with the Dubai Mall and Mall of the Emirates (which boasts a ski slope to cool you down). Abu Dhabi’s shopping centres are smaller but I prefer them as they are less crowed but still offer most of the same stores as Dubai.

As it starts to cool down in October, the fun begins in the desert. Camping in the sand is a must. During the day, you drive up sand dunes some hundreds of feet high and explore the boundaries of your off-road vehicle. Many tour companies offer camel rides and belly dancing. If you are of the more adventurous type, try skydiving in Dubai or drive your very own Formula 1 car at the race track on Yas Island. When I’m not clamouring for adrenaline, I go go-karting and shooting at the Al Forsan Sports centre, which also offers wake boarding and paint balling.

One of the most unique and memorable experiences I have had is strolling the grounds and the inside of the Blue Mosque. A friend of mine describes it as her happy place. It is so utterly peaceful and the architecture is stunning. You do not have to be of the Muslim faith to appreciate the tranquility. Another one of my favourite places is a hotel in the Liwa Desert called Qasr Al Sarab. It really is like being in your own castle in the middle of the desert surrounded by stunning red sand dunes. My fiancé proposed to me here as it is truly breathtaking.

Abu Dhabi and its surrounding Emirates offer cuisine from around the globe as many nationalities reside here. From the high end to the delicious street corner food you will never be hungry. When I moved here a year ago, I was warned not to accumulate the dreaded ‘Abu Dhabi ten’, meaning the extra ten pounds everyone seems to put on during the first year of residency, perhaps being helped along by the brunches offered every Friday which start at 11 and go on well into the evening.

Abu Dhabi is truly a beautiful place, steeped in tradition and blossoming into a modern skyline, always seeming to keep the balance. From hearing the hauntingly beautiful call to prayer to hiring a yacht to sail the Palm Island, there is always something for the young, old, adventurous or homebody to appreciate.

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