UAE & India (4/10) – Feasting Like Camel Nomads

UAE & India 2015

  1. Make Tomorrow Today, Please
  2. Hello Tomorrow
  3. Top of the World
  4. Feasting Like Camel Nomads
  5. Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
  6. Saadiyat Rhymes with India
  7. Fifty Shades of Brown
  8. Yes They Do!
  9. The End Is A New Beginning
  10. UAE & India Extras


When the second jet-lagged morning hit, Hong turned to the tourism booklet in the hotel room and found these two words: “camel” “museum”.  After watching a camel race on TV, we headed out in that direction.

But first, we stopped by the trusted breakfast place: McArabia.

Aside from appreciating Xuan’s excitement about the Arabian hash brown, note that there’s a halloumi muffin.  Here’s how I ordered it: “I’d like a halloumi muffin please.  And, what is halloumi?”

The Camel Museum turned out to be part of the Heritage and Diving Villages, an Epcot-grade collection of traditional buildings by the tip of Dubai Creek.  We walked a few hundred meters here at 7am and our bodies were already cooked to medium rare.  I’m not gonna pretend that the Camel Museum (or its adjacent Horse Museum) were any match to the Met, but I am grateful for having something to see before the sun turned on its full power, and having an opportunity to check out these (even if unauthentic) traditional buildings.


We returned to the hotel, and for the second time enjoyed its breakfast buffet.  Unless my memory was seriously failing me, this was the best hotel breakfast I had had in nearly two decades.  I’m so glad that we opted to pay the $40 per night room upgrade, which gave us more space, view of Burj Khalifa, and this awesome breakfast for the whole family.

After the meal, Cynthia arranged a van to take our family – along with Cynthia, Aaron, Elyse, Os, Sierra, and Matt – to Abu Dhabi.

Party van!

Consider myself having seen Burj Al Arab in person…

Abu Dhabi is Dubai’s richer, more modest, and lesser famed big brother.  When we studied the two cities prior to the trip, it seemed like not many items of interest could warrant the extra trip.  Whether you are into the luxury hotel, the shopping, or the skyscrapers, Dubai has a more awesome version.  But one place caught our attention – Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.  We fell in love with its pictures on Google Images, and decided to split our three-day UAE itinerary between the two cities.

The two cities are awfully close – roughly the distance between San Jose and Napa.  The trip was as what you would expect in a desert country – a lot of sand, and nothing else.  Less than two hours later, we got dropped off at our second home of the week – Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi.

Entrance sign

The grand staircase, which cars drove around to get to the hotel entrance.  I was possibly the only non-staff person to have set foot on these nice stairs the whole week.

View from the top of the stairs.

The main entrance driveway.  Excuse me, the porte cochere, as I should probably sound cultured to be fitting of such a classy hotel.

One of the water features in the lobby.

A chandelier in the room.

After a much needed nap, we headed downtown in response to an invitation from Dr. J’s friend Abey.  His street address was simply “World Trade Center Abu Dhabi”.  Holy moly.  That’s the tallest and one of the most recognizable buildings in the city!  Who is this guy???

Not gonna lie and say it wasn’t awkward to ring a complete stranger’s door bell, but we were glad to have met Abey and his super friendly family.  We aspire to be great hosts like them.  We had a good chat and the kids banged some toys together before the rest of the crew showed up.  We had a great time over Hendrick’s.

View from Abey’s living room.  Visibility wasn’t the best at the moment, but you get the idea of how it towered over the city.  Right on the other side of the window is Trust Tower, World Trade Center’s (much) shorter sibling with an otherwise identical design.

Abey suggested two dinner options – Middle Eastern food and a beer garden.  The decision was unanimous to go with what seemed more local.

Then we arrived at Saudi Cuisine VIP, a Bedouin restaurant in a neighborhood of seemingly fantastic food options.  A quick Google search will tell you that it’s one of UAE’s first restaurants to serve authentic Emirati cuisine.


The interior made us feel like we were back at the Camel Museum.  If we ignored the A/C and didn’t think too hard, we could pretend that it was where 16th century nomads would have hung out.  And I mean that in a good way – any more authenticity would’ve meant dining in 100-degrees heat in the desert, something I would rather not do.


We got a private room, eh sorry, corner of the mud-brick building, and sat on the floor.  I was too busy enjoying the ambiance to read the menu, and trusted our host to hook us up with the most delicious food.  And certainly, this turned out to be the best meal we had on this entire trip.


After some soup, salad, and a haleem-like dish, the mains were all meat-and-rice dishes served family village style on large plates.  We had fish, chicken, and lamb.  The lamb was out of this world.

The fish-and-rice plate was as large as a restaurant-grade wok.

Nomads apparently didn’t bother filleting or dicing their fish.  Each piece on this rice dish was either the front or rear half of an entire fish.  Here’s Os enjoying the fish head.

What I ate at Saudi Cuisine VIP likely accounted for more than half of my total food intake since Saturday.   I was tempted to pack all the leftovers to go, but our Park Hyatt room didn’t have a fridge 🙁


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