10 a.m. and the temperature was nudging 28 °C (82.5 °F); the prediction maximum was 36 °C (97 °F) by lunchtime. Thankfully, the humidity in Abu Dhabi is always low so it’s much more pleasant than places like Singapore, where you start to sweat as soon as you leave the air-conditioned hotel.
The first thing you notice about Abu Dhabi is the cloudless sky and the blazing sunshine. The lack of clouds means there’s very little chance of rain. In fact, the locals can’t even recall when it last rained in the city.
When we left Ireland in late March for our first adventure in two years, it was still quite cold and wet, so the hot and dry weather in Abu Dhabi was definitely a welcome change.
Abu Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates and of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. The city itself is still expanding and it has an estimated population of 1.5 million, 80% of which are expatriates from countries like Nepal, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, the UK, France and Italy.
The city itself is very accessible, and you can reach most of the tourist sites by taxi at a very reasonable price. Besides the grandeur of the Presidential Palace (Qasr Al Watan) and the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, there’s also the desert, which is a must if you’ve never visited one before. Besides, you don’t have to travel too far out of town to get there.
Emerging from the pandemic, finding a good tour operator can be a challenge. Many tour operators are either closed or have scaled back their operations.
But with a bit of perseverance, we were able to make an online booking for an Evening Desert Tour with Desert Rose Tours. Within the hour, we received an email confirmation and instructions to be at the front of the hotel at 3 p.m.
After a quick detour to collect a young German couple, we were finally on our way. The Toyota Land Cruiser for the tour seated six, including the driver, and it was kitted out with a reassuring safety roll cage and a powerful V8 engine under the bonnet to tackle the soft desert dunes.