Score! Our flight from Kuala Lumpur was so empty that we each ended up with a whole row to stretch out across and get as much sleep as possible. This was much appreciated as after our five hour layover at Kuala Lumpur our departure time was 2:10 a.m. local time - two hours behind Sydney so many hours after we had started the day early in Albion Park!
As departure time loomed it dawned on us, and lots of our fellow travellers, that all of the empty rows had our names on them. When an announcement was made that boarding was now complete the sharp witted amongst us immediately moved to occupy a seat in one of the empty rows. There seemed to be an unwritten law that this was enough to stake your claim. No words were spoken. I bolted into a row two down from us and Sandra did the same into the row in front of us. Leaving Tracy abandoned but ninety percent asleep in her seat. She had made a sophisticated calculation about how many hours she had been awake for and had given up all attempts at mobility.
Even though I could stretch out across four seats it was a little hard on the hips! but still a good few hours of sleep were achieved. So good in fact that I even slept right through one delicious in flight meal!
As we knew it would be a very early morning arrival in Abu Dhabi we had let our hotel know when we were arriving and had arranged to have one of our rooms available for us when we arrived sometime around 6:30 a.m. Great idea! After freshening up we decided to explore the garden surrounds and small private beach area along the waterway behind our hotel - we could see birds begging to be identified! We hadn't realised just how hot it was out there, it was only 7:30 a.m.!
It turns out that Ramadan had begun the week before so Tracy and Sandra had to make sure they left their more risque outfits in their bags- and I would be okay as I hadn't packed any Stubbies (or any other version of short shorts!).
Our exit through the door from the air-conditioned lobby to the great outdoors was a little humorous. As we stepped out the wall of heat hit us and our glasses, instantly fogging them up and rendering us momentarily blind. Some expletives were uttered. We powered on, however, towards the carefully raked sands and the unoccupied deckchairs of the small netted beach area. There was much excitement as we spotted a few never-before seen bird species flitting about the tree tops.
Dipping my toes in the edge of the water told me it was a good move not to have brought swimming costumes. "Soup" is the word that comes to mind to describe what it felt like. The same word applied to heavenly blue resort pools that were sprinkled along the foreshores and gardens of our neighbouring palatial resorts.
After spending about half an hour wandering along the pathway there was a shopping/cafe/restaurant mall thingy called The Souk. We had no idea when it opened, or even what time it actually was as we were a bit on the vague side. A door was open so we poked our heads inside thinking it may be possible to get a bite to eat. Wrong! All was very deserted but one man told me that nothing would be open until midday due to Ramadan, a word that would follow us throughout our day. As we strolled back along the pathway it dawned on us that really we needed two things - food, and to get out of he heat in our fragile states!
I enquired about breakfast at the hotel but it was ridiculously expensive. We calculated that we could catch an air-conditioned cab into the main part of the city, about eighteen kilometres away, explore the air-conditioned mall, have a look around and get some lunch for about a third of the cost of the hotel breakfast. Sandra had some meagre but delicious rations of walnuts and licorice bullets to share. Tracy cracked open a small pack of Pringles from the in-room snack options and we had these with a cup of tea. It also dawned on us that we were all quite keen to sleep a little more before heading off into town.
After a rather rapid journey in the taxi over whacky bridges and past many interesting buildings we hit Abu Dhabi Mall where it was seething with action. Typical bling mall shops mixed with Arabian style decor. As we wandered about it became apparent that no food outlets were open, despite the sounds of our grumbling stomachs. We looked for some kind of centre directory and eventually found the words "Food Hall" above one of the lifts. Straight to level 3! I could smell food but couldn't see any food being sold. Along one end of the food hall we could see a row of barricades, above which I could see the signs familiar food brands, you know the ones. As we got closer we could read the writing one these barricades telling us that only children and non-muslims could pass into the deliciousness inside. Phew! Sustenance at last. The signs also warned us that we would be punished if we were seen to be eating outside the barrier!
Also in the mall we eventually found the Co-op. A very large supermarket and everything else shop. It was most amusing to look at the many familiar and unfamiliar options for sale. The locals can apparently contemplate food, just not eat it during the "Holy Month". They did seem to be doing quite a few other things that may or may not be seen to be holy. As we were about to catch a taxi back to the Traders Inn we made a last minute decision to go back into the Co-op for some rations to enjoy with a cuppa (in the privacy of our hotel room so as not to be punished). I sat on some half chairs near the entrance while Tracy and Sandra went back for some Hobnobs. It was almost comfortable. The cushions on the armchairs outside a closed coffee shop had been removed and stacked up inside just in case sitting on them in comfort might lead the devout astray and cause them to partake in some refreshments.
And into the night....
So back at the ranch we enjoyed our refreshments and rested up before again taking on The Souk in search of an evening meal after Iftar (I think that means sunset) when, apparently all devoutness ceases, and the locals hook into some tucker.
We got our calculations a little wrong! We arrived at The Souk around six, hoping for a little more action. Many preparations were being made but still no food until sunset after seven, probably 7:13:36! We were seriously flagging. Could we make it? If we went back to hotel we go hungry. How were we going to make it through to Iftar? What would come first? Death from hunger or death from exhaustion? Back at the burger joint we were allowed in at seven. We could look at the menu, we could even place an order but no food for ten minutes. The burgers were good when they arrived but there was no way we were going to be awake much beyond eight o'clock.