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U.A.E (Abu Dhabi/Dubai)

Dubai creek abra boat passengers afternoon ride

UAE 2010 (once again) Day 1: Flying to Dubai, shopping, Burj Khalifa at night

Date: 12th November 2010

On Monday the 8th of November, 2010, I got a bunch of missed calls as I was preparing to head to office. When I finally did speak to the person, it turned out it was someone from VH1 India informing me that I had been shortlisted as finalist in their Linkin Park Ticket to Ride Contest!

But before that, she had a bunch of questions to ask: “Do you have a valid passport?,” “Can you fly at short notice?” and then asked around 9 questions about the band itself. After answering most of the questions, said she had to speak to the others and that she would call back in some time.

After the call, the only thought that came to my mind was: “HO-LY SHiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiitttttttttttttttttttttt!!!!!!!!!!!!! All the 60-plus times I took part in the contest on Vh1 India’s Facebook page paid off!” I eagerly awaited the return call and 5 minutes later, it came.

She told me I was selected as the final winner because I answered the most questions!

Jeff Gerstmann Woohoo fistpump

She told me I could take a guest too and so I chose my elder brother Nithin, who had never been to UAE. She also told me she would send me details on tickets, where we would be staying and how we would be going to the venue. First, we weren’t going to staying in Abu Dhabi, where the Yas Marina Circuit is located. Instead, we would be in Dubai.

Hey, I wasn’t going to complain. From there, on the day of the race, we would get picked and dropped via taxi. Cool, works for us!

After we hung up, I couldn’t hold my excitement and fist-pumped “Yes!”. This was the first time in life I actually won something big! Anyway, I headed to office and also prepared to get our visa arranged (we still had to do that ourselves).

For our Dubai visa, we approached DVPC by VFS Global, the exclusive service for all Emirates flights. We rushed all our documents to their office on Cunningham road on Tuesday afternoon and hoped we could get our visas by Thursday, since our flight was on Friday early morning.

Long story short, we managed to get our 96-hour/4 day visit visa (costs Rs. 3000 per person) processed by then.

On the dawn of Friday 12th, December 2010, we were in our Emirates flight from Bangalore to Dubai.

Star lit sky night from Emirates plane
It was a very star-lit night sky
Emirates breakfast India to Dubai flight
Early breakfast was pretty decent

We landed in Dubai at 7am.

Dubai airport tarmac terminal 4 construction
As if three terminals weren't enough
Dubai airport Emirates planes arriving in morning
We rode on the tarmac for nearly 5 minutes before finally stopping

We descended into one of those airport buses to get to the terminal. That ride took another 5 minutes — and my god was it cold inside that bus! It was mobile freezing chamber!

We finally got into Terminal 3 and made our way to immigration.

Dubai airport inside terminal 3 arrivalsI was a bit worried about visa because we didn’t get any official copy prior to our departure since everything was so ‘last minute’. But it was in our ticket and we faced no issues at immigration.

Dubai airport inside arrivals interiorsDubai airport inside terminal 3 walkalatorOnce out, we hailed a taxi and headed to Deira where our hotel was located.

We were put up at Fortune Hotel. We had breakfast and checked into one of our rooms (we got two individual rooms). First thing I did after stepping out was call up my parents and then inform my friends in Dubai that I had arrived. We didn’t rest for much because we only had one day to roam around Dubai.

We briefly caught up with my good friend Azhad, walked around Deira a bit and then made our way to the creek.

Dubai creek abra boat passengers afternoon ride

Dubai creek abra station Deira afternoon rideDubai creek trade boat afternoon skyDubai creek abra boat afternoon sky

Dubai creek trading ship
Though not the main port anymore, trade still goes through these waters daily

Dubai creek view afternoon Rolex towersDubai creek Bur Dubai mosque afternoon

Dubai creek Bur Dubai abra dockDubai creek Bur Dubai abra dock afternoonDubai creek Bur Dubai mosque abra speedThe abra ride costs just AED1 is one of the must-dos when in Dubai, be it in daytime or at night.

Once in Bur Dubai, I showed my brother the souq.

Dubai creek Bur Dubai market souq afternoonDubai creek Bur Dubai market souq entranceI’ve covered the souq a lot more in my trip from April. We went around a bit, bought some chocolates and made our way towards the Bur Dubai bus station.

Plaza cinema theater Bur Dubai
One of the oldest theaters in Dubai

We were in Bur Dubai to meet my friend Jassim, who had invited me and my brother over to his house for lunch.

He picked us up in his Mitsubishi Pajero.

Dubai inside Jassim's Mitsubishi Pajero

Dubai inside Mitsubishi Pajero dashboard interiors
With a mileage like that, it's a good thing petrol is cheap in UAE

Once at home, we were treated some fantastic mutton biriyani Jassim’s mother-in-law prepared. It was brilliant! Oh, there was chicken too. Equally delicious.

Dubai Jassim family
Our gracious hosts (the adults i.e., the kids didn't care much for our presence)

After an extremely satisfying (and heavy) lunch, Jassim offered to drive us to our next destination.

Dubai Jassim driving PajeroDubai construction progressingDubai Al Riyadh street overpass

Dubai Raffles pyramid hotel
Dubai skyscrapers buildings skyline shadow
Never tire of this sight

Dubai building for sale

Dubai festival city building
We were on our way to Festival City

Festival City was the only major mall I didn’t visit the first time I came to Dubai, back in April.  Also, the mall houses Dubai’s IKEA store.

Dubai Festival City parking Pajero vs Hummer
The Pajero faces off with the soon-to-be-extinct Hummer
Dubai Festival City Jamie Oliver Italian restaurant
Popular British chef Jamie Oliver is opening a restaurant here

Festival City is another mixed-use development, comprising of a mall (of course), residential apartments, offices and even a marina.

Dubai Festival City marina panorama
(Panorama comprised of 6 shots)

Dubai festival city marina yachts

Dubai Festival City Intercontinental Hotel
Dubai Festival City water canal
A water canal offering boat rides as well
Dubai Festival City water boat rides
Plenty of eateries by the water canal too

Once inside, the store offerings weren’t that different from any other major mall in Dubai.

Dubai Festival City mall water wires panorama
This was pretty cool though
Dubai Festival City water wires long
Water trickles down these wires and makes a sound when it touches the ground

Dubai Festival City mall storesDubai Festival City floors

Dubai Festival City Ikea store
Why we came to Festival City mall--IKEA (There is no IKEA store in India, yet)
Dubai Festival City lit up trees
After nearly an hour inside, we were done with our shopping

Jassim quickly took us around to show us some more unique ‘water fountains’ inside Festival City.

Dubai Festival City water fountain streaming

Dubai Festival City water fountain structure
But this big one takes the cake
Dubai Festival City unique water fountain closeup
That's a thin stream of water flowing all the way down

Dubai Festvial city inside eventsWe were running late and Jassim had to head back home. So after quick stop at an electronics store, we headed back to the car parking.

Dubai Festvial City Lacoste Paris galleryDubai Festvial City at night moonDubai Festvial City Intercontinental Hotel nightDubai Festvial City water canal at night

Dubai roads driving night
Next stop, Dubai Mall
Dubai clock tower roundabout at night
Dubai's old landmark
Driving on Sheikh Zayed road at night
Sheikh Zayed road, where all of Dubai's new landmarks are
Dubai Pajero sky roof open
Sky roof open...
Dubai Jassim driving Pajero night
... volume up!

Jassim dropped us off at Dubai Mall and we said our goodbyes.

Dubai Mall entrance NithinWe had booked our entry to Burj Khalifa’s At The Top for 8pm. But we quickly went around the mall before that.

Dubai Mall aquarium world record
First we passed by Dubai Aquarium
Dubai Aquarium Guinness world record plaque
The Guinness Record for the World's Largest Acrylic Panel

Dubai Mall Aquarium world fishes diverDubai Mall Aquarium ceiling decorationMy brother wasn’t really interested in going inside the aquarium. So we continued up.

Dubai Mall Christmas decorations

Dubai Mall Denon LG showrooms
My brother instead wanted to check out home theater systems

He was tempted to pick a unit which cost half of what it costs back in India. But given the size of the entire package (and fearing customs,) he dropped the idea.

Dubai Mall digital runway screens
Funky runways huh?

When it was time, we made our way to the At The Top counter in the basement.

Dubai Mall Burj Khalifa model At The TopDubai Mall At The Top experience NithinMy brother isn’t staring at a white screen, watch this video for what you really see.

Dubai Mall At The Top observation deck which floor
I didn't get it the right the last time but this time I vowed to point to where exactly the observation deck on Burj Khalifa is

Once we reached the top via the fastest elevator in the world, I switched to video:

This is the view at night in photos.

Burj Khalifa At The Top view at night Dubai

Dubai Mall from top at night
Dubai Mall's roof goes green at night

Burj Khalifa At The Top view highways

The Address hotel Dubai at night
The Address hotel
Burj Khalifa At The Top view financial centre at night Dubai
Dubai's Financial Centre

Dubai Financial Centre buildings at nightBurj Khalifa At The Top observation deck at nightDubai labour camps at night

Sheikh Zayed road offices at night
Drive up further you reach Dubai Marina
Burj Khalifa At The Top observation telescopes
You can use these to get a simulation of how the same view looks in daylight

Dubai Sheikh Zayed road flyover intersectionDowntown Dubai The Address residences at nightAfter 30 minutes on top, we made our way back down.

Burj Khalifa elevator floors fastOnce down, we walked past the other displays as you make your exit.

Burj Khalifa ground displaysBurj Khalifa vision inspiration peopleBurj Khalifa ground video displays

Burj Khalifa escalator downBurj Khalifa exit walkalatorThis was the second time for me ‘At the Top,’ a more detailed description of the experience can be viewed here.

Once out, the Dubai fountains were on show.

Dubai Mall fountain show at night
The shows are every half an hour
Dubai Mall Christmas tree decorations
Islamic country, but they still deck a heck lot of lights for Christmas

Burj Khalifa in the dark Dubai
The tallest X'mas 'tree' in the world

We took the shuttle bus from Dubai Mall to the metro station. Even though we were tired and sleepy, we still decided to quickly check out Mall of the Emirates — four stops from Dubai Mall.

Mall of Emirates shopping mall nightWe were here mostly to check out the Virgin Megastore. Last time I was here, I spent quite a bit on video games. This time, we just picked up some blu-rays, a music CD… and then some more video games.

Mall of Emirates Ralph Lauren storeBy the time we were done with everything, it was 10:30pm. We had to get back, have dinner and then figure out how we were going to pack all our IKEA goods.

Dinner was shawarmas, which though better than the stuff you get in India, wasn’t as good as the ones I grew up eating in Bahrain. The Egyptian joint we picked it up stuffed it with french fries and wrapped it in kuboos instead of Lebanese bread. These were the kind of shawarmas pretty much everywhere. I don’t know, they were inferior in my opinion.

After dinner, I roamed around a bit in search of empty carton boxes big enough to hold our IKEA purchases but despite asking just about every cold store in our vicinity, the best I got were water bottle boxes. I came back with one but realized it was grossly insufficient.

Next morning, I had to call up my friend Azhad for help.

Next post in this series:

UAE 2010 (once again) Day 2 – Ferrari World, Abu Dhabi F1 and Linkin Park concert

Abu Dhabi F1 Yas Marina circuit Ferrari McLaren Red bull race cars

UAE 2010 (once again) Day 2 – Ferrari World, Abu Dhabi F1 and Linkin Park concert

Date: 13th November 2010

If you are wondering “Errr…. where’s Day 1?,” well, I wanted to push this one out because it contains a large chunk of why I was in  Dubai and Abu Dhabi for a second time this year. Long story short, I won a contest on VH1 to fly all the way to Abu Dhabi during F1 weekend to watch Linkin Park, one of my favourite bands, live in concert.

All the details of how I got here will be in the Day 1 post. [EDIT: Day 1 is now live]

Since we had shopped a bit yesterday, we had to spend the morning trying to find a carton to fit all of our IKEA shopping. We met up with my friend Azhad who took us to a cargo shop to find us a large box. After we bought one, we made our way back and then headed out for lunch.

For lunch, Azhad took us to a Syrian restaurant in Al Rigga.

Aroos Damascus restaurant Al Rigga Deira Dubai
This was the restaurant
Aroos Damascus Syrian restaurant Al Rigga Deira shawarma
And that is a LOT of meat
Aroos Damascus tables outside Syrian restaurant Al Rigga Deira Dubai
Azhad and my brother Nithin at the table to the left

As fans of Arabian cuisine, we ordered a few items unaware of just how much food was coming our way.

Syrian Arab lentil soup dal
First up: Lentil soup (dal)
Aroos Damscus restaurant Al Rigga Deira starters Dubai
Then, salad and a diamond shaped bread
Fattoush salad Arab restaurant Dubai
Next, fattoush salad
Arab restaurant kuboos bread Deira Dubai
With healthy supply of kuboos (Arabian bread)
Arab restaurant fresh fruit juice kiwi
Then our juices (the green one's Kiwi fruit; it's what I ordered)
Arab restaurant hummus mutton
After that, our hummus with mutton kheema & grated almonds
Aroos Damascus restaurant Deira grilled chicken
...and finally, the 'main course' -- one full grilled chicken

By the time our ‘main course’ arrived, my hunger was already taken care of. All I could think of was ‘how the hell we were going to finish that bird!’.

And just as we began to dig into it, I get a call. It was our taxi driver, for our pick up. We had to tell him to wait at least 15 minutes as we were having lunch… and that we had an entire chicken to go through.

Sadly, even 10 minutes in, we knew it was hopeless. We would have needed at least an hour of slow eating to finish all the food that was on our table. Or according to Azhad, we needed our friend Jassim.

The bill came to around Rs. 1200, very reasonable considering what we ordered was enough to feed 4 to 5 people. After we paid up, we quickly made our way back to our hotel where our taxi was waiting for us.

Now, we were expecting a taxi. We weren’t really expecting this:

Lincoln towncar black Dubai
This was our ride

Lincoln Towncar limo interiors
Not bad. Not bad at all.

We dashed off to Abu Dhabi via Sheikh Zayed Road.

Sheikh Zayed Road tunnel lights inside car

Sheikh Zayed Road tunnel light from inside carSheikh Zayed road from inside car

Emirates towers building from car
The Emirates twin towers
Sheikh Zayed road metro station
This is what Dubai's metro stations look like
Sheikh Zayed road small building contruction
Construction activity has slowed down...
Sheikh Zayed Road Gloria hotel rooms for rent
... because there is still plenty of over-supply
Sheikh Zayed Road offices for lease
Still no takers

Sheikh Zayed road empty buildingThe real estate scene hasn’t seen much improvement since the last time I was here.

Sheikh Zayed Road leaving Dubai

Burj Al Arab from inside car
Burj Al Arab in the distance

Sheikh Zayed road Dubai Marina skyscrapersWe drove past the impressive Dubai Marina and entered Jebel Ali zone.

Sheikh zayed road Ibn Battuta Mall
Seen at Ibn Battuta Mall

Sheikh Zayed road Jebel Ali offices Jafza view 19 twin towers

Dubai Hummer stretch limo rent
Okay, so our limo wasn't as pimp as this one...
Sheikh Zayed road radio tower
Not a whole lot to see on Sheikh Zayed road...
Sheikh Zayed road vehicles
... besides cars

Sheikh Zayed Road is one heck of a highway. For one, it’s really straight. So it’s filled with a lot of speeding cars. And despite being extremely wide, and UAE’s strict code on the way you drive — accidents are still common.

We lay witness to one one this trip.

A Toyota Yaris lost control, swerved right across two lanes, rams into a Mercedes convertible, and dangerously reverses back on to the highway. Everybody brakes. Fortunately we were slightly far behind and the Yaris did eventually come to a stand still.

Sheikh Zayed road accident Mercedes
The Merc that got rammed into
Sheikh Zayed road accident Toyota Yaris crashed
Dunno how he lost control

The police car quickly made its way towards the accident site…

Sheikh Zayed road accident truck overturn
...from *another* accident it was tending to

So yeah, just because you have awesome roads, don’t assume its accidents-free.

An hour-long drive later, we were in Abu Dhabi.

Getting to Ferrari World Abu Dhabi by taxi

IKEA Abu Dhabi near Yas Island Ferrari World
Damn you IKEA! Here too?!
Ferrari World La Rossa roller coaster
La Rossa -- the fastest roller coaster ride in the world, part of Ferrari World

We actually asked our driver to drop us at Ferrari World because we had time and didn’t want to head to the Yas Marina Circuit so early. Plus I had to check it out, sine the last time I was, it was still under construction.

Ferrari World Abu Dhabi front side

Ferrari World mall entrance reception
The entrance leads you to a mini-mall
Ferrari World mall escalator stores
But a lot of stores were yet to open

Ferrari World Abu Dhabi main entranceInside Ferrari World Abu Dhabi entrance

Ferrari World Abu Dhabi main lobby
The ticket counter is to the right
Ferrari World Ferrari store Abu Dhabi
They have a pretty big Ferrari store to the left

Ferrari World Abu Dhabi Formula 1 model car

Ferrari World Abu Dhabi Formula 1 model car
This was in front of the Ferrari store

Ferrari World Abu Dhabi interiorsFerrari World Abu Dhabi main exit

Ferrari World Abu Dhabi gates to theme park
You pass these gates to enter the theme park

Ferrari World Abu Dhabi old Ferrari grand prix racing car

After checking out the store, I made my way to the ticket counter.  The tickets to Ferrari World come in ‘general’ and ‘premium’ classes — the only difference being the premium admission give you access to a VIP lounge. Otherwise the general admission costs AED225 (Rs. 2500) and entitles you to unlimited rides. Not bad, compared to how expensive other world class theme parks cost.

But I still felt compelled to ask the ticket receptionist if it was worthwhile if we went in today. She replied that we’d need at least 2 hours to go through the whole place (Ferrari World is the largest indoor theme park in the world). Also, the main attraction at Ferrari World: La Rossa — the fastest roller coaster in the world, wasn’t (let’s just say) functioning perfectly. There were stopping it intermittently to run check ups.

Now, I know Ferrari World had just opened during this year’s Grand Prix race, but I didn’t feel like paying AED225 to be a crash test dummy at 250 kmph. So I decided to skip it and check it out next year. Hopefully by then all the chinks are sorted out.

Ferrari World Abu Dhabi entrance hall
We made our way out
Ferrari World Abu Dhabi logo Mithun
That's me ^_^
Ferrari World Abu Dhabi cascade walk
There was an open area we felt like checking out

Ferrari World fountains water walkFerrari World fountains water cascade outside mallFerrari World Abu Dhabi cascade walk waterFerrari World Cascade walk fountains waterFerrari World Abu Dhabi dome creekFerrari World Abu Dhabi cascade walk signFerrari World Abu Dhabi cascade open areaFerrari World Abu Dhabi cascade water fountains

Ferrari World cascade walk fountains Nithin
My brother Nithin

It was nearing 5pm at this point, so we decided to leave.

Ferrari World Abu Dhabi mall to entrance

Ferrari World bus to Yas Marina circuit
They had buses to Yas Marina Circuit
Inside bus to Yas Marina circuit Abu Dhabi
The buses go all around the circuit stopping at all the entry points
Entering North Stand Yas Marina Circuit
We got down at the North Gate entrance
Ferrari World Abu Dhabi road to Yas Marina
Which isn't very far from Ferrari World

North Grand Stand Yas Marina circuit parkingEntering North Grand stand Yas Marina Circuit

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix F1 ear plugs guide
This is what you get as you pass the gates: ear plugs and a guide
Abu Dhabi F1 Yas Marina circuit Yasalam
This is where Linkin Park is going to perform

Abu Dhabi F1 Yas Marina circuit atmosphereAbu Dhabi F1 Yas Marina Circuit drag race displayAbu Dhabi F1 experience Yas Marina circuit eventsAbu Dhabi F1 Yas Marina circuit go karting

Abu Dhabi Yas Marina circuit sunset
It was time to go in

Abu Dhabi F1 Yas Marina circuit M gateAbu Dhabi F1 experience Yas Marina circuit drag carsAbu Dhabi F1 Yas Marina circuit drag racer

Abu Dhabi F1 Yas Marina circuit Yasalam Linkin Park stage
They were running a sound check and you could hear Chester test his vocals
Abu Dhabi F1 Yas Marina circuit North Grand stand lounge
This is the lounge area for North Grand Stand ticket holders

Abu Dhabi F1 Yas Marina circuit North stand

Yas Marina Circuit North Stand panorama view
This was the view from our seat

And this is the action we saw:

Our seats were great, we were at the grand stand at the North section of the track. The vantage point is a good one as you get to see the cars coming in from a distance (though in a matter seconds, they’re already at the turn) and then you have the long straight stretch where you get to see them accelerate.

First thing that really hits you is the noise. I experienced this during the Singapore F1 back in September. I loved it there, I loved it here as well. Of course, you have to love cars to to enjoy the sound of a lightning fast engine. Otherwise you’d be deemed ‘weird’.

Abu Dhabi F1 Yas Marina circuit north gate panorama

Abu Dhabi F1 Yas Marina Lewis Hamilton St. George flag
Since this was the crucial final race of the season, the Brits obviously had Lewis Hamilton's back
Abu Dhabi F1 Yas Marina circuit north stand flags
Not that the Spaniards and Canadians were far behind
Abu Dhabi F1 Yas Marina circuit big screens
They had screens broadcasting the rest of the circuit

They had commentary on the speakers too, but because of the noise from the cars, you won’t hear it until the cars pass.

Abu Dhabi F1 Yas Marina circuit evening

Abu Dhabi F1 Yas Marina circuit Red Bull car
Red Bull racing was doing pretty well
Abu Dhabi F1 Yas Marina circuit Force India car
Force India wasn't doing that bad either

Abu Dhabi F1 Yas Marina circuit Ferrari cornerAbu Dhabi F1 Yas Marina circuit Lotus carAfter seeing cars zipping by and listening to engines for nearly an hour, I went inside the lounge to have some of the gourmet food on offer.

Abu Dhabi F1 Yas Marina North Grand stand lounge food
Gourmet food in very tiny portions I might add. But you can take as much as you wanted.

The whole affair was very posh, with German waitresses and what looked like local celebrities (or posh posers) in the lounge.

After having a bite and drink, as I walked back, I suddenly stopped. And I do mean suddenly stopped. I literally froze.

I turned to my left and in front of me were two guys. One, a fairly large, tattooed white bald white dude and next to him, a regular looking Asian guy, fairly tall. Dressed in formals, he looked like a guy who probably worked in an IT firm. I looked at him and they both looked back at me. The white dude  sitting next to him nodded as if to say: “No”.

But in my excitement, I said ‘hi’ and that I had one question to ask him. I began to prep the camera when he smiled and said: “No Interviews”. The bodyguard was about to get up so I put my camera away and just asked him. He answered and then I asked him if I could take a photograph. The bodyguard said “No,” but he said “It’s fine,” gave my camera to his bodyguard and asked him to take our photograph.

The bodyguard pressed the shutter and it didn’t click. The guy joked: “He’s not very good at this” and asked his bodyguard to take the shot again.

So who was the guy?

Mithun with Mike Shinoda Linkin Park Abu Dhabi F1
None other than Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park! The ONE guy I was hoping to meet!

I thanked Mike and told him how much I liked their new album and said: “Keep experimenting” to which he smiled and said “Thanks”.

First impressions. Wow, he’s taller than I thought (I’m 5′ 6″). Plus, he’s changed a lot since his Hybrid Theory days.

Oh, what was the one question I wanted to ask him and finally could?

“When is Linkin Park coming to India?”

Mike said they needed find the right promoter and figure out the logistics to try and cram it into their tour schedule. It wasn’t a very convincing answer so I asked him whether they had ever considered touring India, to which Mike replied: “Oh yeah! Of course!”. I told him Linkin Park has such a huge fan base in India and he nodded his head: “I know…” with a smile. He said it will happen and assured me the band would tour India — but he just couldn’t tell me when.

Oh well, at least he knows we’re dying to see the band live in India.

As I went back to my seat, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. When I got the call from Vh1 telling me I had won, I was so hoping to meet the band. But I was informed there would be no meet & greet. And despite all that, I still got to meet the one guy I wanted to talk to. I know for a lot of girls its Chester Bennington, but for many hardcore LP fans, it’s Mike Shinoda — the unofficial spokesperson and leader of the band.

I told my brother Mike Shinoda was inside and he got a glimpse of him too, but neither of us disturbed him again.

Abu Dhabi F1 Yas Marina circuit night race
The race was at its final laps

Abu Dhabi F1 Yas Marina circuit Ferrari McLaren Red bull race cars

Abu Dhabi F1 Yas Marina circuit at night
The qualifiers had ended; Vettel took pole postion with Lewis Hamilton in second
Abu Dhabi F1 Yas Marina circuit photographers
That's the kind of lenses you need to cover an F1 race

We got up from our seats and went back into the lounge to get a good view of where we were heading next.

Abu Dhabi Yasalam Linkin Park concert venue
There were people already making a beeline for the concert gates

Abu Dhabi Yasalam after F1 race

As I walked out I saw Mike again… and Dave Farrell, the band’s bassist! Dave smiled at me and gave me a thumbs up, probably after noticing my Linkin Park t-shirt and I wished him all the best for the show and that I was looking forward to it. I was tempted to ask for a photograph again but the bodyguard kept looking at me everytime I passed by. Oh well, he’s doing his job.

Walking towards the venue, I came prepared and fully charged with my camera and lenses… but unfortunately, there was dude announcing on the speakerphone that DSLRs and other high end cameras were not allowed in. Crap.

So, I hesitantly hand over my camera to the counter and make my through the gates. Hundreds were getting their alcohol (on sale for 21 and over only) and though there were a lot of people at the venue, everybody had enough space to move about freely.

Me and my brother chose a spot a bit far away from the speakers and right in the middle.

Yasalam Linkin Park Abu Dhabi concert panorama
They were showing promos of who all had come before... (yes, the Jonas Brothers were here before LP)

We could have gone further up front but I was going to be recording videos on my phone and staying too close to the speakers only meant “brrrrr brrrr” in recordings.

The stage itself, as you can see above, was quite impressive.

Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Linkin Park concert warm up
They had a DJ spin out some good hip hop to warm up the crowd.

After half an hour or so, the DJ leaves the stage. The crew come on, clear everything and the crowd begin to cheer. A lighting rig comes all the way down, two guys get into seats on either side and the rig goes up again.

Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Linkin Park concert stage setupAfter some more waiting, finally, the show begins:

They opened with The Catalyst, the first single off their latest album A Thousand Suns.

Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Linkin Park concert
After that, the crowd went crazy for the next song

And when I mean ‘crowd,’ I mean me, my brother and a few young Arabs around me. I was seriously aghast the whole crowd wasn’t jumping up & down.

But then again I reminded my self that this concert was only open to Formula 1 ticket holders, most of whom were 30-plus. Not exactly your core Linkin Park fanbase.

Abu Dhabi formula 1 Linkin Park concert chester on stage
Man, Chester can scream his face off!

I didn’t record every song in full, intentionally. I had to conserve my phone battery and I didn’t feel right about recording the entire concert as though I was going to bootleg this or something.

Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Linkin Park concert Mike Shinoda
"Hey, I met that guy!" 😛
Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Linkin Park concert Joe Hahn
The awesome Mr. Hahn

Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Linkin Park concert Chester Bennington

Of course, some songs I had to record in full.

Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Linkin Park concert stage lights
The lighting was just as good as the music

This was the ending set:

After a very brief break, the band were back on stage for the encore.

Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Linkin Park concert band stage

First, they performed one of my favourite songs from the new album:

…before closing out the show with some more of their biggest hits!

Nearly an hour and 45 minutes later, the show was over. In that time, they played pretty much all their singles (except for “Breaking the Habit“). The band said their goodbyes and left the stage. Everyone except Mike Shinoda that is, who would spend nearly 10 minutes or so shaking hands and greeting fans in the front row. What an awesome guy.

We left Yasalam, collected my camera bag and managed to contact our taxi driver who had come all the way from Dubai to pick us up.

Abu Dhabi Formula one buses after race
They had plenty of buses plying from the venue to Abu Dhbai city and Dubai
Abu Dhabi Formula 1 bus service to city
But there were quite a lot of people queuing up for them
Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Ferrari world at night
We had nothing to worry about...
Inside Toyota Previa taxi Abu Dhabi
... 'cos we had comfortable private ride back to Dubai. Tee hee.
Leaving Yas Marina circuit Abu Dhabi
It was past 11pm, time to leave Yas Marina Circuit and Abu Dhabi

As we drove back, I couldn’t help but think back on the past few hours. Sure, we were tired as hell, but what a weekend! Landed in Dubai yesterday, went around, shopped, today witnessed a Formula One race on a Rs. 40, 000 ticket (which we got for free) and then watched one of my favourite bands perform live (again, for free)! But most of all, the moment that did it for me, I met Mike Shinoda and got a photo with him! That was good enough.

On one hand, I enjoyed a evening with a decent crowd with no pushing or shoving and an amazing stage setup. On the other hand, the concert could have used a better crowd. But thinking about it, I can’t fathom how much I would have hated the first Linkin Park concert in India — with thousands of their young fans who are going to go absolutely apeshit because they waited for so long to finally get a glimpse of their rock idols. (I pray Linkin Park plays at least 3 venues when they land in India)

Every artist uses the “We’ll be back” line at the end of their concerts. Some do, some don’t. Linkin Park will be back in UAE for sure. And next time, it will surely be for their real UAE fans at some event more suitable like the Desert Rock Festival or a stand alone concert.

Dubai driving Sheikh Zayed road night
An hour of cruising at a 100kmph later, we were in Dubai

Once back in our hotel, we quickly went out again to grab some shawarmas and some juice for dinner. We didn’t have anything planned for tomorrow other than packing and heading to the hotel.

Yeah, it would have been nice if we could have stayed back one more day, saw the Sunday race and watched Prince perform afterwards. (We had tickets for all 4 days; Kanye West performed on Friday but we couldn’t have been bothered to drive all the way to Dubai for his inflated ego). But I just couldn’t afford to. I had to head back to office on Monday and then on Tuesday night, had to catch my postponed flight to Thailand for my next trip.

All in all, a hectic but memorable experience.

Oh, and finally, thanks VH1 India! (Especially Aparna)

Yas Marina hotel at night lit up

UAE 2010: Yas Island, Abu Dhabi – Ferrari World and Yas Marina Circuit

Date: 14th April 2010

I was so looking forward to today. After Vishu celebrations at home with family, I called up our usual taxi driver and headed to the final stop in my sightseeing itinerary of UAE.

Since I was leaving from Musaffah, Yas Island wasn’t very far — 15 minutes or so by road (it’s around 30 mins from Abu Dhabi city).

Heading to Yas Island Abu DhabiThe US$30 billion plus (yes!) Yas Island is the flagship project of Aldar Properties. It’s such a huge undertaking that you might as well visit Aldar’s website to see what all they plan on building out here.

Yas Marina circuit Abu Dhabi signalGoing to Yas Island Abu Dhabi

But the Middle East story remains the same. What was once nothing but desert sands is now being turned into a gargantuan construction site offering the best of everything to the world.

Yas Island Ferrari World traffic

Though still far off from completing everything envisioned, some of the tent pole attractions are nearing their opening dates — like Ferrari World.

Yas Island Ferrari World roller coaster constructionSet to open before the 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Ferrari World is set to be the world’s largest indoor theme park. And this being themed after Ferrari, it will also house Formula Rossa — the fastest roller coaster in the world. How fast? Up to 240kmph (or 149 miles) with the power of 1.7 Gs pressing against your chest! Scary.

Ferrari World Abu Dhabi panorama constructionFerrari World Abu Dhabi labourers workersFerrari World from inside car Abu DhabiFerrari World Abu Dhabi construction progressFerrari World Abu Dhabi construction

If you are wondering what is so impressive about this monstrosity, well, photos from the ground below are not going to do it justice unfortunately. For that, you should see what it looks like from up above.

Ferrari World Abu Dhabi construction timeline
Images source:

Crazy isn’t it? That they actually built something this futuristic and alien, on such a scale!

(Question: How are they going to clean the roof?)

After driving past Ferrari World, the taxi driver took me to the attraction I was mainly here for — and the only one fully complete on Yas Island.

Yas Island Marina circuit hotels
Some of the (barely inhabitated) hotels on Yas Island
Road to Yas Marina circuit Yas Island
Nearly there…
Yas Marina circuit track bridge
The Yas Marina Circuit

Yas Marina circuit track bridge view

Yas Marina circuit track tarmac
Home to the Abu Dhabi Formula 1 race track…
Yas Marina circuit Abu Dhabi panorama
… which also has a man-made marina in the middle of it…
Yas Hotel Abu Dhabi building
… and the most strangely-beautiful 5-star hotel on earth

Last year, at the inaugural race held in Abu Dhabi, seeing the Yas Hotel all lit up on TV made for quite an impressive sight. The only day-&-night race (starting in the evening) on the F1 calendar, Abu Dhabi had to one-up the Singapore  F1 — the first night race — and also one held along their Marina Bay (albeit a natural one).

Yas Hotel entrance fountain Abu DhabiI asked my driver to drop me here and come back around 7:30pm as I was going to be here for a while.

Yas Hotel Marina docksSince I had some time before sunset and the Yas Hotel lights came on, I checked out the docks first. Also because visitors aren’t allowed access on to the tracks, so I didn’t really have much choice.

Yas Hotel bridge to Marina dockYas Marina hotel docks yachtsYas Marina hotel dock pathYas Marina dock reflection

Yas Marina hotel docking bay
I don’t know how one gets their boats into the Marina…

Yas Marina hotel dock iSpeed boat

Yas Marina dock black yacht
… guess only rich playboys are privy to that information

Yas Marina docked yachtYas Marina hotel dock fire engine

Yas Marina hotel dock panorama
(Panorama comprised of 6 shots)

Yas Marina hotel dock restricted accessYas Marina dock Michelin flagYas Marina hotel docks pillarsYas Marina hotel ramp

Yas Marina racing teams yacht Sun tower
The FIA GT1 championships were happening that weekend

Yas Marina FIA GT1 championship driverYas Marina racing team trucksYas Island Marina chairs lampsYas Marina hotel chair view

Yas Island yacht Al Bandar residences background
Al Bandar residences in the background

Yas Marina circuit club tower

Abu Dhabi plane fly sky
One of the many planes setting off from the near by airport
Yas Marina sun tower
The Yas Marina circuit Sun Tower
Yas Marina circuit do not signs
Photography is allowed though

Yas Marina hotel ramp waterYas Marina circuit sparrowsYas Hotel light starting to come onYas Hotel aero bridgeYas Marina Abu Dhabi sunset skyYas Marina circuit sunset sky

The sun was setting, which only meant the lights were slowly starting to appear on the Yas Hotel.

Yas Marina circuit track behind barricades

Yas Hotel under lights
Decided to go to the other side

Yas Marina circuit under bridge hotel track

Yas Marina hotel golf car
How workers get around at Yas Marina circuit
Yas Marina docks big yachts
Big-ass yachts

Yas Marina docks grandstandYas Marina hotel docks lights evening Yas Hotel section verticalYas Marina hotel track grandstandIt was past 6pm by this time and the lights were finally starting to show.

Yas Hotel lights underYas Hotel under lights curveWhile I made my way back to the other side, I met a group of Indian workers who have been working on this ‘alien invasion of the desert’ since the beginning.

Yas Marina hotel Indian workersThey told me how all this was nothing but sand when they began a few years ago… and how they managed to flood a desert and turn into a artificial marina.

Yas Marina Indian worker labourer
Rakesh from Lucknow, who witnessed the change in landscape

Yas Marina circuit track hotel view

By the time I was done with our conversation, the skies had turned near-pitch dark, which only meant one thing — the Yas Hotel was now in full bloom.

Yas Marina hotel at night lit up

Yas Hotel dock Yas island

I had seen it from a distance on my second day in Abu Dhabi but I’m so glad I chose to see it up close!

Yas Marina hotel at night reflection yacht

Yas Marina hotel lights reflection night
Quite a desert jewel

Yas Marina docks at night shadowYas hotel Yacht at nightYas Marina docks at nightYas Hotel marina pillarsIt was past 7pm now, so I made my way back to the entrance of Yas Hotel.

Yas Marina circuit track bridge

Yas Marina circuits track lights at night
The Yas Marina track at night

As I waited for my taxi, I noticed a bright red sports car make its way around the fountain. I then quickly realized it was the impressive Nissan GTR, the winner of a gazillion “Car of the Year” awards since its debut two years ago.

Yas Hotel entrance Nissan GTR redI went up to the car to get a closer look.

Yas Hotel lobby Nissan GTR red

And then, the driver actually looks at me and calls me over. For a second I was like: “Oops, was I not supposed to take photos?”

But as I walked up towards him, the young Arab owner only asked me if he could see the photos I had taken. Then he asked me if I wanted him to park it better so I could take a proper photo!

“Of course,” I said 🙂

Red Nissan GTR in front of Yas HotelYas Marina red Nissan GTR close upWe began talking and he (Ali, I believe his name was) told me about his prized possession. Costing around INR 39 lakh, he got it second hand from the US and came to Yas Marina Circuit to find out how much it costs to drive one’s own car on the track.

He even let me sit in the car and get a better feel of the tech-loaded GTR.

Yas Marina inside Nissan GTR steering wheel
The Polyphony Digital-designed on-screen display
Yas Marina red Nissan GTR interior display
This one was an automatic
Yas Marina red Nissan GTR owner
The proud owner

He even asked me send him the photographs and we exchanged each others contact information. By then, I hear a horn beep and I turn around to see my taxi driver waving to me. He had arrived a few minutes back but waited as he saw me talking to Ali.

As we drove back to my parent’s place, we passed by the HQ office building.

HQ office building Al Raha at night Abu Dhabi

HQ office building at night Al Raha Abu Dhabi construction
HQ is part of the Al Raha Beach development

While in the car, as always with this driver, he told me tales about his experiences in this country. As I recounted my evening at the Yas Marina Circuit and the cars, he told me about the spoilt lazy youth and how the Government just throws money at them in the hopes they’d end up with a career one day. I’m sure a lot of what he was telling me was true because it’s not like I haven’t heard about all this before.

Still, the visit to Yas Island was certainly one of the best highlights of this trip. I recommend it to anyone visiting the UAE. It’s only an hour’s drive from Dubai and 30 minutes from Abu Dhabi city.

I can assure you, once Ferrari World and the other attractions open, Yas Island will become one of the world’s ‘must-see’ destinations in a few years time — which is what Abu Dhabi is striving for.

This concludes all the posts on all the sights I saw in the two weeks I spent in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. I only have a concluding post which is mostly going to be an editorial piece. Meaning: more words than photos.

Here’s a video I took from Yas Marina circuit:

Previous posts in this series:

UAE 2010: Heading back to the Gulf after 7 years

UAE 2010: Driving from Abu Dhabi to Dubai (& back)

UAE 2010: Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi

UAE 2010: Heading to Dubai by bus; checking out Bur Dubai

UAE 2010: Dubai Mall (Aquarium, Underwater Zoo & Gold Souk) – Part 1

UAE 2010: Burj Khalifa, At the Top (and Wafi Mall) – Part 2

UAE 2010: Driving around Dubai (Souk Madinat Jumeirah, The Atlantis & The Palm Islands) – Part 1

UAE 2010: Dubai Marina, Jumeirah, The Walk and David Guetta concert – Part 2

UAE 2010: Showing my parents the sights of Dubai; inside Ibn Battuta Mall

UAE 2010: From the desert sands of Abu Dhabi to the corniche

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