I hope you enjoy this sixth installment related to my time in Dubai in October 2016. As with all the others, this was adapted from an email that was sent to friends and family. You can catch up with my adventures here!
One of my “must-do” activities this trip was to visit the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. This was the one thing we knew we would do, but did not plan prior to arrival. Mainly because it was not clear to us the best way to get there. After talking to our hotel concierge and weighing the options, we decided to rent a car at the mall. Woo Toyota Yaris! Sorry Enterprise, we had to rent with Thrifty.
I offered to rent the vehicle and be the driver, as long as my friend would navigate.
Side note: if you are in a foreign country and have cell service you can use, make sure you have turned your phone out of airplane mode and tested the maps app if you think you may need it. Trust me on this.
After we picked up our car, we were going to pick up another friend across town. We looked up our directions (in WiFi), got the car and headed out.
I’d say 37 seconds after leaving the mall parking garage we were lost. Dubai’s roads are what we now refer to as the spaghetti model. Pick up some noodles, drop them on a plate and that’s what they look like. Everything is a one-way road going in the opposite direction. We struggled to get our maps app up and running and really wished we had tested out our service before we got on the road. Re: my previously mentioned tip.
It is important to know that at this point we had a quarter tank of gas.
Finally back on track we made it across town. Yay! It was not long after we got out of central Dubai, that I realized we really needed to find a gas station. My co-pilots happily looked one up for me. Of course we missed the exit and had to backtrack to the station. My gas light had been on and we were dropping closer to empty every minute.
The area where we got off the highway, was not exactly an area where I wanted to be stuck or have to ask for help. There were all these work garages for semis and it was very industrial. We blended right in. Not.
As we pulled up to the station we found, I realized it was in fact not a gas station, but a station where big trucks come for oil changes and such. My heart sank, and I almost vomited all over the Yaris.
Both of my co-pilots started trying to find another station. Insanely enough, the closest one was back in Dubai. So we got back on the road; me holding my breath, while they tried to stay positive we would find somewhere. The needle crept closer and closer to empty.
I have to admit that it’s pretty ironic we were struggling to find gas in the Middle East.
As we were driving I spotted a station, but we were too many lanes of traffic away to make it work. This was a SIX lane highway. Yes six, in both directions. So I guess technically a twelve lane highway. My stomach sank and that vomit feeling came back.
Quickly we noticed that if we got off at the next exit we could get back to the station. As I took the exit ramp, a closer station came into view and I think a tear slid down my face with relief.
We waited in line for them to fill up the tank. While I knew we didn’t need an entire tank, I also had no idea what may happen the rest of the day, given how it started. So when the attendant asked how much I wanted, I said all of it! Give me all your gas, fill the trunk, get me some containers. I will take everything you have. It only cost $16 to fill the tank, so it was totally worth it.
Once that ordeal was finished, we did the only logical thing there is when you can’t have beer; we ate McDonald’s.
We FINALLY made it to Abu Dhabi without further incident and drove up to the gate excited to enter. Naturally it was the wrong gate and we had to circle around a couple of times to find the right one. Construction, combined with rotaries and spaghetti highways, meant I missed the turn once before figuring it out.
After we parked, we had to go in to get our Abaya so that we were properly covered. In all of the pictures I have seen of people at the Grand Mosque, they were in these nice black Abaya’s. Well that is not what we got. Not even close. They were literally made out of fabric that included every single animal print you’ve ever seen, trimmed in whatever random color they had lying around. Maybe they want to be able to spot tourists? Or maybe they don’t want them to be stolen? Either way, these things were hideous, but free. Actually the entire Grand Mosque is free (including parking) which is pretty shocking.
This place is probably the coolest building I’ve ever seen. I was so impressed by it, that I now have a flip-book of pictures to look back on whenever I want to visit again.
On our way home, we decided to complete our road trip with a stop at Subway before dropping our friend off.
We managed to navigate back to the mall and return the car successfully without getting lost. Go us!
To fit in with the Dubai culture, we dubbed our little vehicle the Rolls Yaris, a lesser known Rolls Royce product.
We stuck around at the mall after returning the Rolls Yaris, to watch the fountains (again) and have a snack. They had some pop-up restaurants and we had a couple of burgers with the hipster Emirates. And they were really delicious!
Overall a great day, despite the rocky beginning.
If you take nothing else away from this post, please take this: Always make sure you have gas when you are going on a road trip. ALWAYS. I never imagined the Rolls Yaris would lose fuel that fast, but when it’s 100 degrees out, and you are in the desert, it’s a game changer.
Fueled up until next time!
2 thoughts on “On the Road Again”
I had many a good laugh while reading this. I’m an adventuresome driver in foreign countries, but I know that sick feeling of being hideously lost/out of gas/unable to exit all too well. I remember hurtling around the peripherique in Paris, and when we finally did exit, we simply could not get to our hotel with all the crazy one-way streets and pedestrian ways, etc. Ditto many other places and problems … but it’s still so fun to be in command of your stops and route, isn’t it?
P.S. I rented a Yaris once in the U.S. and found it to be the most hateful car I’d ever driven. And I like Toyotas!
I love the freedom of renting cars when traveling. We did it in Austria and it was amazing! I definitely would not recommend a Yaris to most people. It got the job done but I was pretty disappointed and also like Toyota! Your experience sounds so similar! Thanks for the comment.