A Travellerspoint blog

Big game hunting in the Middle East

Tracking Tiger, the Goose, and Wee-Mac

sunny 24 °C

Turkish Airlines (voted Europe's best airline for the last two years ... querying the strength of this form however) dangled the bait with cut-price fares to the Middle East, so with the blessing of the 'trouble & strife', I booked a return ticket to coincide with Abu Dhabi's annual pro golf tournament. Normal direct fares with Emirates, Qatar, or Etihad are around 650 euro return, but the TA ticket was 340 euro, the catch being a stopover in Istanbul each way. On the journey over the break was 6 hours, allowing a quick city visit, but only 2 hours on the way 'home'.

ISTANBUL

Upon arrival mid-afternoon, a very efficient metro train ride, followed by an equally efficient and interesting light-rail ride (I kid you not), deposited me right near the blue mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque) in the city centre. It cost around $3 for these fairly lengthy rides ... can someone remind me again why this is so hard in Sydney and Melbourne? Anyway, the blue mosque is quite simply mind blowing - and that's just from the outside - so hopefully a return visit in the future will allow time for an internal tour.

Sultan Ahmed Mosque

Sultan Ahmed Mosque

A brisk walk (it was only about 8 degrees) takes you past the Topkapi Palace - home to the Ottoman Sultans for over 400 years - and down to the Bosphorus. Ever since 007 cavorted with Tatiana Romanova on this famous strait of water in From Russia With Love, it has been an ambition of mine to visit, and what a frenetic, fascinating scene it presents. Cars, ferries, street vendors, fishermen, locals, tourists, mosques, neon signs, honking & tooting ... it has it all, and in the gloaming this evening was especially beautiful. A chicken shawarma and a local Efes beer provided an effective filler until the 8:30pm Abu Dhabi leg of the flight.

twilight on the Bosphorus

twilight on the Bosphorus

ABU DHABI

A 2:30am arrival time saw most passengers stagger off our flight, but a subsequent 130km/h taxi ride into town quickly blew away the dozy cobwebs. A prompt check-in at the Cristal Salam Hotel was followed by four fitful hours of sleep, and then it was off to the golf course (please see below).

Abu Dhabi fails to flatter on the city approach - the buildings, whilst modern, are uninspiring - and it is only when you get to the waterfront that you gain an appreciation of the development over the past ten years. The catalyst for the city's rapid ascent was the death of then ruler Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahayan in 2004, and the subsequent succession by his son Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahayan. Whilst not on the same scale as Dubai, it is still an incredibly impressive, albeit slightly surreal city, and has further ambitions with projects like the Louvre Abu Dhabi expected to be completed in 2015 (the Frenchies apparently receiving 500 million for allowing the association!).

wall of glass ... Jumeirah Etihad Towers etc.

wall of glass ... Jumeirah Etihad Towers etc.


Emirates Palace Hotel - self proclaimed 6 stars - after peeking inside, hard to argue

Emirates Palace Hotel - self proclaimed 6 stars - after peeking inside, hard to argue


world's first gold dispensing ATM (in the EPH lobby) ... it's a cliche, but what will they think of next!

world's first gold dispensing ATM (in the EPH lobby) ... it's a cliche, but what will they think of next!

The Al Nahayan family are said to be worth 150 billion collectively, and were instrumental in bailing out Dubai a couple of years ago when the Maktoum family ran into some strife. Our Dubai friends - see next section - said that the previous trend of living in Abu Dhabi and commuting to work in Dubai has now reversed, with Abu Dhabi living costs rising so rapidly that it is now cheaper to live in glitzy Dubai. Funny old world ...

looking north along Corniche beach

looking north along Corniche beach


popped this one in for the Dumas boys - quirky street poster worked well I thought!

popped this one in for the Dumas boys - quirky street poster worked well I thought!

DUBAI

A painless 90 minute bus ride on a luxury coach - for the very reasonable price of $7 - deposited me into Dubai, and onto a much anticipated catch-up with an old buddy from my Hong Kong days. I attempted to purchase some wine before our dinner, but at the carefully hidden liquor store (in the otherwise garish shopping centre), was told I needed to be a citizen to make the purchase - the only alcohol consumption for tourists has to occur in (hotel) bars and clubs. Nevertheless I somehow managed to gain a sore head from our dinner, and struggled a bit on the early morning trip back to Abu Dhabi for Day 4 of the golf.

looking back to the city centre from what (I think) is the new suburb of Ibn Battuta

looking back to the city centre from what (I think) is the new suburb of Ibn Battuta


from the apartment balcony of our dinner venue which is based in The Palm development ... massive and impressive

from the apartment balcony of our dinner venue which is based in The Palm development ... massive and impressive

ABU DHABI HSBC GOLF CHAMPIONSHIP

The Middle East is now a key part of the European golf tour, and always manages to attract strong fields with good prizemoney, beautiful weather for January (mid-20's), attractive golf courses, and well-run tournaments. Combine that with some serious appearance money dished out to the game's superstars, and you get a very attractive package for players and spectators alike.

What cannot be relied upon however, is for said superstars to play some decent golf on Thursday & Friday, and thus qualify for the weekend rounds. I was desperate to see both Tiger and Rory McIlroy (Wee-Mac, after compatriot Graeme McDowell was branded as G-Mac!), but fate intervened and sent them both packing on Friday night ... with their million plus appearance fees. Rory was not so surprising - he signed with Nike the week before for a reported 200 million - so had to contend with new equipment. Tiger actually made the 'cut', but was then later penalised 2 shots for an incorrect drop, so missed by one.

giant oversight : confirm that overpaid stars make the cut before committing!

giant oversight : confirm that overpaid stars make the cut before committing!

Five years ago this may have been a problem, but the Euro tour now has such depth that there was still plenty of good players to see. Without wishing to bore non-golf fans, I particularly enjoyed watching established stars Justin Rose, Jason Dufner, Peter Hanson, and Martin Kaymer, and was also excited to see rising stars Thorbjorn Olesen (from Denmark), and Bernd Wiesberger (Austria), who is built like a brick outhouse, and hits it into the next postcode.

Jason Dufner ... The Doofster hails from Auburn, Alabama, and is one laid-back dude

Jason Dufner ... The Doofster hails from Auburn, Alabama, and is one laid-back dude


Peter Hanson and Paul Lawrie play up 18

Peter Hanson and Paul Lawrie play up 18


sartorially splendid Matteo Manassero ... 19 years old and already three tour victories

sartorially splendid Matteo Manassero ... 19 years old and already three tour victories


SSP Chowrasia - India's golfing answer to VVS Laxman. 5 foot 'nothing'; comfortably last in driving distance; can play however.

SSP Chowrasia - India's golfing answer to VVS Laxman. 5 foot 'nothing'; comfortably last in driving distance; can play however.

Warm weather, attractive and tough golf course, not too many spectators, and good facilities made for a fun couple of days. In the end, the very likeable Jamie Donaldson from Wales triumphed, making it two wins in eight months after playing for 11 years and 255 tournaments without a victory ... dare I say there is hope for us all!

Paddy Harrington ... one of the true good guys on tour

Paddy Harrington ... one of the true good guys on tour


possibly one that got away from Justin Rose; Thorbjorn Olesen an emerging talent

possibly one that got away from Justin Rose; Thorbjorn Olesen an emerging talent


.

Posted by happellfamily12 13:11 Archived in United Arab Emirates Tagged trains golf friends buses abu dubai dhabi modernisation

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUponRedditDel.icio.usIloho

Table of contents

Comments

Nice to see you in the Middle East.
Abu Dhabi not much chop, Dubai much better.
They have one of those gold dispensing ATMs in the Burj Khalifa as well if they don't have enough for you in the other one happs.

by plant

superb

by darshan16

This blog requires you to be a logged in member of Travellerspoint to place comments.

Enter your Travellerspoint login details below

( What's this? )

If you aren't a member of Travellerspoint yet, you can join for free.

Join Travellerspoint