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Abu Dhabi Accommodation Expat Life Luxury Middle East Reviews United Arab Emirates

A 2.5 Hour Drive from Abu Dhabi but a World Away: Jebel Dhanna’s Beachfront Paradise

February 9, 2017
danat jebel dhanna resort Abu Dhabi review

Only two and a half hours from the buzz of Abu Dhabi City, you’ll find Danat Jebel Dhanna Resort, a welcome reprise from the rush of everyday life.

Located on the shore of the mainland, opposite Sir Bani Yas Island, guests benefit from many of the perks of being near this natural reserve without the often-hefty price tag of the resorts on the island.

We spent a weekend at the Danat Jebel Dhanna and wanted to share our honest thoughts with those of you living in the UAE or planning a visit to Abu Dhabi.  Read on to find out what we thought…

Arriving at Danat Jebel Dhanna Resort

After a comfortable 2.5 hour drive from Abu Dhabi, following the coast West past the sand dunes, we arrived at Danat Jebel Dhanna Resort to begin our weekend of relaxation (and fun!)

As you would expect from a hotel of this calibre, check-in was a breeze and from the moment we arrived until the moment we left the staff greeted us with wide smiles and open arms.  This resort perfectly combines luxury with an unpretentious ease – if you want to dress up, you won’t be out of place but if you’re there to unwind after a busy week, you’ll also feel comfortable walking around in your trackies.

The grounds of the resort are fairly extensive and there’s lots of grass to relax on (a surprisingly significant treat when you live in the desert) along with beautifully maintained gardens.  The star of the Danat Jebel Dhanna Resort is, without doubt, the gorgeous seafront location though – the water was absolutely stunning and calm, both day and night.  It’s there’s an oil refinery that sits out on the horizon but it doesn’t impact the view badly – in fact, seeing it lit up at night, it was surprisinly beautiful out on the water.

Our own Private Oasis

The rooms at Danat Jebel Dhanna are generously sized and all benefit from fantastic views out over the gardens and opposing beach (which genuinely has the clearest, most gorgeous water we’ve seen in the Middle East!)

With plenty of room to lounge, a desk to work from and a beautiful deck, spending time in our room as a pleasure, though I must admit, it was hard dragging ourselves out of the incredibly plush bed each morning – it was definitely up there with some of the best we’ve slept in.

The bathroom was also well-sized and included all of the amenities a guest could need – a shave kit, loofah and moisturiser along with all of the standard inclusions you would expect of a five-star hotel.

danat jebel dhanna resort Abu Dhabi review room

Dining Options at Danat Jebel Dhanna Resort


Serving contemporary Italian fare in an intimate and homely setting we were delighted to find a restaurant serving such delicious food so far out of Abu Dhabi.  We decided on the three course set menu and with complimentary bread and nibbles and large portion sizes, came away very full and very happy!


If you’re looking for a relaxed adults-only spot to enjoy your evening, you’ll want to head to L’Attitude.  Delicious food served pub-style,  a live band (that featured three amazing singers and lots of classic tunes!) and tropical cocktails, we had a great night in there.


Tides is the main restaurant servicing the Danat Jebel Dhanna Resort and it’s open right through the day to ensure nobody goes hungry.

Every morning we enjoyed a delicious breakfast which included a wide selection of options at the buffet along with freshly made plates (waffles, pancakes and omelettes anyone?) and for lunch we were pleased to see a range of options including curries, Arabic barbecue, meat cooked to order, salads, soups and much more.

Restaurants in other parts of the world could really learn a thing or two from buffets in the United Arab Emirates – they do them incredibly well!


The best option if you’re looking for a treat in between meals or need a coffee hit.  When the sun goes down, they also serve a full selection of alcoholic drinks – all with views out over the garden – what a spot to relax.

Who is Danat Jebel Dhanna Resort Best Suited For?

Familes with Children

The resort is especially well set up to cater to the needs of families.  With a playground, kids club and a wading pool, there’s plenty to keep the little ones engaged and happy.

Though there’s plenty for kids to do at the hotel we were never once disturbed by them – all of the children there were well-behaved, respectful and well-occupied, making it not only good for families but for anyone planning a getaway.

Those Looking to be Pampered

Nathan loves a good massage and when he comes out saying he’s just had the best massage of his life, you know you’re onto a seriously good thing!  We settled on a Swedish and aromatherapy massage respectively and for an hour let all of our worries melt away (though let’s face it, when your weekends look like this, you don’t have too much to worry about!)

Active Relaxers

If your idea of relaxing involves expelling a little more energy, you’ll have plenty of options at Danat Jebel Dhanna Resort!

Over the course of our visit we jumped onboard their boat to go snorkelling out above their local reef and zipped around on the banana boat (which was really much more of a giant hotdog – fun!).  There’s also a basketball court, tennis and squash courts, volleyball, a swimming pool, kayaks, a full gym and the option of additional motorized watersports (wakeboarding or waterskiing, anyone?)

Would we Recommend Danat Jebel Dhanna Resort?

If we could be there right now, we would be, so yes, we definitely recommend you check this beautiful seaside spot out.  It’s not the newest of hotels but set out of the city, on a stunning beach, with fantastic activity options, tasty food and staff that go above and beyond to make you feel at home, it ticks all of the boxes for us!

Only 2.5 hours drive from Abu Dhabi, we found paradise!

We were guests of Danat Hotels and spent the weekend at the resort for the purpose of this review.  As always, all thoughts are our own and 100% honest.

Abu Dhabi Food Luxury Middle East Reviews United Arab Emirates

The Sweet Taste of Caramel – Abu Dhabi Restaurant Review

December 17, 2016
Caramel Abu Dhabi review

Abu Dhabi has a plethora of world-class restaurants, offering practically any cuisine one could desire.

American food may not traditionally stir up thoughts of fine dining but Caramel, on Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island, will challenge your perceptions of what American-inspired dining can offer.

Set in a moody but welcoming lounge-style restaurant, the restaurant will welcome you in whilst the food will have you coming back for more.

Here, traditional favourites are served with a flavourful twist.  Mac and cheese (with truffle oil and three cheese dipping sauce – you didn’t think this would be your standard mac and cheese did you?) and kobe BBQ beef sliders can be found on the menu, sitting alongside ingredients and inspiration taken from the UK and Asia as well.  At Caramel, the focus is less on one particular cuisine and more on delivering meals of the highest standard – the benefit of this is that everyone will find something they’ll enjoy eating.


After much debate, Nathan decided on the marinated kobe beef tacos whilst I ordered Caramel’s signature ‘buffalo style’ chicken lollipops.

The kobe beef tacos were fresh and tasty, served with aubergine ra and stuffed with Wagyu beef – Nathan devoured them in no time (a sure sign of their quality).  Straight away, we knew we were onto a good thing!

Together we worked through my serve of chicken lollipops.  Neither of us had tried this style of chicken before but we’re both absolutely converted.  In essence, they were buffalo wings, but thanks to the chef’s handy knife work, all of the hassle of eating chicken wings was removed.  We were left with tasty morsels of chicken, with crispy skin and a tasty, spicy buffalo sauce, that were easy to cut apart.  Served with a mild blue cheese sauce which was appreciated to help put out the fire (though they were the perfect level of spice).


Next up were the mains and upon our servers recommendation we leapt at the chance to try two of the most popular dished on the menu – steak and frittes along with the seared Chilean sea bass.  We found out first-hand that they’re popular for a reason!

Fries.  Fries served with parmesan and garlic.  Seriously, this is absolutely the best way to eat fries, so I found out.  Everything about my main was spot on – from the delicious pommes frites to the beautifully cooked medium-rare tenderloin and accompanying steak and peppercorn sauces.  On the surface, the meal was relatively simple but all of the flavours shone through, creating a main that we both seriously enjoyed.

Nathan’s a real lover of seafood (me, not so much) and he was very pleased with his choice to order the seared sea bass.  The fish itself was served on a bed of rock shrimp risotto and lobster broth, topped with tomato, basil tapenade.  It was literally the best risotto he’s ever eaten and an option he highly recommends for seafood lovers.


Dessert was a real toss-up with four options catching our eye.  The choice between a butterscotch bomb, baked Alaska, dark chocolate fondant and vanilla bean creme brûlée wasn’t easy but in the end we decided on the later two.  Thought I don’t doubt that all of the desserts would have been amazing, I can vouch for how special the two we had were.  

My chocolate fondant was cooked to perfection – rich cake on the outside with a gooey centre that somehow avoided being too sweet.  Normally served with cappuccino ice-cream, I requested vanilla bean instead and found it to offset the dark chocolate fondant beautifully.

Nathan’s creme brûlée (made with fresh cream, vanilla beans and caramelised bananas) was amongst the smoothest creme brûlées we’ve ever had and a real highlight.

Our Thoughts on Caramel, Abu Dhabi

Though Caramel isn’t exactly priced at the budget end of the spectrum, the servings are very generous, the food delicious, the setting very special and the staff professional.  It would make a perfect choice for a date night, special occasion or evening when you just want to treat yourself.

What a treat it was for us!

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Caramel Review, Abu Dhabi

Thank you to Caramel for inviting us along to review them.  As always, all thoughts are our own.

Abu Dhabi Activities Dubai Expat Life Luxury Middle East Reviews United Arab Emirates

The Membership Card You’ll Want to Use: Privilee Review, Abu Dhabi + Dubai

December 10, 2016
The Palace Downtown Dubai Privilee review Burj

Over the years both Nathan and I have signed up to our fair share of memberships – mostly to various gyms, all of which are eventually relinquished due to lack of use.  Privilee is different though… we’ve finally found a membership card that we love using!

What makes this membership so different?  Read on for our Privilee review…

These magic little cards open all sorts of five-star doors for you, granting access to the hottest spots in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.  Simply put, it’s an absolute pleasure to use.

A membership with Privilee lets you enjoy unlimited access to beach clubs, spas, gyms and sports facilities at some of Abu Dhabi’s and Dubai’s leading hotels and resorts, along with special deals and discounts at a wide selection of award-winning restaurants and bars.

With our leisure membership cards in hand, we can enjoy dozens of five-star hotel pools and beaches whilst receiving discounts at their hotels and bars.  At the end of a busy week, we really look forward to getting comfy on a sun lounger and swapping between a good book and refreshing dips in the pool.

For those of you who are looking to burn off a few more calories, there are plenty of gyms and exercise classes that are included in the membership, along with the use of tennis and squash courts.

If you’re wanting to relax even more, discounts for spa treatments are included in the card and I don’t doubt for a second that they would be glorious!

When you factor in what it would cost to visit one of these hotels or beach clubs on a Friday or Saturday (for those of you not in the UAE, those are our weekend days), the monthly membership more than pays for itself.  We love that having it gives us a little push to head out for a day of relaxation in the sun and with three visits under our belt, it’s already helped us to see more of the UAE.

The service at each of the hotels/clubs that we have visited has been top-notch, with staff being professional but approachable – exactly what we’re after on a day out.

The team at Privilee are on top of their game too, ready to help you with all the information you’ll need to make the most of your membership without any downtime.

The best part of the membership though?  Undoubtedly the amazing spots we’ve had the pleasure of spending time at and the knowledge that there are more to come.

Do your weekends look as good as ours?

Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah

The Palace Downtown Dubai

Saadiyat Beach Club, Abu Dhabi

Turn every weekend into a five-star beach getaway. Fill your days with family fun in the sun, water sports and poolside lounging, energising workouts, pampering spa breaks and award-winning dining experiences. Do whatever you want, when you want.

We love watching emails pop up, sharing with us the newest hotels and beach clubs to come onboard with Privilee!  If you’re an expat living in the UAE, we’d definitely suggest signing up – those little emails will come to be the amongst the highlights of your week.  That is, until you get to the weekend and can head out to the pool!

Abu Dhabi Dubai Beach Pool Club Privilee review membership

Privilee currently have the following properties on their books, with more being added each week:

Fairmont The Palm • Habtoor Grand Beach Resort & Spa • The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina • Le Méridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina • Dubai Polo & Equestrian Club • RIVA Beach Club • Hyatt Regency Dubai Creek Heights • Media One Hotel • DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Dubai Jumeirah Beach • Shangri-La Hotel • Conrad Dubai • The Address Dubai Marina • InterContinental Dubai Marina • Kempinski Hotel & Residences Palm Jumeirah • Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah • Sofitel The Palm Beach Resort & Spa • The Palace Downtown Dubai • The St. Regis Abu Dhabi • Saadiyat Beach Club • The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal

Our Privilee review was made possible thanks to their generous support. We highly recommend their membership programme to beach and pool bunnies and anyone looking to unwind in the UAE (which is everyone, surely?)  As always, all thoughts are our own.

If you do decide to join the Privilee family, we’d love it if you’d use the links above.  Doing so will let us enjoy another month of pool-side fun at no extra cost to you.

Abu Dhabi Food Reviews United Arab Emirates

Handsdown, The Best Desserts in Abu Dhabi

November 12, 2016
The Best Desserts in Abu Dhabi

Desserts in Abu Dhabi are serious business.  With such stiff competition and so many residents harbouring a sweet tooth, it’s not surprising to find that the quality of dessert treats in the city is exceptionally high.

If you’re looking a sweet addition to your day, read on to discover the best desserts in Abu Dhabi.  The best part is they’re all takeaway options so you don’t even need to get dressed up.

L’Artisan Gourmand

If you’re looking for decadent, uniquely beautiful eclairs, you can’t go past L’Artisan Gourmand.  Each pastry is an absolute work of art, overflowing with perfectly balanced flavour.  With flavours like passion flower, macchiato, Madagascar vanilla, pistachio and salted caramel, these are so much more than your standard eclairs.

Seriously, look at them – it’s no wonder they’re widely considered amongst the best desserts in Abu Dhabi.

Though the pastries are the main drawcard to L’Artisan Gourmand, they offer a fantastic range of additional products – tender macarons (literally the biggest we’ve ever seen with lovely little macaron feet), chocolate covered dates and a selection of carefully crafted teas and infusions; all perfect to take home for an afternoon snack.

Brownie Blues

Gooey, fudgey, flavourful and delivered fresh to your door; courier deliveries do not come sweeter than this!  Brownie Blues takes one of your favourite comfort desserts and ramps them up a level with flavours like red velvet, rocky road, ferrero rocher and peanut brownie.  As amazing as they are fresh, the classic is even better warmed up with a little ice cream.

Available in single servings of boxes big enough to share, there are plenty of options, all as delicious as the next… and the best part?  You don’t even need to get out of you PJs!

Nata Lisboa

Looking for perfectly formed pastry treat in Abu Dhabi?  Creamy, delicate custard combined with crunchy, light pastry these traditional Portuguese tarts from Nata Lisboa will put a smile on your dial.  Served with icing sugar and cinnamon, they’re absolutely delicious and can be served as sweet as you like with a little sprinkle from each sachet.

We’ve not tasted the real thing in Europe but we’ve heard from a number of people that there’s literally no difference between these tarts and the originals in Portugal and in my books that makes them even better (as we can pop down to the WTC Mall and pick up a box anytime we like)!

Fresh Bakes Cafe

Tucked away in a local mall, Fresh Bakes Cafe has well and truely won Nathan over with their cupcakes which is no small feat.  We’ve popped in store a few times now and every time the cupcakes have been perfectly cooked, moist and flavourful.

With a massive range of flavours, there’s something for everyone. The jaffa dark chocolate, apple biscoff and strawberry lemonade were all standouts but I don’t think you could go wrong with any flavour choice!

Their menu extends far beyond cupcakes with delicious cookies, cheesecakes, muffins and a full service mains offering – if you’re floating around Khalifa City, make sure you stop by Fresh Bakes Cafe.

Ready for your sugar fix?  You can’t go wrong with any of the above recommendations – trust us, we’ve sampled plenty of desserts over the years!

What our your Abu Dhabi favourites?

PS: If you’re looking for an amazing eat-in option, check out Tamba!

Do your sweet tooth a favour and pin this post!  It’ll let you keep tabs on the best desserts in Abu Dhabi.

Best Desserts in Abu Dhabi

We have no association to any of the above businesses, we just love desserts!

Abu Dhabi Food Luxury Middle East Reviews United Arab Emirates

Tamba: Perfectly Balanced Indian Fusion in Abu Dhabi

November 3, 2016

Visiting gorgeous locations and reporting back to you all is without doubt, one of our favourite things.  Blogging is a real labour of love though – some posts we write come together effortlessly whilst others take a little more time to craft.  Then there’s this one – how do you write a post reviewing a restaurant when you’re left speechless?

I suppose, like anything, you start at the beginning… From the moment we stepped through the door of Tamba (until the minute we left) we were treated like royalty; not the uncomfortable level of attention that you get in some top-notch restaurants but like we were long lost friends, invited over for the most amazing of meals.

Tamba is a relative new-comer to the flourishing Abu Dhabi food scene, serving up Indian food with a unique twist.  Each plate pulls on traditional Indian flavours but is combined with a wide range of ingredients from around the world – the result is an exciting and sometimes unexpected dining experience.

The restaurant itself is absolutely gorgeous and carefully designed to match its own name.  In Hindi, ‘Tamba’ means copper and the warm metallic shades throughout the restaurant help to create a welcoming atmosphere.  An exotic rooftop restaurant with a sophisticated club feel, Tamba was everything we look for in a date-night restaurant.

As we looked over the menu we were instantly taken by just how knowledgeable the Tamba staff are – they know their food inside out and their passion for the concept shines through.  Trusting in the Tamba team, we shared some of our favourite foods and took them up on their offer to craft us a personal selection that we would love.

Did we love it?  Undoubtedly!

Each course came out as it was ready but for the most part we worked steadily though the smaller sharing plates before the mains arrived.  When you’re hungry, the idea of plates continually making their way out of the kitchen is great news!

From the mild but tasty ‘chicken 65’ entree to the memorable seafood starters that Nathan enjoyed, it was obvious to us that each and every ingredient at Tamba is carefully considered and then cooked by master chefs.  We found out later that every dish passes through the head chef’s hands, ensuring perfection at all stages (and they are indeed capable hands, having just been awarded Abu Dhabi Chef of the Year).

One of the surprise stand-outs from the first part of the night, for both Nathan and I, was the sweet and sour pumpkin paratha, eaten taco-style.  It is literally the first time I’ve eaten a vegetarian meal that hasn’t felt like an alternative to a meat based dish – this one stands on it’s own two feet, overflowing with perfect flavour.

Delicately flavoured chicken curry (their version of butter chicken, but shhhh we’re not meant to call it that), lamb chops marinated and cooked to perfection (how many times have I used that word?!), the biggest scallops we’ve ever seen; every dish that came out was tasty and a stand-out in its own right.

Thanks to the nature of Indian fusion, even those that aren’t huge fans of this style of cuisine will be happy; with so many different flavours finding their way into the dishes, some would almost trick you into forgetting their Indian roots.

No meal is complete without the addition of a refreshing drink and tasty dessert and fortunately, Tamba have both of these in abundance.  Fresh, fruity and beautifully presented, Tamba has a wide range of beverages on offer with the same high level of ingredients found in their food – homemade syrups and creative garnishes, they’ve thought of every detail… let’s be honest though, a great drink is one thing but a remarkable dessert is a whole different beast (in the very best of ways).

India is not traditionally known for its dessert offerings but Tamba has managed to hit theirs out of the park.  With five solid options on the menu (and a cute little story explaining how they were named), they’re large enough to share… though you won’t want to!  My personal favourite was ‘the Break-Up’, an amazing  dark chocolate mousse, peanut semifreddo, salted caramel, chocolate sauce concoction whilst Nathan loved the caramelised banana toffee cake which was served with pecan nut praline, fresh banana and homemade cardamon ice cream (known as the ‘Sticky Situation’).  All three were delicious – to be honest, I really don’t think you could go wrong with dessert there!

It’s a good sign when even with three desserts between the two of you, you’ve already chosen what you’d like on your next visit (cheesecake with ginger snaps, passionfruit curd, whitechocolate and honey shards and popping candy – seriously dessert heaven!)

I know this review sounds unbelievably positive but honestly, we mean every word.  If you’re currently living in Abu Dhabi or planning a visit, we’d recommend swinging by Tamba to see for yourself.  You won’t be disappointed.

The Hub at The Mall,
World Trade Centre Abu Dhabi (Level 6)

+971 2 672 88 88

Weekdays 12:00pm – 01:00am
Weekends 12:00pm – 02:00am

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Tamba Abu Dhabi review

Thank you to Tamba and PurpleHoney for so graciously hosting us.  As always, all thoughts are absolutely our own.  We can’t wait to return!

Abu Dhabi Expat Life Food Middle East United Arab Emirates

U-Turn: An American Diner in The UAE

June 24, 2016

Let me start by saying how much we really love a good burger… our love for burgers is on par with our adoration of the United States and all of their ridiculously delicious (and naughty) food in general!

Imagine our excitement when reviews for U-Turn Diner started popping up all over Facebook – Abu Dhabi’s very own American styled diner.  Now take that level of excitement and turn it up a notch, when not only did we have the chance to visit U-Turn but we were invited to trial their new menu.  The stuff of dreams!

U-Turn opened six months ago and has brought a relaxed and fun atmosphere to Abu Dhabi’s casual dining scene.  In a nod to their American roots, they serve generously sized portions

uturn abu dhabi monster shakesAmazing desert treats seem to be popping up the world over, with one of the biggest trends currently in the form of calorific freak shakes.  We were lucky enough to get our hands on all of the new flavours and they didn’t disappoint.  Choose between:

  • Armadillo (46AED): A caramel chocolate shake, with peanut butter.  Topped with a snickers chocolate bar, M&Ms and a scoop of vanilla ice cream and loaded with chocolate and caramel sauce.
  • Chocolattack (49AED): An oreo choc shake, topped with whipped cream, brownie, muddy chocolate, pretzels and an oreo cookie.
  • Strawberry Fantasia (47AED): A strawberry shake, topped with marshmallows, colourful sprinkles, and a mini cupcake.
  • Cloud Nine (48AED): A strawberry cheesecake shake mix, topped with a slice of cheesecake, sprinkles, strawberry sauce and cream.

We were served these monster shakes as an entree but next time we’d order normal drinks to accompany our main and order a shake as our dessert.  They were delicious but definitely better suited to a post-dinner treat.

uturn abu dhabi monster shakesFollowing our shakes, we sampled a range of starters (as seen below), including chicken bites, ‘bang bang shrimp’, chicken quesadillas and ‘pepe fries’.  All of them were tasty – the shrimp got great reviews from the other diners and I personally enjoyed the cheesy chicken bites and U-Turn’s take on poutine.  The servings were generous (especially when you consider the size of the mains to follow) so be mindful that you don’t over-order.

uturn abu dhabi food

Just when we were starting to feel full the mains made their way out to us – though we weren’t very hungry, we couldn’t resist tucking in.  The bread was the perfect middle-ground between savoury and sweet, the patties perfectly cooked and the toppings flavourful.  Each burger was served with a massive pickle and a side of beautifully seasoned fries.

We sampled theMamma Mia Burger (Italian influenced), Este Punto Burger (Mexican style), the OMG Burger (a serious burger – triple patty beef (120gr each), cheddar cheese (real & sauce) , strips of beef bacon, hashbrown, grilled egg, red coleslaw and grilled onion!) and also had a little taste of their U-Turn AD Burger (with a camel patty).

For all of us, the OMG burger was the clear favourite.  It was cooked to perfection and the hashbrowns and bacon worked well with the other flavours.  It would easily have been the biggest burger we’ve ever seen and would be well suited to sharing with someone else, but is one we’d order again without doubt (though we would ask them to withhold a little of the cheese).

I was brave and tried a little of the camel burger but must admit, it wasn’t to my taste.  I found it to be too salty, but for all I know, that could be how camel should be served.  I’m not very adventurous with my food so really enjoying it was always going to be a long shot!

uturn abu dhabi burgersAll in all, the food at U-Turn was tasty, generously sized and great value for money.  The monster shakes were an awesome once-in-a-while treat and the burgers delicious.  The menu has a wide enough range to cater to most tastes, but even still, try to book your trip into U-Turn on a cheat day… there’s no point heading somewhere like this just to order a side salad and water!

uturn diner location

If you’re keen to check out the U-Turn diner for yourself (and we suggest you do), you’ll find them not too far from Al Wadha Mall.

Sunday – Thursday: 8a.m till 11:30p.m

Friday & Saturday: 8a.m till 11p.m

Please note their hours may change (due to Ramadan etc.) so give them a call if in doubt…
+971 2 666 8070
+971 2 666 8060

Thanks U-Turn for having us along!  Nathan and I both had a great evening munching on delicious food in a fun environment with great company.  As always, all views are our own.

Abu Dhabi Accommodation Holidays Middle East United Arab Emirates

Tilal Liwa Hotel – Your Desert Oasis

June 19, 2016

As much as we love Abu Dhabi, sometimes it’s nice to get out of here; as they say, a change is as good as a holiday… even if it is only for a weekend!

Tilal Liwa Hotel desert quad bikeFortunately, just shy of two hours from the city, Tilal Liwa Hotel lays amongst the dunes of the Rub al Khai desert.  This Arabian hideaway is a welcome respite from the hussle and bustle of the city, offering the perfect combination of relaxation and adventure for a weekend away.

Tilal Liwa Hotel desert road

The entrance of Tilal Liwa gives a modern nod to Arabia and opens out onto a beautiful (and air conditioned) deck with views out over the property and desert.  Once we were handed our room card, we couldn’t resist wandering down to our room via the deck and courtyard – the gorgeous pool was what caught out eye when we were initially checked out the Tilal Liwa Hotel and it didn’t disappoint!

Tilal Liwa Hotel courtyard

Our room was generously sized and opened directly out onto a little private courtyard which continued to the garden (a welcome sight in the desert!).  We had absolutely everything we needed for a relaxing weekend away; a large, comfortable bed, crisp linen, satellite T.V (with a good variety of channels), complimentary water and an incredibly well stocked mini bar.

The air-conditioning in the room was strong enough to let us open the door and enjoy a touch of fresh air.  We enjoyed sitting back and enjoying the sound of the local birdlife, something that all too often, we don’t get to hear in Abu Dhabi.

Tilal Liwa Hotel room

The 111 rooms of the Tilal Liwa frame the beautiful swimming pool – the jewel in the crown of this hotel.  With the Arabian sun beating down on the pool all day, it’s a good thing the pool is cooled to the perfect temperature for a midday dip.  Dozens of loungers and hammocks also line the pool and there was no shortage of guests keen to soak up the sun whilst relaxing.

Outside of Ramadan, I can imagine just how nice it would be to sit with a fresh juice at the side of the pool, however the time of year during our visit prevented food or drinks being served outside.  There was a secluded bar tucked just around the corner though so don’t let visiting at this time of year put you off – it really made very little difference to our weekend.

Tilal Liwa Hotel pool

Tilal Liwa Hotel pool sunset

Our package included full board which, even during Ramadan, was fantastic!  We were provided with a delicious cooked breakfast, lunch and dinner each day.  Each meal was served buffet style, with the addition of freshly cooked eggs and pancakes/waffles for breakfast.  Lunch was fantastic with a combination of Asian, Middle Eastern and Western options on offer, whilst dinner was similar but with a more significant focus on Arabic food.  Iftar (the equivalent of dinner, served to break the fast during Ramadan – learn more here) began at 7.20pm (when the sun set) and was vast and equally tasty.

It’s not all about food at Tilal Liwa though; here you can choose to be as active or relaxed as you like.  Our levels of energy didn’t quite extend to the gym, but for those of you with an interest in health and fitness, there was a remarkably well appointed gym, along with saunas and steam rooms.  Guests can book themselves into the onsite spa for a massage or facial whilst the kids are entertained by the hotel staff in the kids club.

For those with a little more energy to expel, there is plenty to do out in the desert!    Mountain bikes are freely available for the whole family and a number of additional activities are on offer at surprisingly reasonable prices.  We got up close and personal with one of the many local camels and had a blast on the quad bikes, zipping up and down the dunes.

Sand boarding, horse riding, desert safaris and more; it feels like Tilal Liwa have thought of practically everything!

Packages vary but many include activities so be sure to check with the hotel to see if any of these offerings are included in your stay.

camel racing abu dhabi
Tilal Liwa Hotel camel ride
dune bashing quad bike abu dhabi
Tilal Liwa Hotel quad bike

The Tilal Liwa Hotel represents excellent value for money whilst delivering attainable luxury in a memorable location.  Less than two hours from Abu Dhabi City, a visit to the hotel is a glorious hideaway for expats and travellers alike.  Whether you’re an expat looking for a weekend getaway or a visitor seeking out a more traditional Emirati experience,  the Tilal Liwa Hotel is sure to fit the bill.

sunrise tilal liwa hotel

Thank you to Tilal Liwa Hotel for hosting us. As always, all thoughts are our own. 


Come back to this review by pinning this image…

Tilal Liwa Hotel Pinterest

Abu Dhabi Expat Life Food Middle East United Arab Emirates

Ramadan in Abu Dhabi – Iftar at Majlis Alfareej

June 6, 2016

Ramadan (in Arabic: رمضان, Ramadān), known as the Holy Month, is an incredibly important period of time for Muslims.  Over this time, Muslim’s go without food and drink during daylight hours, forsake desires and often help to improve life for others that are less fortunate, showing a great deal of respect and compassion.


Thank you to Wond for this infographic – though it is a few years old, much of the information is still relevant.

Today was the first day of Ramadan and over the Holy Month, Muslims in the United Arab Emirates will fast for over 15 hours, in temperatures of over 45 degrees celsius.   Those not observing Ramadan will show respect to those that are by eating and drinking only in private spaces which means the limited cafes and restaurants that will be open during daylight hours will be shrouded with black curtains and eating/drinking/smoking where someone else might see you is absolutely not allowed.

The morning meal, eaten before dawn is known as Suhoor, whilst the evening meal, eaten after the sun sets is called Iftar.  These meals are social occasions, where families and friends come together, united by their faith.

Imagine our excitement when we were invited along to not only our first Iftar but an Iftar preview (fancy, right?)

We were hosted by Majlis Alfareej, a new restaurant that’s opened in the up and coming foodie hotspot, Danat, where they serve Emirati fusion dishes in a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere.

Iftar (in restaurants) tend to be either set menus or buffets of traditional Emirati food.  The food tends to be a combination of beautifully cooked and spiced meat, served with traditional breads and rice.  Majlis Alfareej take these traditional meals and put their own special twist on them.

We started with a range of delicious soups – Nathan devoured his broccoli soup (enjoying the little surprise bursts of cheese) and I enjoyed a traditional chicken harees (a wheat and chicken broth) before being offered a range of traditional salads (which came jam-packed with all sorts of goodies, including strawberries and pomegranate seeds).

My favourite dish followed; khameer bread pockets, stuffed with flavourful meats (chicken, beef or lamb) and sauces, served with either Oman chips or fries – we will certainly be back after Ramadan to enjoy these for lunch!  Yum.

Clockwise from left: Peachy Loody, chicken and beef khameer sandwiches and broccoli soup.

Dinner came out in gorgeous traditional serving dishes, all with yoghurt and lemon and each one tasty and beautifully cooked.  The meat was tender and the rice flavourful without being overwhelming.

Fogah Samach – King fish and rice, cooked with Emirati spices and dried lemon.

Machbous Diyay – Chicken and rice, cooked with saffron and Emirati spices and a chickpea topping.

Like any good meal, we finished with dessert and were pleasantly surprised by the pistachio cake – it was velvety soft and a lovely light end to our dinner.  I’ve never really understood the inclusion of pistachio as a sweet dish in the Middle East but this cake absolutely had me onboard with the idea!

Of course, anyone that’s spent a reasonable amount of time in Abu Dhabi will be familiar with lgeimat; delicious fritters which are a staple over here (and one of my favourite local desserty treats).

Top: Pista Cake – Pistachio cake and icecream, Coffee Date Cake – Coffee infused sponge cake with a thick layer of cardamon cream cheese, drizzled with date syrup and batheeth crumbs. Bottom: Lgeimat – Fried balls with cardamon and saffron spices, served with date syrup and sesame seeds.

Throughout our Iftar we enjoyed a range of drinks, the best of which (in my opinion) was the ‘peachy loody’, an amazing concoction of frozen mango and peach with pomegranate syrup.  Honestly, one of the very best things I’ve ever had the pleasure of drinking.  That’s not an exaggeration in that slightest – it was that good!

We’d certainly recommend Majlis Alfareej to others, both as an Iftar/Suhoor option, but also as a great way to experience traditional Emirati food, which surprisingly enough is relatively difficult to come across in Abu Dhabi.

We had a fantastic evening chatting with others that have also made the UAE their home and enjoying delicious Emirati food; what a first introduction to Iftar!  We’re booked in to attend another few throughout the month of Ramadan and are looking forward to the food, the socialising and to learning more about the Muslim religion.

Apologies if I’ve made a mistake within this post; I am by no means an expert (in any way, shape or form) when it comes to Islam but I do feel fortunate to live in Abu Dhabi and to be experiencing my first Ramadan alongside my students, colleagues and friends.  Living in a country where religion is so closely linked to everyday life has been a real treat – these new experiences are what expat living is all about!  

Thank you to Majlis AlFareej and Q Communications for so kindly hosting us at this Iftar preview evening.  As always, all thoughts are entirely our own.

Abu Dhabi Africa Dubai Expat Life Holidays Monthly Round-Up theme park United Arab Emirates

Where has the time gone? Another ‘Monthly’ Round-Up

June 1, 2016

How on earth is it June already?!

The plan was to jot down what we’ve been up to over here each month but considering my last ‘monthly round-up’ was posted at the beginning of March, I think it’s fair to say I’ve been pretty unsuccessful in doing so!

The past three months have been a whirlwind of travels, work (school for me, price-lists for Nathan), brunches, socialising and for a week, family (yay!)

Nathan arrived back in Abu Dhabi, having spent a month or so working in New Zealand.  He had a great time catching up with our friends and family (not to forget our cats!) but it was nice to have him home again at the end of it all.

We were fortunate to get out of the UAE on two occasions since our last general update, on both occasions to Africa (which is incredible considering before those trips, we’d never set foot on the continent).

Our first trip away took us to Eastern Africa – Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda.  It was a mind-blowing trip that left us feeling incredibly humbled.  If you’re interested in checking out our itinerary, you can see the key places we visited in this post.  The highlights of the trip were based around the amazing animals we saw – all of the ‘big five’, not to mention tracking highland mountain gorillas and chimpanzees in the wild (the stuff of dreams!), swimming with wild bottlenose dolphins, diving to spot seahorses and trying to avoid the killer croc that almost landed in our boat whilst cruising the Nile!  You can read about the differences between our Masai Mara and Murchison Falls safaris here too.

Our second journey to Africa took us to Egypt where we spend a whirlwind three nights exploring this unique, vibrant country.  We spent a night in Cairo and two in Luxor, where we were memorised by the incredible history found throughout the country.  Looking back, it’s hard to believe how much we managed to squeeze into our three nights (which was really only two full days) there – we visited Sakkara, home to the oldest buildings (which also happen to be pyramids) in the world, where we also climbed down inside a pyramid, rode camels and Arabian horses to the Great Pyramids of Giza, explored the Valley of the Kings and rode a hot air balloon over the Nile (and that’s only scratching the surface!)  We found the Egyptian people to be warm and welcoming and had no concerns whatsoever in regard to our safety.  I don’t doubt that having a fantastic driver/guide helped, but we have no reservations in recommending others visit this incredible part of the world.

I’m a bit behind the ball with blog posts (stay tuned for posts on our Masai Mara safari, Ugandan adventure and Egyptian exploration) but you can find our photos on Instagram if you’re keen for a peek before I find the time to get writing.

Back in Abu Dhabi, I’d been watching the newest coaster at Ferrari World pop up and the implementation of a teachers’ special made the call of a new coaster far too hard to ignore!  Along with three friends, I headed back to the theme park and, I’m pleased to say, came away feeling quite differently about my experience there (read my thoughts from our first visit here).  Flying Aces is a welcome addition to this indoor park – the initial climb was fantastic and a number of slow loops pull you right out of your harness – certainly a ride that doesn’t suit everyone, but I was a happy camper!  Whilst there I had another zip around on Formula Rosa (the fastest rollercoaster in the world) and again, felt much more positive about it.  The roughness that we experienced our first time riding it was gone, making way for a smooth, incredibly fast (yet comfortable) ride.  I couldn’t help but wonder if the engineers had given the cars a once over, but regardless of what made the difference, Ferrari World is now a much better option for thrill seekers… I will be watching with anticipation to see what the other new rides look like.

My friend from back home arrived so we had a great time showing her around the UAE.  Together, we managed to squeeze a trip to Aquaventure in (the waterpark over on the Palm, in Dubai) and we have a fantastic day splashing around and racing down the slides!  Nathan and I enjoyed Yas Water World but if we had to pick a favourite, I think it would have to be Aquaventure – it was seriously impressive!

We made the trip over to Dubai a number of times in the last three months and are finally starting to feel like we have a sense of direction there! It’s a big city and like all of the UAE, the off ramps tend to loop around which means you often drive in the opposite direction to where you should be going before the road loops back around.

The more time we spend in Duabi, the more the city seems to be growing on us! The architecture there is mind blowing and it’s nice to get out of Abu Dhabi; even driving an hour down the road feels like a mini holiday.

We spent a night in the city to see Armin Van Buuren play one of his Armin Only gigs.  We’d seen Armin play a few times in the past and though the production was good the music wasn’t particularly to our taste.  Regardless, it was a well overdue night out and Nath’s excited as we’ve booked in to see one of his all time favourite DJs over the summer.

On their way back from visiting family in Spain, my mum and stepdad swung by Abu Dhabi and spent a week with us. It was such a treat having them here with us!

We’ve also been branching out and trying a range of restaurants recently – as much as we love Chilli’s and PF Changs, its been great to broaden our options and explore more of Abu Dhabi in the process.  We treated ourselves to the fanciest meal of our lives at the Ritz, enjoyed the atmosphere and amazing pan Latin food at BU!, munched on burgers and crazy shakes at the U-Turn Diner and experienced an Emirati fusion Iftar taster too.

In mundane news, my word visa come through (I cannot tell you how exciting this is) which has meant that we can now start the process for Nathan’s visa.  We’ve managed fine without having them but life will be easier once they’ve both come through.  With my visa, I’m now a proud holder of an Emirates ID and UAE drivers licence (you can read my practical guide to converting my NZ licence to a local one here – it’s not exciting but will be helpful for other newbies).

School’s been incredibly busy with our students preparing for (and sitting) their SAT assessments and reports that need to be finished. Last night we celebrated how far they’ve come though, with a graduation evening – they’ve had an awesome year!

Nath’s been busy with work and by all accounts Chant has had a big few months which is awesome news!

As we wrap up our last few weeks at school and work, preparations for our European summer continue. I’ll pop our initial plans here – if you’re going to be in those areas or have any recommendations, we’d love to hear from you! Most stops aren’t set in stone quite yet so feedback would be much appreciated.

Abu Dhabi Expat Life Middle East United Arab Emirates

Expat Expertise, Abu Dhabi: How to convert your overseas drivers licence

May 28, 2016

Whilst visiting Abu Dhabi (or living here before your work visa comes through), you’re able to drive on your home drivers licence or an international one.  Once your work visa comes through, however, it suddenly becomes illegal to do so.

This post isn’t the most exciting of ones but hopefully it will provide a practical step-by-step instruction for those of you needing to convert your overseas licenses to an Abu Dhabi one.

We were pleasantly surprised by how easy the whole process to get my new licence was but knowing exactly where to go will make it even easier still.

First of all, you’ll need to have your original drivers licence translated into Arabic.  We popped down to the translation offices within walking distance of the Hamdan Shopping Centre.  You’ll want to park in the pay and display carpark at the Hamdan Centre and then walk in the direction of the Corniche (but don’t go far, it’s literally just across the road, a little way down a side street.)  We used GOSB Legal Translation – they charged AED60 to convert my licence from English to Arabic and did it in 10 minutes or so whilst we waited.

Once you have your translated verification, you’ll need to visit one of the licensing centres – we went to the ‘Abu Dhabi Drivers License Department’, on 2nd and Al Dhafra Street, Al Mushfit – it’s just a little way along from Mushrif Mall.

As you enter the licensing centre, follow the path inside until you get to the customer service counter (opposite the licensing desks) and you’ll be given a number to have your eyes tested.  Once your number is called, the optometrist will sit you down, asking you to close one eye at a time to read the letters on the wall.  Upon successful completion of your test, you’ll pay AED30 and be sent on your way with another number.

This time, you’ll sit on the chairs in the main part of the building, waiting for your new number to be called.  Upon reaching the main licensing desks, you’ll be asked for your passport/visa and Emirates ID (or copies of them if you don’t have the originals on you – we didn’t as I’m in the process of sponsoring my husband) and will make the payment of AED250.  Some websites say you need a passport photo but this isn’t the case – the team member will take a photo of you in person and print out your new license whilst you wait (and with any luck, your photo will be better than mine was!).

Of all of the paperwork requirements here in the UAE, converting my licence was by far the easiest undertaking.  Good luck with your conversion!

The above information presumes that your licence is from one of the following countries: GCC countries, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Netherlands, Ireland, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, UK or USA.  If your licence is not from one of these countries, or you do not have one, you’ll need to undergo the full licensing procedure here.

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