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Tuesday 21 January 2020

UAE2020 Day 01: Sharjah and Beyond

The flight was surprisingly full and consisted of mostly Middle Easterners and Malaysians. We found out later that most of the Malaysians were transiting at Sharjah before making their way to Mecca and Madinah to perform the umrah. Only a handful of Malaysians including ourselves were actually travelling to the UAE.

The flight was pretty bumpy especially over the Arabian Sea and we encountered innumerable air pockets during the last three hours of the flight until we reached landfall. The food served was pretty decent:

simple and adequate meal

At approximately 6.30am local time we began to catch glimpses of land, and an hour later we landed safely at Sharjah International Airport.

first sight of landfall

the excitement grows!

We were finally able to disembark from the aircraft at around 7.45am and we got our first whiff of Arabian air. The cool invigorating morning air immediately lifted our spirits, and we quickly shook off our fatigue after having endured the bumpy flight.

We were shepherded into a waiting shuttle bus and arrived at the airport terminal a short five minutes later.

the invigorating morning air

organised and orderly

a good mix of nationalities

small but functional airport

our first Arabic sunrise

serves mostly Air Arabia fleet

a short commute to the terminal

We encountered very little problems clearing Immigration and Customs, and was glad that the airport personnel was kind enough to usher us through the “Gulf” citizens line that was shorter although we are Malaysians. We supposed that they wanted to shorten the queues that were forming, and we were grateful for their considerate measures.

We finally exited the departure hall, and after freshening up at the washroom (Cat was amused at the lines of women at the sink brushing their teeth!) we headed to an Etisalat service counter to purchase our tourist sim cards. We recommend that visitors staying for less than 2 weeks purchase the Etisalat Talk, Text and Surf plan.

The service counter personnel was kind enough to help us set up our smartphones with the Etisalat sim cards. He politely asked us about our passports, whether it was limited or normal (in his words). We took his question to mean whether we had any travel restrictions, so we told him apart from Israel we were pretty much able to travel anymore in the world. He sighed and said that he was born in the UAE but was not eligible for a passport. Being a descendant of Indian nationals, he would only be eligible for an Indian passport.

We bade our fond farewell to the kind boy and made our way to the airport’s information counter. We found out that we narrowly missed the regular shuttle bus to Sharjah town, but the gentleman manning the counter was kind enough to direct us to the Sharjah Airport Bus Station right outside the airport terminal to catch a bus to Sharjah’s Al Jubail Bus Station 1. From there we planned to catch another bus to the Rashidiya Metro Bus Station in Dubai, catch a train to either Al Ghubaiba Bus Station or IBN Battuta Bus Station to catch an express bus to Abu Dhabi.

As soon as we arrived at Sharjah’s Al Jubail Bus Station 1 we discovered by pure dumb luck an express bus that would take us directly to Abu Dhabi! The fare was only AED33 and it would save us the merry-go-round we had earlier planned, with large cargo bags in tow.

approximately RM39

As we left the bus station we passed a large expanse of land that comprises a total of 36,664 square metres in the middle of Sharjah town, called Rolla Square Park:

a place to visit next time?

Along the way we took a couple of (very shaky) hand-held videos of our first glimpse of the vast expanse of desert, as well as the iconic Aldar Headquarters Building:

It took us a little over 2 hours to get from Sharjah’s Al Jubail Bus Station 1 to Abu Dhabi Central Bus Station.

this is the express bus that got us from Sharjah...

to Abu Dhabi :)

Since it was lunchtime we lugged our large cargo bags across the street to Al Wahda Mall to eat and rest up. We promised to meet up with Ginny and Sern after they got off from work later in the evening. We headed to a large food court on the 3rd floor of the mall and had ourselves a sumptuous meal as we waited for Ginny and Sern. 

looks can be deceiving

what looked like a diminutive food court

hosts a large variety of restaurants

with all kinds of cuisines

from all cultures across the region

and Brendan settled for Popeye's?

A few short hours later Ginny and Sern picked us up and after a hearty round of hugs and kisses headed to their lovely home in Al Reef Villas. We had a delicious round of Iranian Biryani rice delivered to the home for dinner.

happy jet-lagged people

We will end our post here as we rest and recuperate, and re-energise ourselves for the adventure that lie ahead in the coming days. The gleam in the eyes of Ginny and Sern told us we were in for another amazing and exciting experience in the UAE!

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