Abu Dhabi-Marhaba

Words and Images: Mark Aquino


Distance was never on our side. Spending the first 15 years of my life in a place that no one really knew about, it still feels surreal coming home. The memories just hits you right away, it’s like living in a time capsule. Looking up in the cold winter night, I see airplanes fly by, sometimes I wish I was in one of those planes flying back to you.

Abu Dhabi is the capital city of the United Arab Emirates, a country located in the middle east that borders Oman and Saudi Arabia and sits on the Persian Gulf. Perhaps if I told you about Dubai, you’d get the idea but I’m pretty damn sure you wouldn’t be able to find it on a map. Dubai is just one of the emirates in the UAE and I guess the most popular one too. Nevertheless, these cities are always growing and developing rapidly.

The main objective for this trip was to get to drive on the Yas Marina Circuit again. It has been 3 years since my last visit when I arrived on a hot September day..never again. This time we booked our flight towards the end of November per recommendations of my friends there. Getting the flight booked and out of the way was one thing. Even before we started looking for hotels, I brought up the Yas Marina Circuit website and began looking for available slots to drive the Formula Yas car around the track again. Much to my dismay, no schedules were available. At the corner of my eye, I saw an ad for Formula 1 to be held at Yas Marina. It all made sense as soon as I saw the event dates, I contacted the staff at the venue and learned that they halt track events 2 weeks prior to the Grand Prix.  I decided to grab the opportunity and booked my ticket to spectate one of the world’s most prestigious racing event.

We departed from Washington, DC and battled the 12 hour flight to the Emirates. After grabbing our rental car, we tried to make our way to the place we were staying at. Without GPS guidance, we somehow made it there. The landmarks I once remembered were either gone or restructured, I still found my way – somehow.

We grabbed dinner with some of my family, Chris and I then started to wander the city. We visited my abandoned school and ended the night with the best beef and chicken shawarma. The next day we met up with my friends from high school and spent time catching up. They would be our awesome tour-guides during the rest of our stay.

Here is Part 1. Welcome to Abu Dhabi (and Dubai too)!

First brunch of our trip at Jones the Grocer featuring Wagyu Burger with Foie Gras  and Truffle Mayo, Beer Battered Fish and Chips, etc. The building with what looks like a golf ball on top is the Etisalat office, one of the oldest landmarks remaining and one of the leading communications company in the country.


I met up with Third World Society founder Brian Maroney and got to see his aggressive looking Audi R8. We had a little get together with old friends, ending the night with shots of smooth brandy while laughing to cards against humanity.


Random shots from Madinat Zayed Gold Center. Thanks to Kate for having lunch with us at The Galleria, located in one of the newly developed islands.

One of the highlights of this trip was visiting the Grand Mosque with Bianca and Kate. Never have I felt so solemn and at peace. Maybe I was just amazed at the details and architecture. At one point in your life, you need to witness this majestic structure. The other cool highlight was visiting Emirates Palace with Lyka and Kate (again). We redid the Furious 7 walk down the grand stairs and got to consume 24 Karat gold flakes in our coffee. This place goes beyond words, attention to detail was key.

We had to visit Marina Mall after the expansion and I was quite surprised at how nice it looked now. We then decided to drive to the famous Dubai and visit the world’s tallest building – Burj Khalifa. We brought the rain with us but that didn’t stop us from conquering the colossal tower. The city skyline was taken at the man made island – The Palm. I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

We had to visit the F1 Fan zone by the beach. They had driving simulators and showcased cars that were available to drive/drift at Yas Marina. We also celebrated my best friend Maan’s birthday with some awesome fried ice cream and a lot of food before retreating away to the place I call “The Secret Garden”. It’s a small, quiet park located beneath the city lights. You can tell that Chris was having fun.


Next up! Formula 1


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