Abu Dhabi-MA’SALAM

Words and Images: Mark Aquino

 

Let’s side track for a bit before I get into the Formula 1 Experience. We went to Souq Qaryat Al Beri the night before. This is not your typical Arabian market. They sell high end merchandise in their shops and boutiques. Inside the market were very classy restaurants serving different types of cuisines. This place also featured an abra ride – comparable to a gondola ride along the canals of Venice. To some, it’s a really nice place to bring a date for a romantic night out. You can step outside to look at the breakwaters while the Grand Mosque stands illuminated in the distance. I recommend visiting at night.

 

Let’s talk about Formula 1! On the Friday before the main event, we decided to stop by Yas Island and collect our tickets. It was a mess. Between trying to figure out where the box office was located and the lack of signs/directions, we were even told to go the wrong way. Eventually we reached the ticket office and grabbed our passes. We didn’t even attempt to spectate that evening, we just wanted to get the hell out of there.

The next day we got up nice and early, headed to our favorite bakery and bought a couple of cheese breads to go. Traffic at Yas Island was a lot more tolerable. After a couple of re-directions and U-turns, we made it to the parking lot. From there we hopped on a bus and got off Stop #5. Our journey to the Abu Dhabi Hill didn’t end there, we had to go through security, walk forever, exit the track, go through security again and walk up to the hill. Our spot featured different views and areas of the track, although we didn’t have reserved seating nor seats for that matter, we were able to walk around freely and not feel compacted in one seat. We didn’t really spend much time there since it was just the day of qualifying. I grabbed a souvenir from Mercedes-AMG and took several pictures of the Formula Yas and SST Cars. We left early and headed home to spend time with friends for our going away party.

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The next day, the day before our flight and the day of the main event, I got up early and headed out to drop Chris off at Marina Mall for his last minute shopping for his special someone. On the other hand, I had arranged a lunch-date with mine. After our rendezvous, I rushed to get Chris and we started to make our way to Yas Island. By that time, we already knew the area and got to our parking spot with ease. Again, we hopped on the bus and did the whole nine to get to our destination. The hill was crowded, yet it had enough room for everyone.

The weather was beautiful, the view was astonishing and the crowd was hyped. The event started out with the national anthem of the UAE (I can still sing this today) while Eithad Airways (the national airline of the UAE) and fighter jets flew over the event. That sight was just spectacular.

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After being in awe and amazed, the race finally commenced. The crowd cheered on for their favorite drivers. The track was filled with sound waves of resonating exhaust notes and roars from the spectators as these super machines battled for 55 laps. Drivers battled each other from sundown and into the night as the track was lit up with flashes and bright flood lights.

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As the race drew to a close, Nico Rosberg emerged as the winner followed by crowd favorite Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen. Fireworks lit up the dark sky, the race was over. We battled lines and checkpoints to get back to our car. It was finally over, our vacation was over.  We started our trip eating shawarma late at night, we did the same thing on our last night there. We met up with friends one last time, briefly. After the hugs and farewells, I remember that it felt empty – I felt empty. I was leaving a part of me there and with her. I hate goodbyes. Throughout our stay, the people, this place and this city always took my breath away.

I’d like to thank my friends and family for giving us a place to stay and for showing us around. I’d like to personally thank Kevin Choi for letting me borrow his prized camera, these pictures wouldn’t be possible without it.

 

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