There’s nothing like a vacation. When I was originally informed by BellaNaija that I was going on a trip to Abu Dhabi courtesy of Etihad Airways and Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority it was like music to my ears. I was literally counting the days to the trip and was super excited to be going there and see all that was the ‘New Middle East’, especially since I had seen the “Sex and the City 2“ movie and loved it.
After fighting the heat at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport and joining my companions for the trip, we finally checked in and were ushered into the Etihad Airways SDS lounge. The lounge looked luxuriously African inspired with bamboo wooden furniture and floors decorated with chaise lounge chairs, I could tell that this trip was off to a great start. The luxury continued when we boarded the Etihad Flight EY 672 direct flight to Abu Dhabi. Being my first time in business class I couldn’t help but take a couple of minutes to take it all in (it sort of made me never want to fly economy again)
The flight was smooth and comfortable and I can officially say there is nothing like the service in the Pearl Business Class. Two in-flight movies and two exotic meals later we were officially tourists in the UAE capital. After going through immigration and all the processes we were met by the Head of Corporate Policy for Etihad, Damian James. He gave us a quick overview of our itinerary and we were chauffeured to the beautiful Eastern Mangroves Hotel and Spa by Anantara. At the entrance we were greeted, much like the ladies of “Sex and the City 2” with dates and coffee which are the traditional foods of welcome in the emirates. We got our keys and immediately that card hit my palm it was like a wake up call… “you’re here, take it all in”. Nothing could have prepared me for the room and the pictures don’t do it justice, but the room was beautiful.
A couple of hours later we met the Area Marketer and Communications Assistant for Anantara, Tammy Chan for a brief tour of the hotel. We started off downstairs where we toured the “Ingredients” restaurant where guests have breakfast and sometimes dinner and the Thai restaurant “Pachaylen” where we were scheduled to have dinner later that evening. On entering the spa we were immediately hit with the smell of Ancient Arabia and Thai inspired therapies. We took a look at the rooms where couples came for massages and the popular Hammam bath. On a sincere note, the bath experience looked overwhelming but after I saw a woman walking out looking like she just lost 10 pounds I think I’ll give it a shot next time I go there. Up next, we were led to the gym where they have separate training areas for the men and the women.
After the gym, we went over to see one of their best lounges, the Kasara Lounge. Tammy explained that they have a lot of different classes of guests and so provide different lounges to meet them at their needs, like the Kasara lounge for guests in the Kasara rooms.
Next up, we took a drive to the luxurious Etihad Towers with our host Nabeel Faris from the Tourism and Culture Authority. To my surprise, the tower which looks like a single large building, is actually comprised of 5 towers; a business tower, a hotel tower, two commercial towers and one residential tower. Who knew!
For lunch Nabeel took us to a restaurant at the highest tip of the Etihad towers which has a gorgeous 360 aerial view of the entire island. During the lunch we talked about why we were all there, Abu Dhabi.
Lunch was informative and brief and after a few hours we left for the Etihad Airways Headquarters and Training Academy where we met Damien again for a tour of the building. To begin our tour we started at the Networking Operations department. We were introduced to the head of the department Kevin Obrian who described their functions. He stated that they take care of everything flight and passenger related. They are in charge of handling flight editing, live updates, general change of flights, complaints from passengers, flight delays, flight changes, cargo, flight safety etc. They had so many gadgets on the wall that I felt like James Bond was going to walk in at any moment.
After we exited the room we met up with the Nicki Aisten the head of Service and Strategic Training. This was one of my favourite parts of the trip because we got to go into the flight simulators. Yay! Nicki is in charge of the department that trains the cabin crew including the chefs and all those who render services under Etihad Airways.
At the moment they have a total of 4,700 staff and recruit a total of 1000 every year. They have simulators for every possible situation that could occur on a plane, which provides them with a real life scenario of what could happen during a fire, water landing etc. After our tour with Nicki, we met Tamer Mokbel, the manager of the Ground Training Program who explained the ins and outs of being a pilot.
All in all it was a great first day. We drove back to the hotel for a nice dinner with the team at the Pachaylen restaurant where I had my first encounter with Thai food. I must confess its not a favourite, but I definitely enjoyed the experiment. I decided the trip was too exciting to narrate in one day so I’m going to save the remaining fun for subsequent days to come.
The next day had a lot planned and the soft bed in my hotel room wasn’t going to ruffle itself. I cant tell you much but all I can really say is that the next day was RED, FAST and FUN.