Make Mine a Double

More than a few people have asked me about drinking in the UAE. A common misconception is that it’s not allowed, which is most certainly not the case for non-Muslims. However, there are only two choices for the rest of us: go to a private residence or a hotel bar. Taxis are always in order because the UAE has a zero tolerance driving policy. And with the rate that traffic accidents occur around here, it’s not a risk worth taking!

Hotels: With few exceptions, liquor can only be served in hotels. Every hotel has at least one bar, if not several. So far we’ve been to Irish bars, an English pub, a jazz bar, and a couple nightclubs (flashing laser lights and loud music with a driving beat aren’t my thing so I’ve already experienced my first and last visit to two places). What’s popular at some of the clubs are reserved tables where there’s a per person minimum and sometimes a table fee on top of that. It can get pricey: all beer is imported so a pint of Guinness is generally around $9+ while a Budweiser is right on its tails. Mixed drinks are expensive and wine is outrageous. A bottle of wine that’s less than ten bucks back home can go for over $90 in a hotel here. The only saving graces are teacher discounts, happy hours, and ladies’ nights. I know this sounds like I’m out all the time, but once a week is about all I can swing. Seriously. Really.

Liquor Stores: A free liquor license is obtainable online through the “Special Licence” office. The requirements include an online app with the following docs uploaded: Emirates ID, resident visa passport page, passport photo page, and salary certificate. The penalty for drinking without a liquor license can be as much as five years in jail and AED 5000 fine so if you qualify for a license there’s no reason not to get it. Liquor is still expensive in the stores. Hard liquor is priced almost the same as at home, maybe a handful of dollars more per bottle. “Better” beer is about twice the U.S. price. I’ve found a few wines that I’d drink at home and they run double to triple the normal cost as well.

Hotel Brunches: Because Friday is the holy day in the UAE, many businesses have shorter hours, later hours, or are altogether closed. In order to appease the large non-Muslim community, Friday brunch has morphed into a huge, all-day social event. The thing about an Abu Dhabi brunch is that it never ends. The tables don’t turn over, so once you’ve paid your fee you’re in it for the long-haul. There are many different styles of brunches but, in general, picture yourself at a lavish wedding reception minus the bride and groom. Food, music, the works.

Last weekend I attended brunch at the Fairways restaurant in the Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort for the first time. It was a birthday celebration (thankfully not mine) so we had a large table of people who were happy to have survived another week at work and ready to kick back. For as big of a change as it is to be here, we all agreed that events like Friday brunch make up for a lot of the weekday hassles. We settled in for four hours of grazing- or gorging, depending on how you choose to see it. Of course, this brunch had it all: soups, cheeses, breads, Mediterranean fare, cooking station with meat and seafood (both raw and cooked to order), sushi, Asian, Italian, countless desserts, etc. We opted to include the bar package, which was only an additional $10 U.S. and is where we got our money’s worth; the hotel may not have even made a profit from us. A good time was had by all. Fortunately, as 4pm rolled around someone came up with the bright idea that we hadn’t had enough fun, so we carried the party to a nearby place and enjoyed good company and a wonderful view for another, umm, four or five hours or so. Enough said.




The Westin was actually not my virgin experience with this Friday phenomenon. Several weekends ago I had the pleasure of attending the “Welcome Back” brunch hosted by the Irish Society of Abu Dhabi in the beautiful Park Rotana Hotel. The event was from 1-6pm, which was trouble in itself as it not only included the food but an open bar as well, all for the pittance of 180dhs (or $50 USD) total. I arrived at approximately 3pm, as one of my very kind South African co-workers hosted a nice lunch at her house the same day. So, needless to say, by the time I arrived the party was in full swing. Upon entering, there was a huge buffet complete with prime rib, turkey, beef and kidney pie, chicken dishes, mashed potatoes, French fries, Yorkshire pudding, pastas, soups, salads, desserts, and more. There were bars set up in several corners of the ballroom, all crowded with thirsty Irishmen clamoring for drinks. Highlights of this increasingly insane afternoon included music by an Irish DJ, dance contests, and a raffle, By the time the raffle took place the announcers had to call out about 100 numbers for ten prizes because nobody was looking at (or possibly able to find) their tickets. My favorite line of the day came from a guy who was teetering in front of me at the bar: “Two vodka cranberries- easy on the ice, heavy on the vodka.” Yeah, that’s just what you need, buddy. Multiply that mentality by 600 people and I consider this people-watching extravaganza $50 well-spent. Such a delightful time was had that I’m now an official member of the Irish Society of Abu Dhabi!! Benefits include free Gaelic lessons, discounted Irish dancing lessons, and 20% off at a number of the Irish bars around town. Sláinte!



2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jackie
    Oct 06, 2014 @ 22:51:56

    Steve is making this spread for Friends’ Thanksgiving this year!



  2. suzannainthesand
    Oct 07, 2014 @ 02:15:49

    Really?! You know it wasn’t made of rolls and jello, right?



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