Abu Dhabi, UAE

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi

"Welcome to the World's Richest Arabian Horse Race"

For one magical weekend I was invited to attend the annual World's Richest Arabian Horse Race in Abu Dhabi, Dubai's neighboring state and capital of the United Arab Emirates. It turns out that I'm related to Arabian Horse Racing Royalty! When my two uncles won the United States Arabian Horse Race Championships for the second year in a row, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum personally invited Mark and Scott and their families to Abu Dhabi for a weekend of wine-ing and dining like Arabian princes and princesses.

So in November of 2015 I packed up the fanciest dresses I own, the most expensive looking costume-jewelry I could scavenge, and a few too many pairs of high heels, and made my way to JFK to board one of the safest airlines in the world, Emirates Airlines. (Emirates even has rockets aboard in the case the plane is threatened in-flight!)

After 16 long hours of movies and restless sleeping, I landed in the hot and sunny Dubai. I picked up a latte (yes, they drink latte's in the UAE), and lugged by bag onto the gender-segregated above-ground metro. As the sun set over the landscape, I saw a vast orange desert to my right and a glittering metropolitan oasis to my left. It only took two hours, a train, bus, and taxi to get to the Four Seasons equivalent of a UAE resort in the capital, Abu Dhabi.

"Princess of the East"

That evening began a string of extravagant events with a plethora of delectable foods, glamorous Arabian women wearing thousand dollar gowns, entertainment from the finest acrobats, and a fashion show by popular Emirati couture designer, Anal Azhari, including handmade designer gift bags from her newest collection. The Sheik spared no expense for us this weekend.

Amal Azhari Fashion Show
Amal's Party Favors: Colorful Silk Robes

After all the galas, cocktail parties, and gifts of the weekend were done, we donned our elaborate Kentucky Derby hats. It took me two weeks to decide upon a hat for the race day. My mom bought five hats and returned four, just to ensure she found the perfect one.

Derby Hats and Fancy Dresses
We boarded our coaches to the Sheik's racetrack and upon arrival we were directed to the VIP lounge, overlooking the entirety of the race track with outdoor seating. The main event of the weekend took all day and, because of the sweltering heat, we took many breaks from watching the races to go inside to our VIP luncheon. The weekend ended with a final appearance from the Sheik's family to present the 2 million dollar prize to the first place winner.

The next day was back to reality for me. Thinking of it now, that weekend feels surreal. I've always wanted to be a princess. For one weekend, I was one.

Your Stories:

Have you ever visited Abu Dhabi? Have you been to an Arabian Horse Race? What kind of hat would you wear to the final race? Share your experiences in Abu Dhabi in the comments below!

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