Hilldun CEO Gary Wassner‘s latest global adventure was anything less than ordinary! Wassner joined the UAE Ambassador to the US in Abu Dhabi for an epic slew of activities ranging from a world-renowned car race to visiting historic sites, eating delicious food, shopping, plus more. We caught up with Wassner post-trip for the scoop on his luxe escape. Take it away, Gary!
Had you been to Abu Dhabi before this trip?
Never before! What was most surprising to me was the feeling of safety and calm as well as the cleanliness and modernity mixed with a deep sense of culture—and of course the architecture! Everyone was so welcoming to us. I expected we would stand out because of our dress and western origin, but that was totally untrue. No one anywhere made us feel uncomfortable or awkward. The society is eclectic and the people are warm and welcoming.
It’s a long flight from NYC—how’d you stay entertained?
I read a great bio of Joni Mitchell.
Where’d you stay?
The Emirates Palace.
The UAE Ambassador to the US invited you to the Formula One Finals. Tell us about it!
It’s the culmination of the Global Formula One Race car event. Think 55 laps with noise that is so loud that they gave us all earplugs to wear prior to the start. We watched the race from the Royal Pavilion and walked through the pit before it started.
Where else did you venture off to during your stay?
We had a VIP tour of The Louvre Abu Dhabi, which just opened on November 11th and is spectacular. We went on a private tour of the magnificent Grand Mosque, which can accommodate 60,000 worshippers. We had dinners each evening, some casual and one formal. We shopped and went to two concerts: Mumford and Sons and Pink.
What kind of food did you eat?
Middle eastern, Japanese, American, Italian. The food was excellent everywhere.
So no culture shock?
I expected that, but no, not at all. We were escorted everywhere and we traveled with a diplomatic group that made everything seamless and easy. English is spoken everywhere. What I did notice was that there was no armed guards or intrusive security forces anywhere we went, aside from the entrances to historical, cultural and religious sites. It felt so safe and peaceful. And there was no trash anywhere! The streets and common spaces were meticulously clean.
Bring us into the Abu Dhabi fashion scene!
Most UAE citizens dressed modestly in public, but there are so many tourists and expatriates that western dress is common. Our hostess is incredibly fashionable, and she always looked stunning. In Dubai at the major shopping mall, people wore whatever they liked, but about 50% of the people dressed in traditional clothing. The Abaya is common for women and the Shemagh or Kandora for men. Many of the women wore embroidered Abayas, and many were quite embellished and beautiful. The women’s faces were mostly made up meticulously. The other 50% dressed in casual and fashionable western clothing. Luxury brands were everywhere!
Looking back, what was one of the most memorable moments from your trip?
The people I met and the graciousness of our hosts, Abeer and Yousef Al Otaiba. The most memorable moment? That’s impossible to say! But the entire trip, from start to finish, was one incredibly memorable moment.
PLUS! More Pics From Gary’s Trip!