Just entering Ferrari world feels amazing. I get out of the cab, cross the street, and go inside. There are gifts and snacks available before you take the escalator up. I got my bag checked and the guard was kind enough to put my glass bottle inside a pocket so it wouldn’t be seen before I could put it in a locker. You’re allowed 300 ml of water (not in glass) along with diabetic and/or baby food. It was fast and easy to buy my ticket, 240 dirham, with credit card and I was given another ticket, 35 dirham, for my locker – super technology.
With map and camera in hand, I bypassed everything until I saw the sign for Formula Rossa – The World’s Fastest Coaster. There was no one in line. I gave the staff my loose items to put in a plastic bucket. They gave me a rubber band with a number attached in return. I grabbed some goggles and got in line for the front. I was joined with a ten-year old boy and I wanted to be close to the camera, but he wanted to be close to his family that was filming, so I got on first.
The ladies on the platform give the safety check thumbs up after they’ve eyeballed for too short or tall a rider, taken any sunglasses or cellphones still in hand, and given nomex-like hoods to women wearing any head covering, sans hat, or traditional dress. How neat, I thought. Where I come from I’m taught these women are oppressed, but here they are free to wear what makes them feel comfortable and follows their religion while riding roller coasters, swimming at the beach, and eating sushi at the mall.
I had of course asked if I could bring my 1.5 pound camera with me and was warned that it would hit me in the face. I heard about the time Fabio Lanzoni got bludgeoned by a goose and there was more recently a small boy who got hit by a bird on a coaster that reaches 128 mph. We were embarking on a zero to 149 mph, in 4.9 seconds, ride. We would be experiencing 4.8 degrees of G-force for a minute and a half. This is the speed at which cotton and copper and cameras can damage you and other passengers.
I’m grateful for the safety precautions. The engine steams as it’s misted with water between rides. The staff women make sure we’re seat belted and lap barred in. Multiple buttons are pushed, to ensure no accidental launch occurs, as the music (or my heartbeat) speeds up. I know it’s going to be fast, but I have no idea what to expect. The ride seems to creep, for only a second, as the front of the car rolls outside. I look up at the camera and then…
We shoot forward and the water that was sprayed on the engine to help cool it off is now blowing in my face as we shoot forward at 240 km/h. I’m rendered speechless as we reach the top and I can’t see the track before the bend. This is the point where headbands, loose bracelets, and pocket paraphernalia are blown off. Another turn and we are pulling back in with an abrupt stomp on the brakes. That ride took my breath away and rearranged my fancy hair-do in moments. I lost track of time and facial expressions. My brain has been pushed to the back of my skull and forced my lips into a smile. It will stay that way as I find my footing again when the car stops.
I saw that there still wasn’t a line and wasn’t the only one making my way up the stairs to get back in line downstairs. There is a sign upon exit that warns about riding again within 15 minutes, something about your body going through shock – in a great way! The ladies smiled when they recognised me. This time I sat in the back and it was more of a bumpy ride. Knowing what to expect I attempted to scream, to throw up my arms, and to turn my head. Each act was met with the terrifying thought of loss, but the same amount of awe in the power and ingenuity built into this amazing roller coaster.
I got off the ride and felt light-headed. I knew I needed to wait before going again or I would be stumbling off the next time. Perhaps I should call Guinness and offer to set the world record for consecutive rides in an hour or a day. I went upstairs and made my way to the photo center to look at the pictures. I don’t usually buy roller coaster photos, but I did ride twice and they take two pictures – one on the initial bolt and another on a turn. They have a special on two photos and the lady took time to show me all four so I could pick the best two for 150 dirham.
I wanted to put my pictures away so I made my way towards the lockers, and I had to use the facilities, but this didn’t stop me from seeing all there was while I was walking by. First was walking into a wind pod room. You press buttons to increase the speed of a fan from 10 to 50 kph as you stand and squat to get the feel of the aerodynamics that goes into the construction of a race car. The Racing Legends was next and the staff pulled a car seat out before letting us take our seats. I thought about being concerned, but I’m not an infant.
Next was Galleria Ferrari where I saw cars that set records and that were built for anniversaries. There is a tire changing station where you can compete with someone for best time and a photo opportunity to sit behind the wheel of a Ferrari and let the staff post the picture to Facebook for a chance to win a new ride to school. I wish this was offered near where I went to high school, but then someone would’ve just wrecked a $200k car instead of the Nova, Corolla, and Cadillac I drove – total worth: $20,000.
The next ride was Speed of Magic, where you chase Nello in a 4-D adventure. The ride is only five minutes, but the artists spent thousands of hours on the computer images, and I wish I could’ve spent more time there. At 2:15 I was getting on the Fiorano GT Challenge coaster, after waiting through three rides, that only goes a measly 100 kph – not much after being on one over twice as fast. I’m sure it’s a great ride, and I suggest doing this one first.
From there, I went to Made in Maranello where I’m given a peek at a part of the secret process that goes into making these great cars. I passed the flume ride, mini-Italy, and interactive game show to see the Paddock where they store horse power and parts. I didn’t feel like waiting on the theatre or paying extra for the Scuderia Challenge simulator and found myself in line at Mamma Rosella’s ordering the “Ravioli alle Erbette” advertised on the park map.
I got to watch the chef prepare my meal from pot to plate and on my way to pay spotted the dessert island. I wasn’t going to get anything, but there was one piece with a chocolate with Ferrari World written on it that I thought I could post to Facebook and it managed to jump on my tray while I was distracted. Lunch was spinach ravioli and pineapple cake had at a marble top table in a wooden chair with a checkered cloth napkin. With lunch over I was making my way back to the main event of the park – Formula Rossa, but not before getting in line to see what awaited me in Viaggio in Italia.
There was a dad in front of me with his five kids, four sons and a daughter, and two pretty girls got in line behind me. We were led into a room, watched a two-second film, and then a door into a larger room opened with rows of roller coaster seats lifted off the floor. I thought the chairs might swing a bit and we were told to put our flip-flops, sunglasses, and cameras into a plastic tub off to the side of the platform. We sat there waiting as each seating issue meant the whole row had to be unlocked.
I only saw two things get fixed – one boy sat with both his legs on one side; and his dad, no matter how hard the three ladies pushed, couldn’t fit him into the seat. We waited for him to switch seats, hoping the end would give him more room, and then waited on the other side of the room. I hoped this ride was worth the wait, so I was thrilled when the lights dimmed and our seats began to rise. I looked over for a better view of the stacks of seats. They didn’t want us dropping things from such heights – which fit the ride perfectly.
I wanted to ride the world’s fastest roller coaster one more time before leaving. The sign out front said the wait was thirty minutes and it was probably only twenty, but I wanted up front. I got excited when I thought I saw a guy riding single. I asked the staff, she asked him, and I made my way to third back only to find out there was another single behind him. Luckily, nine back was another single and I finished the rest of my hour wait next to him. If I’d been in more of a rush I could’ve sat in the second seat of the first car. It would still be as thrilling, but it was worth the wait.
We, me and the guy with his four friends, were next up when the staff came by to announce that VIP would take the next ride. There was six of them – two got in front and four in the far back. Then the ride was allowed to finish filling. I tried to ask if they were royalty, rappers, or basketball stars, but we were only told they were important enough to get front of line privileges without a pass, and probably park entry for free since they didn’t pay to have the park to themselves.
Upon their return the man on the left screamed, “That ride was fast as shit!” I don’t think the children were the only stunned ones. What surprised me was the girl wearing only a sweater that was waiting in line when I climbed aboard. Other travellers are either braver, unnecessarily rude, or more naïve than me to wear things like that in a culture that finds modesty more important than a beach in Spain; especially when signs are posted, but it’s doubtful they have more proper attire in their purse.
I was so anxious and excited to be doing the ride again. This time I was able to scream and put my arms up twice. It’s so thrilling. By now it’s 5pm, too late to go too far, but too early to go to the airport. I see the Yas Express map on the way out and the information center guy told me I could have luck with a view and possibly a ride on the track at Yas Central. I thanked him and walked through the gift shop (park exit) full of magnets, mugs, camels, logo shirts, luggage, $500 shoes, and some memorabilia. All the staff at Ferrari World are helpful, attentive, and the epitome of service with a smile.
I went down the escalators and across the street to the two Ferraris from Dubai with hot engines in the parking lot before standing by the bus stop. We left there at 5:50 and got to Yas Central at 6:16. I went inside and inquired about a ride. I was told to go upstairs. The guy at the desk told me to go downstairs and pick out a car – open or closed, or Aston Martin. I wanted the open ride. There was already one on the track, but back upstairs was another guy at the register and when he went to check availability he told me the next one would be in 45 minutes – too late for me and probably better for my wallet.
I watched the sunset over the track and ordered a forest mint-caramel coffee to go. I took pictures of the tips in the jar – 10 Saudi riyal ($2.67) and 10,000 Korean won ($9.57). As soon as the sun disappeared I walked inside and got a guy to take my picture inside a Yas Radical SST – a $327 experience to drive around the track. I walked out front and moments later the bus was pulling up. The driver commented on my length of stay or rather how I didn’t have enough time to participate, but I assured him Abu Dhabi had been a grand adventure and I won’t mind having to come back.
He dropped me off at Ferrari World where all the nearby taxis are and I was hailed my first woman driver. She really knew how to handle turns and speed bumps and had me to the airport in minutes. Of all the drivers I wanted to talk to, she was the silent type. The cost worked out perfectly – my last two 20 dirham and three fils. A guy directly inside the front door tries to offer me a speed option through security for 100 dinars – I think not! I don’t see a line out the door and there are only three men and a bucket catching a drip from the ceiling in front of me.
I showed my passport to the agent and asked if I could take a picture of the cute gate, complete with Abu Dhabi police logo, that I would go through once he pushed a button. He said yes. I put my bag through the x-ray and then made my way towards Gate 11 past the bright yellow Lamborghini in the middle of the terminal. Near the entrance to the passage that leads to the gate is a shopping center selling Swarovski, Johnnie Walker Blue Label, Cheetos, camel figurines, international plug adapters, and a shelf of books by author John Green. There are more shops downstairs, but I’m distracted by the seven magazines I’ve picked up that are available for free.
I sit near the entrance to the gate security line area and wait. Twice I’m persuaded to jump up, grab my bag, and jump in line. And both times I’m told to turn around as the plane currently boarding is not going to Bahrain. I go back to ‘my’ seat (the one claimed for the evening) as a man was about to sit. I guess he felt uncomfortably close at two chairs away and chose to move further. This opened the seat next to me for an old woman who either tried to share where she was from or where she was going with me. I smiled and said, “Bahrain” and pointed to my gate.
My boarding pass said we were departing at 9:20 and we didn’t get the call to embark until 9pm. We had to go through another security scan to check people’s newly stuffed shopping bags. Between the jet bridge and the plane is the adapter curtain with a wheelchair in front of it and a sign posted, “Warning, risk of falling” with a man falling backwards off a step. I don’t know if the curtain connects to the bottom, but I hope the ramp doesn’t move while we’re on it. Once safely on the plane, past the sleeping children in first class, I make my way to 42B where the Purser, attendant in charge, is standing watch.
The guy beside me, by the window, starts to nod off before the safety brief. We take off at 9:53 and water is served in-flight, but no snacks – except to the child in front of me that’s given first class pudding, cheese, and crackers and the snotty brat only wants the cookies. The attendants seem to think the flight too short to offer food, but they are quick to hand out headphones for in-flight entertainment and wake people who have traveled for a day to put their seats and tray tables up, and those that are awake to put all their electronics away – all this before the captain announces to do so.
I understand that the crew didn’t deem the 45 minute flight a sufficient amount of time to serve over 150 passengers snacks, so I opened the bruised banana that had been with me since breakfast. I was grateful for the treat as I’d been spoiled on the way to Abu Dhabi by Etihad Airways and was not receiving the same level of service on my return flight via KLM. I tried to get the attention of a stewardess and upon failing I left a banana peel in the backseat – a first for me as I could’ve taken it off the plane easily, but it was an active act of passive aggression.
There is a family in the aisle and the parents are discussing the drive home via the Saudi Causeway that could add another hour or two to their long day depending on traffic. Then I meet a woman with her son in the passport line that’s hoping her husband is on the other side for their ride to Saudi too. They moved in with him in May, but went home to Houston for Ramadan, and the kid starts school on Sunday full of jet lag. All the discussion distracted me and she worked her way in front of me. She got charged four dinars for her passport stamp. After waiting in line for 20 minutes, even with her cutting, I got my stamp in seconds after handing the officer both passports.
I was thrilled to get a picture of the Welcome to Bahrain sign that I missed on my first entry to this country. Outside I was able to snap a blurry photo of an art camel and then catch the bus as it was leaving. I paid my four dinar for parking and enjoyed the short drive home. Sparky barked when I pulled up. I saw a note on the counter on top of mine. It told me that my dogs used the house as a bathroom and that Heather didn’t mind coming back to clean it up. There in the middle of the floor was a puddle of pee and on my table a bag of a roll of TP with pee, if not poo, helping to aromatise my home.
I grabbed the mop and scrubbed some to try to help the smell. I walked the dogs and they both pooped. There were pieces of dog food on the floor, their bowl had more hairs than water in it, and only a half of one bottle had been used – then why all the pee? I wasn’t going to unpack my bag, but I didn’t want the dogs chewing any food out of it and needed my phone charger which reminded me that the upstairs outlets still hadn’t been fixed. It would be a late night, but I had the energy from my trip to keep me going.