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  • Writer's picturePeter Antonucci

Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates) & New Delhi (India)

Sunday | February 8, 2015

Surprisingly, the flights from New York to New Delhi were quite manageable. But then again, of the 18 hours we were in the air, I slept for 15 of them. Etihad is one of the best airlines I have ever flown. Their customer service, meals, exclusive airport club and 180 degree lay back seating inside private pods were all top notch. The meals were wonderful Arab and Indian food, perhaps excepting a salad of cheese cubes, beets, ginger, nuts and hearts of palm (no lettuce).

Flying in and out of the UAE, we saw a city (Abu Dhabi) built entirely on a desert. Not only were there sweeping miles of sands all around, but they included the legendary sweeping dunes made famous on television and in the movies. The housing areas were small clusters of brick buildings huddled together, as if in defense against the harsh environs. And inside the airport – what organized chaos. We had to wait on line, rather in a mob, with hundreds of others waiting to clear a second level of security. There was no special line for First Class or Trusted Travelers; we waited among the locals, none of whom seem too worried about the fast approaching departure time.

Once we arrived in New Delhi, we were met by our Cox & Kings team. Our guide and chauffeur were each professional, clean and polite. As we drive the short 45 minutes to the Oberoi Hotel (2014 Best Hotel Chain in the World), we were pleasantly surprised by the number and density of trees and parks. We were informed that the parks are all full of mokeys, and the monkeys are not known for being terribly friendly. All the cars we passed had extensive bumper and side panel damage, none of which was surprising given the way they drive. (One car even had bullet holes in the trunk.)

The police, army and air force each have their own barracks and virtual town to house the officers and their families; each stretched for many blocks. We next drove by the houses inhabited by the members of the Indian parliament, houses paid for by the government. For miles, the roads were patrolled soldiers toting machine guns, more than one is accustomed to seeing elsewhere, but then again, northern India borders Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Our guide took great pride in pointing out the dedicated metro system that was completed in 2010 and linked downtown Delhi to the massive airport outside town, as well as the internal train structure (which we saw when we were on final approach).

We also saw countless Tik Tuks, motorized tricycles with no sides. But unlike what we saw in other third world countries, these were operating on highways, where even the slightest fender bender would render dead the backseat passengers who had no safety belts or doors.

The hotel is magnificent. The Oberoi is India’s first luxury hotel and it’s opulence brings one back to the time of its christening 60 years ago. It affords sweeping views of the Delhi Golf Course on one side and the world heritage sight, Humayun’s Tomb on the other. The entrance if filled by a bespoke, white marble lotus fountain and watched over by a hand carved Tree of Life – the leitmotif of the hotel, whose interweaving branches symbolize emotional, physical and spiritual harmony. The staff are all festooned in bright uniforms, and each one bows and holds her hands in the praying position. Dinner was delicious – we shared a huge lamb tandoori after feasting on the best paneer tikka we have ever tasted. Dessert was also terrific. These Indians sure do know how to cook Indian food – but they sure don’t know how to make wine! Exhausted, we turned in.


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