x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Abu Dhabi e-book travel guide

A couple has created a travel e-book devoted to Abu Dhabi, offering tips to visitors on everything from restaurants to hot-air ballooning.

Rahim Hirji and his wife Zohara working on their Abu Dhabi travel guide ebook from their home in Harrow, UK. Stephen Lock for The National
Rahim Hirji and his wife Zohara working on their Abu Dhabi travel guide ebook from their home in Harrow, UK. Stephen Lock for The National

ABU DHABI // Locating the best Indian restaurant in the capital, choosing what to wear when visiting a mosque and knowing how much it costs to take a hot-air balloon ride across the desert are important questions for any visitor to Abu Dhabi.

And a UK couple has compiled the answers to hundreds of similar questions into an electronic travel guide that focuses solely on the largest emirate.

Rahim and Zohara Hirji, who lived in Abu Dhabi from 2003 to 2007, are the authors of The Abu Dhabi Travel Guide, an e-book released last week on Amazon for US$2.99 (Dh11).

"There are quite a few guide books focused on Dubai as a tourist destination, but nothing just for Abu Dhabi," said Mr Hirji, 35.

When the couple first moved to the capital - Mr Hirji to work as a government consultant and Mrs Hirji, 34, to work in a local bank -they found some "great local guidebooks for expats, but nothing necessarily focused on the tourist market, and anything on Abu Dhabi is a small supplement", said Mr Hirji.

The e-book is being touted as a source for business executives and for tourists who may not have considered Abu Dhabi a viable holiday destination.

And for Mr and Mrs Hirji, answering questions on how to spend 10 days in Abu Dhabi and where to find the best restaurants is as easy as going through the information they have been posting for years on their popular website, Grapeshisha.

Grapeshisha, which started as a blog in 2005, is today one of the Gulf region's most popular websites, garnering between 500,000 and one million hits a month. Most of the site's traffic, said Mrs Hirji, comes from Google searches for things to do and hotels to stay at in the UAE.

"Last year, we decided to put all the information we had gathered over the years into an e-book that people can actually see and use and refer back to," Mrs Hirji said.

"We are really trying to help in the push to show why Abu Dhabi is such a great place to visit - and what to do when people are there."

While caring for their four-year-old daughter, Mrs Hirji works on Grapeshisha from home, and over the past year has been extracting and verifying information for the travel guide. "I am on the phone constantly, calling restaurants to get exact prices, checking information on desert safaris, connecting with our friends in Abu Dhabi to hear their feedback on the places they frequent; we want to make sure we get all our facts straight," she said.

The couple made the decision not publish the book as a hard copy.

"The benefit of having an e-book is that it is new and topical; the minute it is printed, it becomes out of date," Mr Hirji said.

Mrs Hirji added: "Things are changing in Abu Dhabi all the time. Just think in a year what Saadiyat Island will be like. We want to update our e-book every six months, so that it is always relevant."

The feedback for the e-book has been impressive. On the Amazon UK site, it was ranked No2 in Kindle downloads, and on the US site, there were only positive reviews.

"We really loved living in Abu Dhabi. It was quite homey and has a heart to it," Mr Hirji said. "Our friends who would visit from London would all want to go to Dubai because they had heard so much about it. Yet after they would come to stay with us and say they really enjoyed being in Abu Dhabi, and loved its relaxed atmosphere."