JoBlo.com takes part in the Furious 7 press junket with Tyrese in Abu Dhabi!
After checking out the BACK TO THE FUTURE cast reunion at this summer's London Film and Comic Con, I was flown to Abu Dhabi for the FURIOUS 7 press junket to cover the Blu-ray release of the latest installment in the car racing turned over-the-top action movie series. Over thirty other media types from around the world took part in the four-day event, which was hosted by Universal and facilitated by media hub twofour54 and the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority.
They had several really fun and educational activities planned for us for the trip, but first, some info about the region. Abu Dhabi is the capital city of the United Arab Emirates, and was designed under the direction of His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan (the UAE's first president) by Japanese architect Dr Takahashi for a population of 40,000 in 1967. It is now home to around 1.5 million people, and has become one of the richest and most expensive cities in the world. Based on what I saw, it's also an incredibly clean metropolis litter wise, like it was created in SimCity. Located at the coast of the Persian Gulf, Abu Dhabi has a scorching desert climate, and June to September are usually the hottest and most humid months, with an average temperature of 104 °F.
During the trip, I stayed at the Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, which was featured in the "Dom, cars can't fly!" scene from FURIOUS 7. I arrived on Tuesday, July 21st, and the junket officially kicked off with a welcome dinner at one of the restaurants in the hotel. After getting some much needed shut eye, we loaded into a heavily air conditioned bus the next day for some lunch on Yas Island before heading to Ferrari World, the world's first and only Ferrari branded theme park.
Ferrari World opened its doors in 2010, and besides being the largest indoor theme park in the world (with an enclosed public area of 21.25 acres), it is also the home of the Formula Rossa, the world's fastest roller coaster. The coaster has a top speed of 150 mph (which is why passengers are required to wear goggles; can you imagine getting a piece of sand in your eye at that speed?), and the initial acceleration from standstill (62 mph in 2 seconds) lets riders experience 1.7G of force, about half the g-force astronauts experience during lift off. I didn't get to try the other rides because we didn't spend a lot of time at Ferrari World, but the Formula Rossa was a blast, and even though I'm not really a car guy, it was still cool to see the different types of Ferraris that were displayed at the park.
We then proceeded to the Yas Marina Circuit, the site of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, where we got to experience Camaro drag racing and drift sprints as a passenger or driver. It was more than a little hot out on the track (the asphalt temperature was over 135 °F), so we met in a small building nearby, and pounded water while getting a rundown on the starting line procedure. We then split into two groups, with one staying for drag racing and the other leaving to go drifting. Unfortunately, I lost both of my races (I blame the car), but I did manage to hit 150 mph, and my reaction time was also pretty decent.
Since I failed at drag racing and can't even drift in Mario Kart, I decided to just be a passenger for the drift sprints. Each of us took a few 360-degree drifts around road cones, and I'm positive that mine would have looked a hell of a lot less badass if I had actually been behind the wheel. Once everyone had finished driving, it was off to the Vehicle Dynamics area of the Yas Marina for dinner, where we were later joined by six of the vehicular stars of FURIOUS 7, courtesy of PP-Performance's Saif Alamoudi, who also supplied them for the movie.
On Thursday, we got up (relatively) early for a tour of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the largest mosque in the United Arab Emirates. While the guys could get away with wearing t-shirts and jeans for the tour, the women were required to wear abayas, black robes that cover almost the entire body. Established by the late UAE president (who was buried next to the complex after passing away in 2004) and constructed from 1996 to 2007, it is estimated to have cost $545 million to build and can hold over 40,000 worshipers.
Besides featuring seven gorgeous imported chandeliers (with the biggest one - 33 feet in diameter and 49 feet tall- being the third largest in the world), the mosque also has the world's largest hand-knotted carpet at 60,570 square feet. Towards the end of our visit, twofour54 CEO Her Excellency Noura Al Kaabl stopped by to talk a bit about Abu Dhabi’s growing media industry, like landing the FURIOUS 7 and STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS shoots.
Later, after taking a mid-day break, we took a short journey from the Etihad Towers to the Emirates Palace (which was also featured in FURIOUS 7 and has a friggin' gold-dispensing vending machine) for an Emirati cultural experience dinner at the Mezlai restaurant. We were greeted with a pre-dinner traditional welcoming song before sitting down for some local dishes, such as Jasheed (boiled shark that's been braised with tomatoes, onions, spices and lemon juice, served with white rice, dihn khanina and chili tomato sauce) and Lamb Shoulder Medfoun, a traditional way of slow-cooking marinated lamb.
We also had the opportunity to get henna tattoos and our names spelled in Arabic calligraphy, and hung out with a falcon and a couple of camels, who I nicknamed, respectively, Mordecai, Ari and Uzi. As things wound down, the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority presented each of us with a Dallah (a traditional Arabic coffee pot) to take home to mark our visit.
The next day, I spoke with star Tyrese Gibson, who talked a little about the culture and the people of Abu Dhabi. You can check it out in the video below, which also has a few quick shots of some of my adventures in the Middle Eastern City.
Special thanks to Universal, twofour54 and the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority for making this exotic and fun-filled trip happen. FURIOUS 7 hits shelves today, and the Blu-ray's special features include an extended cut and more than 100 minutes of extras.
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