Dozens braved yesterday's midday heat for a chance to appear on one of America's most popular morning television progammes, the Today show.
The show, broadcast live from Abu Dhabi's Corniche on US channel NBC, was hosted by long-time co-anchor and field reporter Al Roker.
"Someone said 109°F (43°C) but it feels like more on the beach.”
His visit, which involved a flight into the UAE on Etihad, a stay at Emirates Palace, a visit to Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and race on a dhow, was a great experience, he said.
"Of course there is the glitz and wealth, but there are also the real people, and everyone we ran into has been really terrific,” said Roker, who was visiting the UAE for the first time.
The American TV personality arrived in Abu Dhabi on Thursday, his 61st birthday, with not one but two jobs in mind – the other concerning the filming of US Travel Channel show 50/50.
Abu Dhabi, the show's first location, featured two people from the Today show's New York audience who won the chance to spend US$50,000 (Dh183,000), in 50 hours, in Abu Dhabi.
Alexandra Obe, 28, and David Sprague, 39, who met on Wednesday in New York Plaza, were the 50/50 winning pair. They had no idea where the trip would take them.
Both contestants, who said they had always wanted to come to the city, had to continually remind themselves they could experience it in a way they would not have imagined.
"I wanted to take my own bags up to the room but they said, you're staying at a suite at the Emirates Palace, you have a butler,” said Ms Obe, a travel writer from Long Island, New York.
Her co-winner, Mr Sprague, said there was a catalogue of things to do with the money, from the lavish, such as a gold massage, to the cultural, like taking a ride on a camel.
"There are many things you can do here that don't need a lot of money but, if you have money, there are things here that will blow your mind,” said the operations manager, also from New York.
Both said they had had an amazing time and would recommend Abu Dhabi to others.
"My social media is blowing up and I'm telling people they have to come,” Mr Sprague said.
Although she was not active on social media, Ms Obe said she would do the same in her travel writing.
The show will premiere in the US on October 4.
In Abu Dhabi, the mainly American crowd held up signs behind Roker in what has become a Today show custom. Messages included "Marhaba, Grandma and GrandPa' and ‘Good Morning, Wisconsin and Virginia – Love from Abu Dhabi”.
Holding up a "Welcome to Abu Dhabi, Never Been Cooler” sign was Alana Barraj, 29, who featured in the Today show crowd for a second time.
"Fourteen years ago to the month I was in New York with my mum, waiting to get on TV,” said the NYU Abu Dhabi employee. "I am shocked he's here and I'm so excited.”
Although her wait in Abu Dhabi was hotter, it was not as long as in New York. Regardless, dealing with the weather was worth it, Ms Barraj said.
"I've been in Abu Dhabi for five years, so I'm used to it.
"But, I would ask Al to come back in December. We'll be here with the same sign.”
Source: The National