A Travellerspoint blog

A Walk on the Corniche

We took a nice walk on the beach at the Corniche in downtown Abu Dhabi. This is a beautiful tree lined street that runs the entire length of the waterfront downtown. The beaches are divided into small sections with two or three that are public and several that cost AED 10 or about $2.72 each entrance. All have lifeguards every 100 feet or so. The walkways are lined with benches and are beautifully landscaped. There are public playgrounds and a large plaza lined with food shops and cafes and you can rent small four wheel bikes that are pedaled for small children.

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On Friday mornings the beaches and Corniche is sparsely filled with expatriates. The Emiratis will emerge late afternoon with their picnics, beach chairs, blankets and barbecues. They completely fill the parks and green spaces around town. It looks like a wonderful way to spend time with family.

Tonight I leave Abu Dhabi to fly home to Oriental, North Carolina. It's been a great trip and Chaz and I are sad to part. He's already planned out his next two trips home - mid-May and the whole month of October. I'm ready to get back to work and renovations on the house.

Oh! Remember the yarn I bought at Magrudy's to make Chaz an afghan? He wanted one that would reach from under his chin down to wrap under his toes. Well, I finished it today!

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As-salaam alaikum,
Peace be unto you

Posted by ncoats 02:24 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (0)

Private Homes in Abu Dhabi

I've taken a few pictures of homes around Abu Dhabi that I find interesting. Private homes are built behind high walls with gate entrances. Most have cameras mounted outside the gates which are opened by guards from the inside. Some completely ignore the areas outside the walls, leaving them just empty dirt lots, others plant grass, flowers and trees which seem to be constantly attended by Filipino workers.

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The next few pictures were taken on the route that Chaz and I would walk for exercise. The buildings on either side are the backs of apartments. I've included a neighborhood mosque. There are mosques on literally every corner it seems. The call to prayer is projected through loud speakers and lasts for ten minutes or so five times per day with the first at about 4:30 am. Chaz has learned that some mosques are segregated - one will be for men another for women; but some are for both sexes but they worship or rather pray at separate times.

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In an earlier post I mentioned that a private compound is under construction opposite Chaz's apartment complex. Here's a picture: it looks more like a small city!!

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Finally, here's a picture of a cell tower - Abu Dhabi style!

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Posted by ncoats 02:05 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (0)

Abu Dhabi Architecture

The architecture in Abu Dhabi dominates the landscape. The buildings are futuristic, glass, innovative and somebody really likes angles! The medians are landscaped beautifully and the roundabouts are works of art. I thought I would publish a few pictures that I took so you would have a feel for the city. The Emirati are very patriotic, there are flags everywhere as well as pictures of the ruling Sheikh and his father and his grandfather, the previous rulers. Enjoy!

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These two buildings are among my favorites (although the angle of the picture makes it difficult to distinguish that there are two buildings here). Often called the "honeycomb buildings" its design is typical in that it takes into consideration both Islamic traditions and modern innovations. The honeycombs, which are actually crystalline forms that open and close when in direct sunlight, are reminiscent of Islamic mashrabiyas, lattice work windows very common in ancient architecture. You can also see the picture of the Sheikh that is superimposed on the building.

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I've also included a few pictures of families on afternoon picnics which they do on Fridays and Saturdays. They set up their chairs and and barbecues in large groups in the numerous green spaces throughout the city.

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These next pictures are of the mosaics along tunnels within the city highways. I find them very beautiful!

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In my next post, I'll show pictures of Emirati homes or at least as much as I can show you as they are all surrounded by high walls. Real estate is extremely expensive here and regular folks live in rented apartments and villas. I hope you'll find it interesting!

Posted by ncoats 03:42 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (0)

Another Drive through Oman

We're up fairly early and have a continental breakfast from the lounge on our floor. There's an espresso machine, fruit and pastries. We have a long drive ahead of us so we're ready to pack and check out. I ask directions at the front desk to the Muscat Expressway and I'm told, "Take the street in front of the hotel and just go straight." Just go straight? "Yes, you can't miss it, you just go straight!" Wow, directions have certainly been simple on this trip?!?

And we do easily find the Muscat Expressway. It's a long expressway that skirts the western boundary of Muscat, about 34 miles long. But such bliss to be out of traffic and moving along at 75 miles an hour. It's short-lived though and soon we're back on the highway north with all its construction and confusing roundabouts. After several hours we know it's time to look for our road that will take us west. We don't recognize our turn off and we realize we've gone too far. However, it's not so easy to turn around here. We drive at least ten minutes and there are no exits in sight. Finally, Chaz just slows down and drives across the dirt median and heads us in the opposite direction! Well, that's one way! We soon come to our turn off and we're back in the mountains and on the road to Al Ain. The mountains are beautiful, stark, and gravelly, so different from anything I've seen before.

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Just before the Oman/UAE border there is a road block with Omani police and soldiers stopping cars in both directions. We've barely slowed when the soldier takes a look at us and waves us on. We spot a camouflage truck on the right side of the road with a 30 caliber machine gun in a gun turret on top of the truck. Wow! You wouldn't want to blow through that check point. Soon we're at the Omani border patrol station again and the little toll booth. The attendant takes our passports and asks Chaz who he works for in Abu Dhabi. Chaz responds DynCorp and another voice from within asks, What do you do? Chaz tells him that he works at Zayed Military City in support of the UAE Army. No response comes, our passports are stamped and we're given the little piece of paper with a "3" on it which we hand to the attendant at the next booth and we're through! I'm not sure how much smuggling they expect between one toll booth and the next or if it's a check on each attendant, but taking a piece of paper from one toll booth to the next with high fences all around us seemed a bit silly.

Next we're approaching Al Ain and in trying to remember our direction of Just go Straight! we somehow get on the wrong road and we're in the Omani town of Al Baraymi which borders Al Ain. We make several turns and again, We're Lost!! We just keep driving and all of a sudden we're at a dead end street and in front of us are high fences with razor wire and a group of buildings marked Border Patrol. So we just drive in and come up to the attendants standing in the street who look at our passports and tell us we must drive around and get our visas stamped. We make the turn and drive down a very narrow passageway between several trailers to a parking area. We park and ask someone where the Visa office is. He gestures down a walkway and we walk up to a trailer and inside. Here there is a desk with a man and woman each in front of computers. There is a Frenchman in front of us who has a hand full of passports. There are four Filipino men with him that he is apparently trying to get into the country. After about a ten minute wait, we're waved up to the desk where they check on something, who knows what, in a computer and our passports are stamped and we're waved on through. We get back in line for the little toll booth and present our piece of paper and we're back in Al Ain. Where we are in Al Ain, we're not too sure!! However, sign for Abu Dhabi appear shortly and somehow we're on the right road. We're glad to get home after another five hour drive.

The next day is Christmas Eve. We decide to eat lunch at Roul's which on top of the Central Market in downtown Abu Dhabi. Chandler and I ate lunch there last year, but Chaz has not been there. It's a delightful lunch in gorgeous weather. Afterwards, Chaz and Chandler order shesha and share an apple mint flavor smoke. There are several other parties with us on the roof, including a couple where only she is smoking shesha and another group of three women, one of whom has her head covered and two of these women are smoking shesha. A couple of other tables include businessmen who simultaneously smoke and eat. What a different culture this is! However, it's a very relaxing leisurely lunch.

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We take an easy stroll through Central Market. The market has been built on the site of the original ancient souq in Abu Dhabi. It's three stories high and filled with small shops of gold jewelry, watches, traditional Emerati clothes, Indian imports, spices, and all sorts of inexpensive trinkets. I buy a peach silk caftan from an Indian importer and again enjoy the bargaining process.

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Christmas Day is a very relaxing day for us. I made Christmas cookies the day before - white chocolate, cranberry and pistachio! Yum! Today I cook a whole chicken, green bean casserole and sweet potato casserole and biscuits. It was pretty good, if I say so myself.

Oh! Sometimes the translations into English are quite amusing. And sometimes, well, we just don't know what they're thinking. I bought a baking sheet to make the cookies. In reading the care instructions I came across this admonition: (Chandler and I were nearly hysterical after I read this outloud!)

"Do not overheat your utensil to avoid fumes that could be dangerous for small animals with particularly sensitive respiratory system, like birds. We recommend that birds should not be kept in the kitchen."

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No birds were harmed in the making of these cookies!

I made a mistake in booking Chandler's trip home. We had decided he would leave on Thursday, the day after Christmas but I failed to notice that his flight was at 1:40 am on Thursday! This meant we had to take him to the airport on Christmas night. We left around 9 pm and only took one wrong turn! We're sad to see Chandler off but we all so enjoyed our week together.

Posted by ncoats 03:17 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (0)

A Day in Muscat

We're all up fairly early and head downstairs for the breakfast buffet. It's as large as the one we enjoyed in Al Ain. Chaz and Chandler each have made to order omelets and I feast on fresh fruit, yogurt, smoked salmon, smoked tuna and several cheeses that I can't remember what they were called! Yesterday the clerk had recommended several sightseeing spots including the Mutrah Souq and the harbor. There is a shuttle bus leaving soon but we decide to drive. We make a couple of wrong turns, once down a road leading onto the large port wharf, but eventually end up in front of the Souq. We've missed the turn where the clerk had told us we would find public parking so we turn around and coming back Chaz spots a parking place along the harbor wall. It's very small and he's going up and back, up and back to get the car in. A man is leaning against a post watching our machinations and finally gets in the van in front of us and pulls up a few inches so we can easily park! He even gives us change so we can put money in the parking meter. We realize he's a taxi driver looking for a fare.

The harbor is horseshoe shaped and very protected. There are two traditional dhows anchored in the center and the pier is lined with cruise ships and luxury yachts.

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Inside, the souq reminds us of the Dubai souq we visited last year. The same items for sale, the same men holding scarves and trying to put them on my head, holding out watches and saying, "Copy watch, sir? Copy watch?" It's best not to make eye contact or you'll find yourself escorted into a shop before you know it.

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We walk through the maze of shops and stop in one to buy t-shirts for all of us. I find a small clutch wallet and enjoy bargaining. Chandler looks at lanterns in several shops and ends up buying one in a shop along the main harbor road.

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We head back to the hotel for lunch and remember that the Executive Lounge has complementary snacks at lunchtime. We make small sandwiches and also enjoy wonderful fresh tuna. We rest after lunch and then decide to take a walk on the beach. We head down the cliff road under a beautiful canopy of trees - which Chandler used to call "can o'peas", passing an inlet where a fisherman is working on his nets. The beach is almost deserted and we walk as far as we can before coming to another inlet at the end of the beach road. It's windy but another beautiful day.

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Tonight is Mexican night at Dukes Bar in the hotel but first we stop in at the Executive Lounge for complementary appetizers. Some are hard to identify but it's fun to eat these different dishes.

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When we're seated outside at Dukes Bar, it's very crowded and windy. We decide to leave and head over to Come Prima, the Italian restaurant. Here we enjoy an absolutely delicious meal with only one other table occupied. We go to bed full, tired and very relaxed from our day in Muscat.

Posted by ncoats 03:33 Archived in Oman Comments (1)

Chandler Arrives and A Trip to Muscat, Oman

Chaz goes back to work and the next few days are quite domestic. I exercise each morning and we cook each night. DynCorp's Holiday Party is on Thursday night at 7:00. Chandler is scheduled to fly in at 8:00 so we arrange for a driver to pick him up at the airport and bring him to the Ritz Carlton. The Ritz was completed only six months previous and is absolutely stunning. Our pictures did not turn out too well but hopefully you can see its grandeur. The party is outside on the patio in balmy beautiful weather - about 70 degrees. The buffet is extravagant and absolutely delicious. The line of desserts is at least 30 feet long. Wow! It's very late when we get the call that the driver has Chandler and they are headed our way. We have him take Chandler to the apartment as it is almost 10:00. It's great to have our boy here and the whole family in one country, much less under one roof!!

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The next day is Friday when shops open late. It's also Chaz' housecleaning day and we decide to go to the grocery while the apartment is being cleaned. Afterwards we head to Marina Mall. We're early and walk around the mall looking at the Christmas decorations and children ice skating. I love the little penguin trainers the children use, what a great idea. I've also snapped a few pictures with a few locals in them surrepticiously. It's actually against the law to take pictures of strangers.

Penguin Trainer 2

Penguin Trainer 2

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We have decided to go see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. In UAE movie seats are reserved and we buy our tickets and choose our seats online. Chaz advises that we should sit on the back row. The Emiratis think nothing of talking during a movie, jostling your seat and coming and going while the movie is being shown. By sitting on the back row we're a bit removed from any hubbub. But since it's Friday, the 1:30 show is sparsely attended and we don't have any disruptions. We were a bit disappointed in the movie, it started off fairly well, but then seemed to drag. Chaz and Chandler both report that they each fell asleep twice!!

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The next morning we pack and are on the road by 10:00 for our drive to Muscat, Oman. I've made reservations at a Crowne Plaza that advertises its own private beach. Muscat is the capital of Oman, with just over 600,000 people. Much of Oman is covered by a desert plain but along the coast is a mountain range, the Al Hajar mountains. Muscat is nestled along the coast of the Gulf of Oman, a part of the Arabian Sea, with the Al Hajar mountains dominating its western landscape. Oman is a sultanate which means it is governed by an absolute monarchy, Sultan Qaboos. Although they do have an elected legislature, it is only consultative in nature. Sultan Qaboos has ruled for over 40 years and like Sheikh Zayed and the UAE he has used the oil profits to improve the economy and broaden foreign investment. Also, like the UAE they have attracted a large foreign national workforce (45%), although not as high a percentage as the UAE (80%).

Our drive takes us through Al Ain which is on the border of Oman. I have googlemap directions but typically we can't follow them. Soon we feel we're completely lost in Al Ain and just laugh outloud!! Chaz makes a series of turns that he feels is putting us back in the right direction. It's past 12:00 and we're hungry and low on gasoline so we stop for gas and decide to eat lunch at the gas station and also ask for directions. The ADNOC (Abu Dhabi National Oil Company) stations usually have a convenience store and a "fast food" restaurant. This one specializes in pizza and we get a couple of small ones. Fast is a relative term and we have our pizzas within 20 minutes or so. After lunch I ask for directions to the Oman border and Muscat and another customer states he is also going to Muscat - he points out to the road we're on and says - just go straight. Just go straight? Yes, you are on the right road Just go straight and you will come to the border! We're amazed that we are on the right road after all, since we have taken so many turns in Al Ain!!

So we continue straight and soon we're out of the city of Al Ain and in the dune filled countryside again. When we reach the border, we're asked to stop and open the trunk of the car. There are 3 armed guards who look inside the trunk then wave us on to the next station which looks like a toll booth station. We present our passports at the drive up window. He asks if we are residents or tourists, stamps our passports, and we pay AED 35 each (about $9.50) as our exit fee. He gives Chaz a small piece of paper with a stamp on it and the number 3, we assume for the number of passengers. We drive forward to the next toll booth window and give this man our paper and we're through.

Chaz and Chandler think we're through with border officialdom but I can see on the map that the UAE border patrol and the Omani border patrol are at least seven to eight miles apart. All along this stretch there are strip shopping centers with large signs stating "Insurance for sale". I've read that when entering Oman you must provide proof of car insurance. Chaz's leasing papers include a sheet that states "We have no objection to this car entering the Sultanate of Oman." We assume this means we're covered!!

Again as we drive, we notice the colors of the dunes changing from white to red. We also see quite a few small trucks with camels in the back. Chaz pulls alongside a Toyota for me to take pictures and the driver looks questioningly at us. When I hold up the camera, he smiles and stays beside us so I can snap a few pictures.

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Drive to Oman Camels Toyota

Soon we approach a large fenced area and another toll booth window. When Chaz gives the attendant our passports he instructs us to park in the parking lot and enter the building to obtain visas. Inside we fill out paperwork with all our passport information and where we will be staying in Oman and pay the fee of AED 50 each or about $13.62 for a 10 day visa. We drive back around the building to the previous toll booth window - present our passports again, turn in our little piece of paper and we're offically allowed in Oman!

The landscape has been getting rockier and mountainous as we have left Al Ain in the distance, but now we're climbing and climbing through the mountains. The landscape is very rocky, almost moonscape looking. Chaz remarks that it looks very much like the mountains in Afghanistan. We see little signs of life or villages along the road. The 4 lane highway is lined with large electrical towers strung with huge wires reminding us just how remote this country is.

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Our directions indicate only two turns from here on out. We're driving east and when we come to the coast we're to turn right and south to Muscat. Just outside Muscat we're to take the Muscat Expressway and into Muscat. We easily negotiate the first turn and find we are no longer on an expressway but a four lane highway through town after town. While there are exits, we watch taxis and other cars just drive off the road when they want to leave the highway with no apparent road markings. The highway is lined with strip shopping centers with small shops in them. The buildings look old and rundown, not at all like what we're used to seeing in Abu Dhabi. It's Saturday afternoon and numerous cars are parked under squatty palm trees. Blankets are spread out on the ground and families picnicking along the roadside. It looks very dusty and dreary to us but it must be a common entertainment for the Omanis. Soon we come across an endless section of construction, often we're travelling in one lane. The roundabouts are confusing and in Sohar we take an exit, although we thought we were going straight and we have to drive about five minutes in the wrong direction before we find a turn back onto the highway in the opposite direction - we call it the Sohar Circle. It's very nerve wracking. The sign for the Muscat expressway comes and goes and we miss that turn. I didn't realize how important it was as the map shows we can just continue on this highway to reach Muscat. Now we're in constant construction and bumper to bumper traffic travelling quite fast. This goes on for over an hour before we're finally approaching Muscat.

When reach the outskirts of Muscat I switch to a map of Muscat that I had bought before we left Abu Dhabi. Again it's difficult to find the correct exit but Chaz spots a Crowne Plaza sign and we exit hoping to see more. At the next roundabout I want to go straight but Chaz sees a street sign and calling out the name I realize that's where we should turn. This leads us to a narrow 2 lane road with the Gulf of Oman on our left and a huge forest on our right. As we've neared Muscat we're struck by how green the landscape is and wonder if they have more rainfall than UAE. I later discover that they actually don't but there must be something about the mountains so close to the Gulf that traps moisture because Muscat feels almost tropical. We can see the Crowne Plaza perched high up on a cliff overlooking the coastal road. We're soon there and very relieved to get out of the car after a six hour drive. The picture below was taken driving on the beach road and the large building in the center is the Crowne Plaza.

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I had made our reservations through Priceline and couldn't find a way to indicate we needed a room for three. The clerk questions our reservation since we've reserved a double room. We inquire if they have something else and after checking says that he doesn't have a family room available but does have a one bedroom suite. I later learn that a family room is a room with either one or two beds but also a sofabed. We prefer having two rooms and decide to splurge on the suite. The room is not ready and our helpful clerk escorts us upstairs to the Executive Lounge where complementary hors d'oeurves are being served. There's outside seating and it feels wonderful to bask in the balmy sunshine and stretch our legs. The snacks are beautifully presented and we're waited on hand and foot. We can see the beautiful Gulf on one side and behind us stretch the low-lying white buildings that typify Muscat architecture.

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Soon the clerk is back to escort us to our room. It's on the top or sixth floor and takes up the width of one end of the building. The living room faces the Gulf and the hotel's private beach. We have two balconies, one off the bedroom facing the mountains and the second off of the living room overlooking the Gulf, a small kitchen area and one and a half baths. But there's only one complementary bathrobe! I call the front desk and they bring us two more so we can lounge in decadent style!

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After settling in we set off to explore the hotel and the private beach separated by rocks from the long public beach. It's low tide and people are playing in the surf, we even see a few jet skis zipping along. But when we get down to the hotel's private beach we discover there is an inlet that separates the rocks from the public beach so there's no way to walk there without swimming. The guys climb the rocks just to be sure!

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Walk to private beach 2

Walk to private beach rocks 2

Walk to private beach rocks 2

Walk to private beach rocks 3

Walk to private beach rocks 3

Walk to private beach rocks 4

Walk to private beach rocks 4

We relax before dinner and then head downstairs for our dinner reservations in the Persian restaurant, Shiraz. We eat outside overlooking the pool and the weather is really lovely. Chaz and Chandler have a mixed seafood grill of lobster, shrimp and hamour. I have lamb kabobs. None of us are particularly impressed with our food but it's nice to eat in the hotel and not have to fight all the traffic. From our room we can see the beach road and the roads leading into town. The traffic has been bumper to bumper since we arrived.

Posted by ncoats 02:38 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (1)

An Evening in Al Ain and a Christmas Bazaar

After a nice rest we decide to go for a walk in the beautiful park across the street from the hotel. It's a beautiful, green, spacious park with fountains, landscaped areas, playgrounds and walking paths. Nothing is done on a small scale here! One major past time of Emirati families is to take picnics to parks where they set up blankets and food. It's against the law in Abu Dhabi to take pictures of strangers but I've tried to take a few surreptitiously.

Park in Al Ain

Park in Al Ain

Park in Al Ain

Park in Al Ain

Al Ain Park

Al Ain Park

Also within the park is the Al Jihili Fort. Originally built in 1891 as a residence of Sheikh Zayed the First, it was inhabited until the early 1900's. It fell into disrepair in the 1930's but was refurbished and established as a tourist spot in the 1980's. It's closed when we walk by today and also on an early walk tomorrow morning but we snap pictures of the outside.

Al Jahili Fort

Al Jahili Fort

Al Jahili fort

Al Jahili fort

Back at the hotel we check out the different restaurants, Trader Vic's and Min Zaman, a Lebanese restaurant. Min Zaman features Arabian food and belly dancing for entertainment. But when we inquire for reservations at Min Zaman we find that from 6:00 pm to 11:00 pm dinner is served outside around the pool. The entertainment and indoor dining is served from 11:00 pm until 3:00 am. My goodness! We're not interested in sitting outside as it's been quite a warm day so we make reservations at Trader Vic's.

Here's a view of the pool area from our balcony as well as the road up Jabel Hafeet lit up at night and our table by the Christmas tree at Trader Vic's:

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Next morning we take a long walk through the park across the street after a sumptious buffet breakfast in the hotel. It's Friday so everything is closed. We check out about noon and the drive home is quick. There is a Christmas Craft Bazaar at the Abu Dhabi mall this afternoon. Chaz is not interested and the cleaning guys are scheduled to clean the apartment this afternoon. So...I drive by myself to Abu Dhabi Mall. Chaz has helped me with directions along with the use of googlemaps. But when I arrive where I should be able to turn left to the street the mall is on I'm at an entrance to an expressway! I turn early to avoid the entrance ramp and pick my way over to where I think the mall is. I drive straight to it but misread the Parking Lot sign and drive right past it!! I have to drive around 2 huge city blocks to get back to the same spot but somehow negotiate it and I'm in the underground parking. Now to find a parking space. There are numerous men standing around throughout the parking garage directing you into spaces but they also want to wash your car while you're shopping. They carry portable water in large cans that look like fire extinguishers. I decline the service but am grateful to find a spot.

Inside the mall it is completely decked out for Christmas. It's amazing how they have embraced this tradition without any regard for Jesus. Christmas trees everywhere and even a Santa Claus house. Santa doesn't arrive until 5:00 pm so I miss seeing if he's dressed traditionally. In the walkways between the stores there are lots of vendors set up - many with the ubiquitous Indian and Pakistani goods - carvings, scarves, jewelry and trinkets. One of the first tables that catches my eye is manned by Colin Roberts, a Brit who moved to Dubai in 1983 with his artist wife, Judy Roberts. Colin is a wood turner and sells handmade bottle stoppers topped with coins from numerous Middle Eastern countries. I find some gifts, a print of a watercolor of a beautiful falcon by Judy, and a few other items. He allows me to take his picture!

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My next purchase is from an Emirati woman who paints pottery and small paintings. I purchase 2 that are the Arabic words for 2 of the names of Allah. I'm too shy to ask if I can take her pictures, especially after her husband arrives.

It's Friday afternoon and the mall is really getting crowded - lots of folks milling around Santa's house and having their picture taken. I drive back to the apartment - finding the expressway back without a hitch! I'm very proud of myself.

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Posted by ncoats 22:18 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (0)

Al Ain, The Oasis City of Abu Dhabi

On Thursday, we sleep late (for us), enjoy a leisurely breakfast before packing and getting on the road by 9:30. We're driving to Al Ain for a day of sightseeing and spending the night there as well. Chaz is taking the day off today. Al Ain, the second largest city in the emirate of Abu Dhabi, is called The Oasis City because of the many underground springs surrounding it. Its elevation is slightly higher than the city of Abu Dhabi and also boasts the highest mountain of Abu Dhabi and second highest in the area at over 4000 feet, Jabel Hafeet. Al Ain is approximately 130 kilometers away which takes us just a bit more than an hour to drive. The drive is along a four lane highway with the ever present tree filled medians. The dunes and desert around Abu Dhabi are golden colored interspersed with low bushes and scrub grass. As we near Al Ain the dunes have changed color to a beautiful red, due to a high concentration of iron oxide. I try to catch this color with my camera but was not too successful.

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I have printed directions from Googlemaps but, typically none of the street names coincide with my directions. We continue to follow the signs to Town Center as our hotel is near downtown. Suddenly Chaz sees a sign pointing to our hotel, Al Ain Rotana, and makes a quick turn. We're in front of the hotel but the driveway is only a few feet from the turn and we can't slow down quickly enough to turn in. After a U-turn and another trip around the roundabout we're in the hotel driveway and pulling up to the reception area. It's not even 11:00 but we've decided to check in and get our bearings even if we can't get into our room. We are escorted from the moment we step out of the car and greeted by at least three or four people, each handing us off with much formality until we arrive at a small desk where we are invited to sit and relax as there is someone in front of us being waited on at the reception desk. No standing in line here - this is first class treatment. We've splurged on a 5-star hotel, the Al Ain Rotana, as we're only staying one night. The hotel rises to its four story height in a series of stair steps giving a much more imposing facade than its size would normally warrant. Al Ain has a four story building limit which gives the city a small town feel in spite of its half a million residents. We are served coffee in the traditional little Arabian cups while we check in with the extremely polite desk clerk. Most of the clerks are women and are of various nationalities but we are struck by how beautiful they all are, with their dark hair, olive skin and dark outlined eyes. Our room is not ready but we don't mind, leaving our luggage to be taken up, and getting directions to drive to Jabel Hafeet.

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Jabel Hafeet is only a few miles outside of town, straddling the border of Oman. We drive through industrial areas and what seems to be miles of cement factories. As we begin the climb up the mountain we marvel at the road which climbs 7.3 miles up the mountain and rises over 4000 feet. The road is three lanes - two rising, one descending. Edmunds.com declared it the greatest driving road in the world. We stop along one parking lot about three quarters of the way up to snap pictures. An Arabian family is enjoying a picnic, but typically have spread their blankets and food on the ground beside the picnic tables, where they lean against the benches. It's actually against the law in UAE to take pictures of strangers, but how I wish I could show you the locals!

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When we have almost reached the top we see the turnoff for the Grand Mercure Hotel, where I have planned for us to eat lunch. The lobby definitely wins the "green award", as it is filled with ivy walls and lush foliage. We make our way downstairs and outside to the pool area where we enjoy a nice lunch overlooking the desert floor. At first we thought it might be too windy to sit outside but our hostess directs us to a table that is sheltered a bit from the wind but alas, not from the flies. There's a small children's race track below us with prowling cats that meow just outside the fence once our food is served! But all in all it's another leisurely lunch in the UAE.

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On leaving the parking lot we see two new Bentley convertibles exiting ahead of us. In one a man is sitting atop the backseat with an enormous video camera on his shoulder. Later as we are descending we pass them coming up side by side as the man filming is shooting the Bentley on the beautifully scenic road. Maybe we'll see this in a commercial soon!

We drive all the way to the top where there's a large parking lot and a snack bar. There is also a private residence on the very tippy top, I can't imagine negotiated that 7 mile road everyday just to go to the grocery store!! There are numerous caves within the mountains and archaeological sites dating human existence back 4000 years. Amazing! The drive down is fun and curvy as Chaz takes the corners as only a frustrated race car driver can!!

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While we obtained directions TO Jabel Hafeet, we neglected to ask how to drive FROM there and back to Al Ain. Somehow we end up east of our hotel but at a red light we see a sign for Al Ain Palace Museum, one of the spots on my list. We find a parking space and walk back to the imposing structure. This is the former home of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. If you remember my entry last year (A History Lesson) he is the Sheikh that was instrumental in forming the United Arab Emirates and also served as its first president from 1971 until his death in 2004. He is responsible for bringing the country into the 20th century and ensuring the wealth of the oil-boom stayed within its borders. Al Ain was his home where he lived the first 50 years of his life. He donated his home as a museum and entry is free.

The Palace is surrounded by a high wall within which many small buildings are connected by walkways, breezeways and courtyards of green grass, bushes and trees.

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First we are directed to a long hallway that has been set up as a museum. There are artifacts from recent history such as coins and pottery and guns but also from archaelogical digs of ancient pottery as well. There is a portrait of Sheikh Zayed holding his son, the current Sheikh of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. I am also struck by a quote attributed to Sheikh Zayed stressing the importance of educating women.

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The women lived on one side of the compound and the men on the other, with a family compound in the center. The living areas are generally on the second floors, presumably to catch what breezes there are with low windows with bars for air flow. Here are some pictures of the women's areas, from their "majlis" or living area to the coffee room and bedrooms.

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Next we tour the men's area which is similar to the women's majlis. However one large room must be where he met with large groups of visitors that also has a small office beside it. There are guns displayed on the walls and Chaz marvels at the age of one, musing that it must be at least a hundred years old.

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There are outdoor areas for sitting and meeting with visitors under a large tent with a beautiful landscaped courtyard in front.

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Completing our tour, we're ready for a rest and negotiate the drive back to the hotel. Chaz's great sense of direction puts us on the right street and we're there in no time! We're pleased with our room which is in an adjoining building to the main hotel. Our room overlooks the pool area which is lined on the opposite side with low bungalows with terraces.

Posted by ncoats 02:20 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (0)

Lunch Out

Chris Corcoran, Chaz's boss' wife, has emailed me to welcome me back to Abu Dhabi. This year Chaz and I have arranged a cell phone for me (remember our fiasco of trying to do that last year?) and she calls to arrange a lunch out together on Wednesday. She has several errands to run and I look forward to tagging along.

She picks me up around 11:00 on Wednesday and it's wonderful to see her again. Steve, her husband, is former military and Chris has a very easy way about her, perhaps born from years of forming quick friendships on military bases - very relaxed and I'm immediately at ease as we catch up on the happenings of the past year in our lives. While we haven't met each other's families we ask and relate about our children and travels in the past year.

Her first stop is to a pottery shop run by several French women. She met them at a bazaar and had placed a few special orders that were now ready to pick up. Their shop is within a home and after a couple of phone calls to clarify directions (remember no addresses in Abu Dhabi!) we park at a local mosque and one of the women is standing at the end of a driveway to wave us over. Inside is a spacious home with large rooms - in one there is a long table where 4 or 5 women surrounding it are painting pottery. Two women take us into another room where they bring out items they have for sale as well as Chris' special order. I am immediately intrigued by their pottery - stark white plates of all shapes and sizes, tea cups, coffee cups and ornaments. I end up buying a large round platter painted with stylized camels and two smaller plates with desert scenes on them. I also buy a set of Arabian coffee cups, very small almost thimble sized cups, that Arabs serve their strong coffee in. I chose a set with names of different spices on each one and small pictures as well. I'm emboldened to try my high school French and am delighted when once compliments me on my accent, although my brain feels like mush when I try to conjure up a few sentences. But they are gracious and it's fun!

Next Chris heads to the port area of Abu Dhabi. She and Steve have ordered a teak bar from an Indian importer. It has arrived but they are having alterations made to it. It's a free standing building with 2 floors of furniture stacked end to end. Chris' piece is in the lower floor where they are removing a wine rack on one side and installing shelves and a door. It's very pretty with brass tacks and decorations. Chris also chooses three bar stools from the inventory - there are not three that match, so she chooses one large to put behind the bar and two matching to place in front of the bar.

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It's already 1:00 and we decide to have lunch close to our compounds. Chris and Steve live next door to Chaz's compound. We head to Nathalie's, a small deli shop inside an office building where we can sit outside. The weather has been absolutely beautiful since I arrived - high 70's to low 80's during the day and mid 60's at night. Occasionally the winds have been strong which creates dusty swirls everywhere and hazy horizons. But today it is mild and extremely pleasant. We look inside at the salads on daily special and choose three: a watermelon with feta, orzo with asparagus and peppers, and green salad with pecans and tomato. It is delicious with portions generous enough to take half home in a "take-away box". All meals are leisurely affairs in Abu Dhabi. We sit down around 1:15 and after eating followed by coffee for Chris and tea for me it's now after 3:00. I arrive home just minutes before Chaz - Wednesday is his long day, arriving home around 4:00 rather than 3:00 as on other days.

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Tomorrow Chaz is taking a sick day and we're travelling to Al Ain, the desert oasis town of Abu Dhabi. We're staying one night and have a day of sightseeing planned!

Posted by ncoats 21:22 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (1)

Daily Life in Abu Dhabi

I've arrived on Thursday evening and Friday begins the weekend. Friday is the holy day for Muslims. Most stores do not open until after lunch as Muslims spend the morning in prayer. But late afternoon every day is when folks emerge. Even with the advent of air conditioning and Western business hours, the rhythm of the desert bedouin permeates their lifestyle. Traffic increases late afternoon and shopping begins in earnest after 8:00 pm. Malls and shops are open until 10:00 pm weeknights and until 11:00 pm on Thursday and Friday nights.

Chaz and I spend Friday and Saturday catching up on his shopping with visits to the neighborhood grocery store, dry cleaners and the local Home Centre. Chaz has found a grocery store closer than the large hypermarkets where we shopped last year. The produce selection is not quite as fresh but it's nice not to have to fight so much traffic for just a quick trip to shop. Below are pictures from the local co-op Chaz found close by. No matter how small the grocery they always have a huge spice selection. Chaz is holding a cabbage here! What a stunner!

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We walk both days - once around local neighborhoods and once in a large cleared dirt area across the street from his apartment compound. Construction is going on there of a private villa which looks as large as Chaz' apartment compound! First a large wall is built - there are walls in this city like you've never seen before. Walls around parks, walls around buildings, walls around private villas, they're everywhere. Then within the wall the buildings are erected. Large concrete structures with large bricks covering the walls. The buildings are a story higher than the walls with sweeping archways and cavernous rooms. We speculate that the Sheikh building the compound wanted a good seat for the air shows held at the Executive Airport which is close by. I'd love to have a peek inside!

Chaz is back to work on Sunday - his hours are 7:00 until 2:30, so he's home by 3:00 each day. He leaves for work at 5:30 a.m. as civilians are not allowed on base until 6:00 am. I sleep late each morning and quickly establish a routine of breakfast, reading, writing, exercise, lunch and usually a bit of crochet. Chaz wants an afghan and when I googled where to buy yarn in Abu Dhabi, McGrudy's was the store featured. This is a book store similar to Borders and they have yarn? Actually they did so I have a few diversions to keep me busy.

Two of the compounds where DynCorp employees live have been bought by local Sheikhs and 26 units are being displaced. Chaz is on a committee to find new housing. One afternoon we look at a high rise with the rest of the committee. It's closer to downtown and parking is practically non-existent. The building and several others close by are under construction as well. It's noisy, hectic and not where Chaz would want to live. However, DynCorp would prefer to put as many units in a building as they are able in order to have more negotiating power on rates. One thing that strikes me is that where Chaz' apartment has a large living and dining room with the kitchen adjoining through a large pass through window over a countertop, the kitchen in these apartments is separated from the rest of the living area with a door that closes. Adjoining the kitchen is a small maid's room with her own bathroom. This is common for Emirati families to have a live-in maid that look after the children and do all of the cooking and cleaning. With the kitchen closed off the maid's goings-on are separate from the family.

We cook each night, easily falling into a routine. Some nights Chaz cooks, some nights I take over the cooking. We're eating more fish and shellfish - hamoor, perch, shrimp. It's enjoyable to cook for more than one - although I often don't cook at home and end up snacking, not very healthy! I hope the habits formed here will carry on once I'm back in Oriental.

Posted by ncoats 20:29 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (1)

Travel and Settling In

My last day in the States was spent at the office! It's amazing how difficult it is to clear every item from your desk. But after 5 hours, Success! Lunch, final packing and lots of hugs to Molly and Sweetie and I'm off to the airport in New Bern. Thank you, Donna. Travel was completely uneventful - a short hop to Atlanta from New Bern, a four hour layover in Atlanta with time for a chicken pannini for dinner, then boarding to Dubai. With DynCorp footing the bill I upgraded to Economy Plus class, a step up from Economy but not as nice as Business Class. I appreciated the extra leg room although I don't think the seats are any wider. The 13 and a half hour flight went very smoothly - except for an attack of restless leg - nothing unusual for me! I'm wise enough to get an aisle seat so that my frequent ups and downs are a minimal disturbance to seatmates. I spent half the flight pacing in the mid-plane pass through.

Last year I flew into Abu Dhabi and passport control, baggage claim, etc. took little time. This time flying into Dubai things were different. My flight landed at 9:15 pm and it wasn't until 10:30 that I emerged from the airport to the "Greeters" area. In addition to the passport control line taking over 30 minutes, I had waited at baggage claim for quite a while before being directed to an office to file a claim for my bag when a porter came running up yelling, "Atlanta, Atlanta!" and directed me to a different area where a pile of bags were assembled and there was mine! Oh Happy Day! Chaz's smiling face was a welcome sight and in no time we were headed out of the Dubai airport and on the two hour trip back to Abu Dhabi. While Chaz drove we were grateful for one of Dyncorp's drivers, Sandiker's, presence as he helped us negotiate the numerous turns to the Abu Dhabi highway.

Arriving at Chaz's apartment felt like coming home, all was familiar from my visit last year. It felt nice to just sit and chat and wind down from the flight. Although we Skype daily and keep up with each other's day to day life, being together again is oh, so sweet!

Posted by ncoats 21:01 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (2)

One more time with a little mo' feeling

Since this is my second Christmas in Abu Dhabi can I now call it my annual visit? Tomorrow I leave to visit Chaz in Abu Dhabi for a month. My flight is direct this year from Atlanta to Dubai. As Chaz has now been with DynCorp for over a year, my annual airfare is part of his compensation package. There is a direct flight from Atlanta to Dubai. Last year I flew from Atlanta to Amsterdam to Abu Dhabi to save money as we were footing the bill. Chaz will have a bit more inconvenience as he'll make the one and a half hour drive to Dubai to pick me up. However, he has arranged for one of the drivers for DynCorp to go with him to help navigate the traffic. He'll also be driving at night since my flight arrives at 9:00 pm on Thursday.

Packing this year has been less stressful as I know what to expect from the weather and the local culture. The last few days have been a whirlwind from getting home from a trip to the North Georgia mountains for Thanksgiving just three days ago. The pressure has been tidying up loose ends at my business to put all on hold until my return in January. My part-time help, Geri LaBreck, is fully capable of handling anything that comes up, if only to send them to the home office Customer Service! It's a relief to know she's checking up on things for me.

I have a housesitter again to take care of things around the house and of course, to see that Molly and Sweetie are looked after. I'll miss my animals as much (or more!) than my friends...Next post will be from Abu Dhabi! Here's to safe travelling.

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Posted by ncoats 16:27 Archived in US Virgin Islands Comments (1)

Last Days

December 25, 2012
Chandler has been ill all night with an upset stomach. At the camel festival, he ate a different dish than Chaz and I and we are thinking he has food poisoning. Chaz heads to work and I spend a quiet day cleaning, doing laundry and I make a rum cake. Chandler spends the day in bed only drinking liquids.

When Chaz gets home from work we go to Carrefour to buy a printer for the apartment. We spend a quiet Christmas evening eating leftovers from last night and watching a couple of movies.

December 26, 2012
Chaz is working, of course, and heads in even earlier than normal so he can leave a bit early. Chandler wakes up much improved and eats in small bites to test how his stomach will react. Any moms out there remember the BRAT diet? He has bananas, applesauce and later fixes a bowl of soup. We’re very relieved since we’re scheduled to fly home tonight. Our flights leave around 2:00 am on Thursday morning. Chaz will take us to the airport about 10:00 so he can get to bed at a decent hour.

It’s been a wonderful trip. I have found the UAE to be an interesting and welcoming place. For such a foreign culture to my own, the people are very accommodating and I found it fairly easy to adapt. I admire Chaz for settling in and making a home so quickly. He is working hard for our family and we appreciate it!

This will end my blog – and the history of my Middle East adventure in United Arab Emirates. We’re already talking about my next visit. We think next time we’ll explore some of the countries around UAE – maybe Bahrain or Oman…time to do some research!

Thank you for reading, I hope you have enjoyed my entries.

Happy New Year to All!!

As-salaam alaykum

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Posted by ncoats 03:50 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (0)

Dubai - Day Two

Sunday, December 23, 2012
If yesterday was discovering Old Dubai, today is definitely Modern Dubai. After checking out of the hotel we navigate traffic to the Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa. I’ve purchased tickets online for a tour time of 10:30 am. Patti West has given us good directions about where to park to be close to the entrance for At the Top – the elevators up to the observation area on the 124th floor. It’s good to know, too as Dubai Mall has over 1200 stores and several parking areas.

In short work, we’re in line for the two elevators that take 8 – 12 people each at a time up to the observation floor. The floor encircles the core with an area outside – but still with outside walls that go up 20 feet or more. It’s mind boggling to look out and see how high up we are. And we’re not even on the very top of the building. It’s actually over 160 stories high and the elevator holds the world record for the longest distance travelled. It feels short though for such a long way to go. The tower is filled with restaurants, hotels, private residences, corporate offices, even a fitness center and private club. I read that the project was started in 2004, but when recession hit even this oil rich area in 2007, the project faltered. The Sheikh of Abu Dhabi who is also the ruler of the UAE stepped in with over a billion dollars to finance the completion. Hence the name was changed to honor him – Burj Khalifa – or Khalifa Tower.

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We’ve purchased telescope cards and enjoy looking out over the city at various landmarks. The telescope has a setting “historic” and you can see what the city looked like a few short decades ago – basically palm huts and certainly no skyscrapers. An interesting sight is the man made archipelago built just off shore in the shape of the globe! These people only know how to do things on a grand scale.

We pose for the photographer that gives us tickets to buy a professional shot of us overlooking the skyline of Dubai. But when we look at the proofs and hear the price AED 200 for the single picture of us, and AED 300 for a double picture with the Burj Khalifa on one side and our picture on the other, we’re not sure it’s worth it! We like the pictures we’ve taken so we pass. However, on leaving at the mall level, there’s one last chance to purchase the double frame with a picture of Burj Khalifa on one side and a picture of us superimposed on the skyline of Dubai. This price has now dropped to AED 200 for the double picture. I still balk at the price and the clerk comes after me and lowers it by AED 50. I guess this is their last chance to get your money so they’re willing to bargain. I decide to purchase it and leave it in Chaz’s living room so he’ll have a momento of our trip.

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We’re hungry and head to the food court to find some lunch. We settle on a restaurant called More – can’t someone help them with these boring restaurant names? Yesterday was Automatic and today is More! We enjoy our lunch then head out to find the aquarium in the mall. This is a 10 million litre tank with a huge reef and all manner of fish from sharks to grouper to sting rays and numerous schools of small fish. It’s two stories and holds the Guinness World Record of the largest acrylic panel at 33 metres by 8 metres by 750 mm thick. We stand and watch for a while enjoying the beautiful swimming fish.

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We browse and window shop around the mall and then suddenly Chandler remembers he left his sack at the restaurant with our picture and a coffee mug he had bought. We navigate back and as soon as the wait staff sees us they are off to a corner where they have stored his sack. Whew!

We retrieve the car and head out to see Palm Jumeirah. This is the man made archipelago created in the shape of a palm tree. There are actually three such structures in Dubai and this one is the smallest but the most well-known. We drive to the tip where the Atlantis hotel is and park to take pictures of the Gulf and the hotel.

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We’re ready for the drive back to Abu Dhabi and before we know it we’re home and headed to the grocery store. We’re also ready for a home cooked meal. I fix meat loaf and veggies for dinner. It’s nice to have “real food” for a change.

Posted by ncoats 20:33 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (0)

Al Dhafra Festival

Camels up close and personal!!

Monday, December 24, 2012
It’s Christmas Eve and what better way to celebrate than by going to a camel festival! Al Dhafra Festival is in its sixth year and is located in the Western Region just outside Liwa. Sheikh Zayed was originally the sheikh of the Western Region before he was Sheikh of Abu Dhabi and Ruler of the UAE. The festival features camel races, a camel beauty competition, falcon competitions and date packaging competitions. This should be interesting.

The morning has dawned extremely foggy so that our drive out is not very scenic. Chaz says that sometimes the fog is so thick in the mornings cars will just pull off to the side of the road to wait it out. I just would not have associated fog with the desert!

Typical UAE directions on the festival website are very vague and googlemaps has not heard of any of the city markings. Patti West had visited the festival a year ago with a women’s group she belongs to. On the drive out by bus she had written down turns and landmarks so she could take her family back there. She graciously allowed me to copy them down and we use them to navigate. It’s about an hour and a half drive and as we get closer there are large distinct posters guiding our way. The fog has burned off and we’re definitely in the desert – rolling dunes surround us in a monochromatic landscape of copper browns and beiges.

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As we drive up the long approach road to the festival, one side is lined with small huts with lots of what looks like household items for sale and a few with coffee, juice and food items.

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We keep driving and see an area marked Traditional Souk. We park and head into wide walkways lined with shops where women are selling incense and souvenirs. Many of the shops have long glittery pieces of material and we realize that these are used to drape the camel’s back and head. One woman stops me and demonstrates the small cup for burning incense and I buy the cup with 4 small cubes of incense for AED 20 or about $6.00, which I give to Chandler. She allows me to take her picture and then invites me into her tent to see black and white pictures hanging from the walls which are more scarves than walls. The pictures are of the area 50 years ago and several of Sheikh Zayed and other sheikhs. She tells me a tourist bought one of the pictures from her for AED 1000. Hopefully, an exaggeration for old black and white photographs!

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We get back in the car and head for the top of another dune with signs that say Camel Auction. We follow the road and here there are hundreds of camels on either side of the road. Some are being driven down the road, others are staked or hobbled on the side of the road, others in small paddocks. There are tents set up with men squatting outside. We stop at one point and all jump out and Chandler and I pose in front of a man riding one camel with a few camels following and Chaz snaps our picture.

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Large SUVs are cruising by and when they stop the camel handlers put their camels through their paces of slowly lowering down on their knees and back up. There are three colors of camels, black, brown and white. I’ve read that there are basically three breeds that are featured here as well. There are small calves with their umbilical cords still hanging leaning on their mother’s sides. The camels seem to follow each other like sheep but occasionally one will stray and the handler’s raise their sticks and holler at them to herd them in the right direction. Sometimes there’s a man walking in front and an SUV is in back of the group honking his horn to keep them in line. Some men are friendly and nod at us, shouting “As-salaam ‘alaykum” which means, Peace be upon you. Chaz responds with the proper greeting, “Wa ’alaykum salaam” or Upon you be peace.

The camels are certainly not beautiful to me. With their heads thrust forward at the end of their long necks, they remind me of ostriches. Many have long lower lips that are filled with froth. Their legs are spindly and their normal stance has them splayed out from the knees. Their feet are huge and unnatural looking at the end of their skinny legs. The riders sit behind the hump and actually look as if they are comfortable loping along.

After driving a while we follow another road up to what looks like might be a stadium and the signs indicate “Camel Beauty Competition.” Now that’s an oxymoron!! After parking we note the area is encircled by large barriers and metal grates. We walk by one marked Police but the men gesture to us to enter and to follow the barriers around to the entrance to the viewing stands. When we emerge we see the stands are made up of large gold embroidered oversize chairs. We think we’re in a private viewing box until we notice all the seats are this way. A young man in traditional dress approaches us and says, Would you like to go down? We look down and see large paddocks fenced off with camels milling about. We eagerly say yes and he escorts us down to the paddocks to a large area between the paddocks where he answers our questions and explains what is going on. There are five or six judges milling about and each owner brings out his best camel from the paddocks into the center area until there are about nine or ten camels in the center paddock. Today they are judging the black camels called mujahim. I like them the best as they don’t have the long lower slobbery lip. The owners shout at their camels to try to get them to look up and strike their best pose. The people in the stand are also shouting and beating on the metal stands. It was really wild.

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Our guide is from Abu Dhabi and has just finished his first semester at Oregon State where he is studying mechanical engineering. He also took an English program at Georgia Tech. He tells us he is home for the Christmas holidays and is a volunteer guide for the festival. He is very patient and knowledgeable. We learn that the camels cost anywhere from half a million to a million dirhams. There is a fleet of SUVs parked nearby that he says are prizes for the first, second and third place winners in each category. The top prize winner will get a million dirhams. Wow, I guess this is a lot like showing horses or dogs. These are the cream of the crop.

We ask him where we can get a bite to eat and he directs us back to the Traditional Souk where we choose rice and chicken in metal trays and enjoy a meal out of the sun. On this round through the souk we find the date packaging exhibit and wander through, sampling dates. It’s a nice sweet after our lunch.

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We drive by the camel race track - there is not a race today. It's very, very large. The camels are controlled by remote control. They have a device on them similar to a robot that has arms that can control the whip and the reins. The owners drive along side the camel controlling the robot. Small children and even monkeys were used in the past, but came under criticism from human and animal rights' activists which led to the development of the robots.

One final drive around and we head back to Abu Dhabi. We’ve invited KK and Abdullah over for dinner tonight. They are the top two managers that work for Chaz. However, Abdullah calls during our drive to say that something has come up and he is unable to come. Back at the apartment, we rest then cook before KK’s arrival at 6:15. He is from India and has worked in safety for over 26 years. He has been on project here for five years. He has had six managers in Chaz’s position on this project. He and Chaz get along very well and he tells us that when Chaz leaves he will also leave because Chaz has been his best manager ever!! What a compliment. He seems to enjoy the dinner and it’s nice to get to know another one of Chaz’s co-workers. I forget to take a picture, though! Bummer!!

Chaz goes back to work tomorrow – yes, no holiday for Christmas here! So we’re off to bed early tonight.

Posted by ncoats 20:20 Archived in United Arab Emirates Comments (0)

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