Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Doing Dubai

I haven't been keeping up with the blog very well, but I'm going to manage at least one January 2015 entry (this one) and hopefully can get back in the habit of writing and reflecting about things here every couple of weeks going forward. I've been busy planning for and then hosting my first full fledged visitors since I've been in the apartment. Andrea came for Christmas within my first month when I was still in the temporary housing and was little more than a tourist myself. That said, we did a pretty good job of exploring and checking out many of the "must do" sights and experiences and I happily re-did many with my sisters last week. Here are a few of my favorite things to enjoy with visitors:

1. The desert safari: Have to take these things with a grain of salt, they're a little "packaged" but still, I think they're a lot of fun. This time we went with the company Arabian Nights and they picked us up at the apartment around 4PM. We shared a land cruiser with some ladies from Saudi Arabia (one of them lives in Abu Dhabi). The safari headed out to the dunes somewhere near the Sharjah/ Dubai border off the Al Ain Road, after letting some air out of the tires for better traction, we dune bashed. This entailed some racing, cresting, dipping and swaying over and down the sides of dunes- some pretty steep- and some squealing and gasping from Sarah and I and the Saudis. Meanwhile Becky sat up front wondering if maybe she could take a turn at driving. We roller coastered our way to a high point to enjoy the golden light of a desert sunset. Next down to the "camp" where
there was an opportunity for a quick camel ride in a circle (mostly just a photo op). One camel was kinda photo bombing Becky and Sarah and seemed to be interested in a little head scratch or something, but no, it turned out that he was interested in trying to take a bite out of Sarah's arm right through his little knit mouth/nose cover. She had a nice camel-tooth bruise going! Following that excitement, it was on to grab a cocktail and get a little henna design applied and take a few puffs of shisha before the tanoura dance show (slightly campy guy who can spin like mad wearing a skirt covered with LED lights) and dinner. Talking with the Saudis over dinner was fun, especially the young woman in 10th grade. She was pretty vocal about the fact that she saw no reason to have to
wear an abaya all the time at home (she was not wearing one on the safari, nor was her mom. Her mom, however, did have her hair covered) and she was pretty bothered about not being able to drive. It sounded like the trip to visit her aunt in the UAE had her feeling pretty envious of some freedoms the ladies enjoy here.  After the whirlwind sampler of vaguely bedouin activities, tidied up for tourist pleasure, they took us home before 10pm. An added bonus, our driver had scored some fresh camel milk from the farm by the camp and he gave us a little bottle to take home and try!

2. Camel races: I wrote an entire post on this after Andrea and I went, it's here. I'll just add that the sisters and I got there too late last week to see any racing. We arrived just after 8:30am. There were training runs going on though, and all the camel handlers took a big interest in 3 yellow haired tourist types taking pictures and looking curious. One group called us over to take pictures and then insisted that the sisters jump atop a camel for photos. Sarah cut her hand a little on the hump handle thingy- she really developed a bit of a camel aversion on this trip.

3. An abra ride across the creek: If you're in the neighborhood, of course, a visit to the souks is also in order, but really, my favorite part is climbing the little beat looking flat bottomed wooden motor
boat with a roof, paying 1AED (roughly 30 cents) and putting across this bustling waterway past the dhows (bigger wooden boats that haul freight throughout the gulf- you can see tall stacks of boxed fridges and washer dryers alongside the moored dhows waiting to be loaded up) and other abras and tour boats and more. The ride is short but lively. I could go back and forth over and over, people watching and boat watching.

Turns out this post could go on and on if I had more energy. There are more "enjoy with visitors" things on my list than I anticipated. I see more posts ahead on maybe some of these

4. Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi- breathtaking

5. Frying Pan Food Tour- not for the picky eater or those with dietary restrictions though 

6.  Sheik Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding meal or tour- mentioned in the food post but they are so much more than the meals

7. Something luxurious- a spa treatment, gold cappuccino at Emirates Palace, high tea- I've dabbled in luxury adventures but this is a bit of a weak area for me, will have to work on up-ing my Dubai high life knowledge, it'll be research, right?

8. Burj Khalifa observation deck (sunset, or now they also do sunrise) combined with seeing the Burj from my apartment and seeing the fountains at the base- one of my favorite viewing places is from Souk ah Bahar or from the walkway between Souk al Bahar and The Palace hotel (which proved to be a decent place to watch for over the top cars in valet one of the nights we visited.)

9. Beach!

10. Falcon Hospital in Abu Dhabi- a neat new-to-me thing we checked out last week...

Yes more posts are needed.