Arabian Adventures Night Safari in Dubai

Arabian Adventures Night Safari in Dubai

I really don’t have a bucket list per se, and don’t even really believe in the concept.  But, I once put together a travel to do list – years ago.  Once in a blue moon I look over the list to see if I am on the right track.  In all those years, one thing remained on my to do list – riding a camel.  I have ridden an elephant a couple times, I mean who hasn’t?  But, a camel, now that is something. When we were offered the opportunity to tour Dubai courtesy of Dubai Tourism, they asked us what, specifically, we were interested in doing in Dubai.  The first thing that came to mind – I wanted to ride a camel.  It did not need to be a lengthy trip across the desert, a la Lawrence of Arabia, but enough for me to sit on top, bop along, and knock it off my travel to do list. Dubai Tourism delivered.  And then some.   After our disappointing evening on the Dhow dinner cruise, my hopes were set on having a lovely evening for our last night in Dubai.  Our guide, Yafei, picked us up from the hotel, where Eric was waiting in his desert chic attire.  We were ready for our Arabian Adventures Night Safari. Yafei escorted us about an hour outside of the city, explaining about the safari and some history of Dubai.  We even drove past the practice grounds for camel racing on the way.    When we arrived at the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, we pulled over with the other Arabian Adventures cars, and deflated...
Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding – Dubai

Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding – Dubai

I consider myself fairly educated and world traveled, although I know I have a lot more to learn, and a lot more to explore.  One region that we have not explored, and know so very little about, is the Arab world.  It is challenging to try to learn the reality of Islam in an American media-driven world.  If I accepted what FoxNews preached, I would be holed up in a bunker in Kansas, afraid to see daylight.  At least, though, I understood what I did not understand when landing in Dubai, our first stop in our tour of the Middle East.  As part of our tour, we were invited to the Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding, where the motto is open doors, open minds.  Set in a traditional wind house in the rebuilt, historic center of Dubai, the goal of the center is to encourage understanding of the Emirati people, traditions, culture, and the Muslim religion.   Visiting an Emirati Mosque First, we visited a mosque with our guide, Nasif, who in quite a humorous and matter of fact way, explained some of the lesser known theories behind Islam, and how it compares to other religions.  His goal was to debunk some of the rumors that surround the Muslim world, in a way everyone can understand.   We all removed our shoes, and the women were asked to wear a head scarf.  As the only mosque in Dubai which is not only open to the public six days a week, but is dedicated to receiving non-Muslim visitors, I wondered how traditional this mosque really was, particularly as men...
Quiz Time: Arabic Signs, a Photo Essay

Quiz Time: Arabic Signs, a Photo Essay

After our one week spent in Doha and Dubai, one thing was clear to me: the Arab world is one giant shopping mall.  And, after spending time in malls in both countries, I started to see a trend: American brands, in Arabic writing.   Basically, everywhere we went there were Arabic signs, but for ver recognizable brands. I just got such a kick of out of it. So, can you tell which sign is which brand?  Some of them are easy, and some are a little more challenging, but let me know your guesses in the comments below! Photo 1: Okay, this one is pretty easy, because apparently, not everything can be translated into Arabic. Photo 2: This one is not an American chain, so I am cheating a little here.  I was curious about what an Eastern Western Cantina was anyway?  Apparently, it meant kebabs and falafel.  Who would’ve thunk it? Photo 3: This one, I think is one of the harder ones.  It is a very recognizable name, but not one in which I associate the picture to the right of the name. Photo 4: This one might also be tough. Think about a non-food all-American brand. Photo 5: This one might be hard because it is not a brand that is around much any more in the States, but it’s big in the Middle East. Photo 6: This is probably my favorite, as well as the easiest one to get. Add in your guesses below!  I am super curious on...
Dubai – A City of Superlatives

Dubai – A City of Superlatives

When we arrive in a city in Asia, even a city that is new to us, we are always wondering whether that city could be a new home for us.  I always compare one Asian city to another, fairly or unfairly – Yangon versus Saigon, Singapore versus Kuala Lumpur. This was not the case in Dubai.   First, we knew it would never be and could never be our home.  Beyond that, though, arriving in a city, in a region that was so new to us, was something to note. It has been a long time since something was so new.  Dubai was our first real stop in the Middle East, if you don’t count our airport shuttle joy ride around Doha.  With Dubai, I had nothing to compare it to. My virgin eyes were seeing this mirage in the middle of the desert.  In fact, the powers that be in Dubai assume that the city cannot be compared to any others, by anyone.  It is a city of superlatives, a land where everything is followed by or preceded by an adjective, generally with an “est” on the end.  All I saw, as far as the eye could see, were skyscrapers, dust, and construction.  I recognized the Burj Khalifa, currently the tallest building in the world.  From the airport, we passed the Palazzo Versace, a giant Big Ben looking tower which seemed to be an ode to Dubai’s excesses.  We saw high rises and malls.  Our driver quickly pointed out the obvious: “there are no small buildings in Dubai, only towers.”  I quickly began to feel like I was...
Dubai Dhow Cruise

Dubai Dhow Cruise

There are some situations when I should just trust my gut. When Dubai Tourism provided us the itinerary for our hosted tour, I noticed that our second evening event was a Dubai Dhow cruise, in fact, a dinner cruise.  I am not one for cruising, particularly of the dinner cruise variety.  We took a 3 day cruise down the Yangtze River in 2009 and that was fine, although we did not really enjoy it, other than meeting some nice people.  I did a Seine dinner cruise way back in 2000 during a study abroad.  It was fun, but we were a large drunken group of law students, so you could put us facing a wall and give us unlimited wine and we could have a ball. But, generally, I do not like the idea of sailing around a river, on a touristy boat, eating sub-par food, and being unable to leave until a specified time. Our friend in Doha suggested a Dhow dinner cruise for our trip to Doha a few days after.  So, my thought was that, if it was good enough for him, that we would be okay with it.  I should have trusted my gut.   As soon as we exited the car at the dock, I should have asked for an immediate return trip back to the hotel, but my cheapness kicked in and I thought, hey, if nothing else it was a free meal.  How bad could it be? We walked the red carpet onto the gangplank and joined a handful of others in the main cabin of the boat.  It was strangely quiet,...
Winter Wonderland in Ski Dubai

Winter Wonderland in Ski Dubai

I was a skier growing up.  I wasn’t great.  In fact, I was probably not great at all.  But, I made my way down the slopes, had some fun, and all without killing myself.  I was even a member of the ski club in high school. When I met Eric all that changed.  He had never skied at had no interest in it.  He always thought that he would break his arm or his leg if he did anything that required him to attach things to his feet, like skis, or even ice skates or roller blades.  I should note he did, however, break an arm playing baseball, but that story would be getting us a little side tracked.   So, when Dubai Tourism offered us an opportunity to visit Ski Dubai, we jumped on it.  It would give me an excuse to get on the slopes again – even a man made one in the middle of a desert shopping mall.  And, Eric could not hide.  I would finally be getting him on two skis. Unfortunately, things did not go as planned.  In the US, so long as you purchase a lift ticket, they will let anyone up on the slope.  It is more of a buyer beware situation.  At least it used to be.  Who knows with the ever increasing number of rules and regulations.  But my memory is that you skied at your own pace, starting at the bunny slope and moving up from there. At Ski Dubai, though, they would not let us ski: 1) because Eric had never skied before; and 2) they said...
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