Saturday, September 26, 2009
We’re back the “-est” competition here. The Dubai Airport is the largest in the world by floor space. Don’t ask…I have no idea how else one would measure the size of an airport – though you could check on number of visitors (it’s 6th in the world) or cargo or….guess the list goes on. We were only in one very small section of it – complete with trees, waterfall and koi pond!
The ornateness and details in some of these places is absolutely outstanding. One had a complete stained glass window scene - you have to wonder what story they are telling in the different panels. Others had sculpted and carved woods, glass, lamps, you name it, they suspended it.
And the malls!! I’m not really certain about these places. Certainly they want you to come in and buy stuff, however, they really go all out here to attract people to their malls – and Dubai has them all. We can start with the Dubai Mall, the world’s largest by some measure. Besides the lagoon out in front, the picturesque views of the world’s tallest building and outdoor dining, the gigantic mall also has an ice skating rink, 3 movie theaters and an aquarium, complete with shark dives (wish I had had my Padi card with me!).
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
This week we have celebrated Eid – well, to be honest, the Muslims have celebrated Eid, the rest of us have had a holiday!
To start it off, the desert savvy crew from ASD took many of us “newbies” on a desert adventure, complete with sand dunes. Has to be a reason why everyone drives a 4-wheel drive vehicle here – and this is it.
We started off as a caravan – all told there were 20 cars, all packed for picnics, swimming, and, of course traveling through the dunes. Our fearless leader, Will, is an old hand at traveling through the dunes and he led the group with Clint and Melissa trailing behind, ready to help people out who got stuck. Sadly, it didn’t take too long. We, being novices, started off following people much too close, meaning that when the car in front got stuck, so did you! Didn’t take too long for most of us to spread out a bit more. Some of the starts were horrendous, speeding up to the dune, hitting the first bump (it was a lulu) and then slip sliding your way to the top. Jeff did a great job and kept us going all the time – even making it up a couple of times around the others who got stuck.
Even with the waiting, a few people got stuck. The last picture shows our fearless leaders on a race up the dune! Have to look carefully - there really are two little dots there - the 2 cars!
The views were spectacular – amazing how much was similar and different to the deserts of Mongolia. Didn’t see any camels and far more sand. The scrub grass the dotted much of the land in Mongolia was very sparse in the area where we were. Did see a hand glider – but couldn’t get a picture. Pictures from the back of a rocking car left much to be desired.
We drove out to a place called the Inland Sea. It’s clear down at the base of Qatar, right where it joins the Saudi mainland. In fact, the place where we picnicked and swam was right across from Saudi. The water was warm – almost like a bath tub! There was a strong current so you could float down quite a ways and then work your way back. The kids really enjoyed the sand dune – they climbed up to the top and then tumbled, jumped and rolled all the way to the water. I’m sure they all weighed about 20 pounds extra with the sand!
Returning in the middle of the night was quite interesting. Those same dunes you could see in the day were quite eerie at night. It wasn’t easy to see the top, how much gas should you give, what was on the side….lots more questions….as well as many stuck people – we lost 8 people just getting out of where we had parked!!! Finally, we made it back up to refill our tires and head for home.
This sport is not for the timid. While we waited for our turn to fill the tires (you let air out to give you better traction in the sand), a group of cars took off into the desert – it was truly a race track – they hauled across the road, hit the sand and just kept going. Sure glad we were out already!
The top picture has the sand dune on the left - doesn't look anywhere near as high as it really is. The hills across the water are actually in Saudia Arabia - we were THAT close.
Friday, September 18, 2009
David drove us around today to help us locate various places. The American Embassy for a start. Now...it's on D ring. Should be straight forward but it's not because THAT's the part under construction. Ok...fine...you go down D ring road...should be a road...and there is BUT....you have to figure it out. Signs, one would think there would be signs but I guess they're worried about people finding it so there aren't any until you are there and then they tell you to turn right and park. Very useful.
We did drive out to the Syndicate....where they sell the liquor here in Doha. In a Muslim country, alcohol is not allowed, however, they do make an exception for foreigners and hotels. However, you have to register and get a permit in order to buy any liquor. And...just to make sure it's for your personal consumption...the police follow you to your house to make sure you take it home.
As we wandered the streets - and got fairly lost (hope we can find these places again), we drove by a strange building...with a dinosaur on it....in the middle of the desert....HUH? Turns out it's a villa - now why they have it there, I don't know but...here it is.
Friday, September 11, 2009
The brief definition…the “traditional” dhow has two distinctive features (though, of course, there are variations, depending upon where they were made). Basically, they have a triangular sail and, oddly enough, the hull is stitched together. Yeah, that’s what I said, stitched. The boats were stitched together by sewing the boards of the hull together – yeah, sewed together. They used various things such as cords, thongs, and various fibers. To waterproof them they used gooey things like shark or castor oil. They actually still make dhows though these days they use marine varnish and other modern boat supplies to keep them seaworthy.
The building in the background is another view of the Museum of Islamic Art - the same one we went to a while back.