Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Picture is worth a thousand words: The UAE through our eyes

Here are just a few shots of the UAE through our eyes...

The airport was decadent

The UAE version of X Factor

Sheikh Mohammed

They say violence is low here...good thing 'cause it looks like the guard is sleeping on the job :-)

Beautiful Arabian sand

Our tour guide/driver for our dune buggy ride

Mansion of a government official

A rose is still a rose in the UAE...I was just checking

posing for my honey :-)

My honey posing for me ;-)

Not exactly Starbucks

Yes it is very hot, but it is very windy and sandy...hence the reason for the get-up

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Abu Dhabi

Acutely aware of the fact that I wanted my feet to touch the same soil that my favorite artist of all time, Janet Jackson's feet had touched, my dear husband arranged (unbeknownst to me) a private tour of Yas Marina Formula 1 Race Track, in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

Yas Marina Race Track

This fixation may not be shared by many and some may not even understand the desire to see a race track, but my girl made it sexy…as she does most anything. A side bar to note; I choose destinations for different reasons (sometimes different from most people). I chose India, because of the food (and the Taj Mahal), I chose Italy to see just how far The Leaning Tower really did lean and I chose Dubai to climb to the top of the tallest building in the world.

Similarly, I chose Abu Dhabi, to see the race track. I am happy to say that although I go to a place for one reason, I come away with so much more. That is the thrill of travel and that should be the thrill of life.

So while on the tour we did see the site where Janet did her Bazaar Arabia photo shoot. We also got to tour the full marina or berth. In the marina were docked the yachts of Sheikh Mohammed and his brother and Sheikh Khalifa. This beautiful dock was accented by the elegant and futurist Marina Hotel.

One of the Royal Yachts

Marina Hotel

The surprise was how kind everyone was. This was a stark difference from Europe, a very old region that has grown tired of tourist and their wide-eyed innocence. It seemed the Emirates welcomed the questions and awe-inspired wonder of their foreign guests. Our tour guide did not have a good grasp of English, but was patient and kind and tried to answer all our many questions with accuracy.

I knelt down and grabbed some rocks from the floor of the track as a genuine keepsake that I had been there. Though it may not matter to one other person in the world but me, that day was special and I thank Jerod for making it a day to remember.

I should mention that the Yas Marina circuit is far from the only tourist attraction on Yas Island. We visited malls and stores, there is even an Ikea . We also got to visit Ferrari World which was an event in its self. Within Ferrari World was the world’s first full scale indoor amusement park built around the theme of all things Ferrari. If you didn’t get your fill there, upon leaving you could stop by the huge Ferrari Store where there was more paraphernalia than you could shake a stick at (a very expensive stick).

Abu Dhabi was not as “fancy” or developed as Dubai. It was more industrious and mountainous. However, scattered throughout the hillside were mansions and villas of government officials and members of the royal family that could rival the mansions of Beverly Hills (only a whole lot more dusty).
We experienced a sand storm in Abu Dhabi that made visibility and photography poor. The storm did not, however, dampen our “come to Jesus moment” (you know the one I wait for with bated breath on every trip?). Well, we had it at the Grand Mosque of Sheikh Zayed, the father of the current Sheikh. Housed within its walls was the world's largest chandeliers, 3 of them, costing 8 million American each. On the floor was a rug that was woven by hand by 700 Emirate women (it took them 2 whole years). Stacked on nearly every wall and in corners and in the middle of the floor were ancient Qurans (Korans), hundreds of them. The Mosque closed at 11:30am for prayer and with good fortune we skirted in within minutes of the cutoff to hear the clergy praying in their native tongue. We didn't know what they were saying, but since we happened to be there on our Sabbath day, we prayed in our own Christian way, to Jesus, our Lord.

Grand Mosque of Sheikh Zayed

We made it through the gate by the skin of our teeth

8 Million dollar chandelier

The rug that took Two years to weave

The modest sign pointing the way to the Sheikh's tomb

Tucked in a far off obscure corner of the massive acreage was the quiet tomb of Sheikh Zayed. A simple mausoleum of white marble with a small tomb stone with Arabic words was all that marked the grave of the beloved emperor. We had learned from our tour guide that in death no one is celebrated, no one is more special than another. Yay, even the ruler was laid to rest modestly, just as one of his country men. Unlike the burial for great people in our country (Elvis Presley comes to mind), there was little pomp and circumstance for this "king" .

There were many other sights and sounds to share about Abu Dhabi, but much too much to be held in the scope of this piece. Suffice it to say, just like neighboring Dubai, Abu Dhabi is a must see.