Getting up and down was the hardest part 😉
So much fun!
Enjoying the safari!
Delicious local food.
We found a Tim Hortons!!! (And a BJ and a Greg 😉 )
The Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.
Milk and cookies for Santa.
Taking a ride in a Dhow.
So, how do you fit spending three weeks in United Arabs Emirate into one blog post? I don’t know, but will do my best to try J (Also, the site is in Arabic right now, so will add photos late 😉 )
We disembarked from the ship on December 23, and were sad to say goodbye to the friends we had make on the ship. But we were welcomed by an old family friend from home, who picked us up at the port and spent the first day with us introducing us to Dubai. It was awesome to see BJ and meet his wife, Virginia, and spend an afternoon with them at JBR (Jumeirah Beach Resort), and then the evening at a Christmas market in Jumeirah. Seriously, there is nothing like arriving at a new city/country and seeing a familiar face! Soooo thankful that BJ and Virginia had the day off and were willing to spend it with us J December 24 was spent running around the Mall of the Emirates trying to find Christmas presents for the boys that weren’t too big or too heavy, but still fun. Do you know how hard that was? Hahah….running around in a strange (but amazing) mall and having the boys with us the entire time required some strategic buying and hiding. Anyways, we muddled through and then headed to the airport to pick up one of our BFFs Gregory Satarelli. He flew 11 hours from home to spend Christmas and New Years with us and explore some of the UAE. We waited an hour and a half at the airport, and the boys were hopping up and down the whole time…it was hilarious to watch them! Again, it was sooo nice to have a friend with us for this leg of the trip. It’s always more fun travelling with friends and sharing stories and experiences J Anyways, it was a late night and early morning when the boys woke up to open presents. Our tree was about 12 inches tall, but we did manage to leave some cookies and milk for Santa, and he did find us even though we were halfway around the world. Greg (Santa is in his name), brought a bunch of cards from our church peeps at home, some small (well done friends and family!) presents that mostly consisted of food and lightweight items….keychains and such, and it really felt like Christmas. THANKS to everyone for thinking of us, and especially to Greg for transporting it all. Then we were invited to a HUGE Christmas dinner at BJs brother’s house. It was a mix of ex-pats, and friends of friends, and it was awesome. Again, I can’t tell you how nice it was to sit down at a Christmas dinner with friends and feel like we weren’t missing out on the big dinner at home. HUGE thanks to BJ for the invite, and his brother and wife for hosting. Words can’t really express how welcomed we felt and how “normal” it felt to be there J The rest of the first week was spent with a mix of sightseeing and beach days. We quickly found one of our favourite beaches, and spent 3 or 4 days there….Kite Beach is awesome, and the boys had a blast swimming and playing in the water. Jo also really liked JBR on the day Greg left, as it had really big waves, and we spent about 2 hours in them, diving, body surfing, and getting tossed around in the shallow water (don’t worry, we stayed very shallow and kept the kids very close). We went to the old part of Dubai and introduced Greg to souqs. It was hilarious watching him barter, and I wish we had video of it….
We took a Dhow (traditional wooden boat) across the river for a whopping 5dirham ($1.50 Cad) total. Went to a museum and learned about Dubai’s history. We went to the Mall of the Emirates, the Dubai Mall, watched the water fountain show, and checked out lots of hole in the wall places to eat (the best food we found, by the way). The boys loved seeing Tim Hortons, 7-11, and other chains from home. Everywhere we went in Dubai, people spoke English to us. And it seemed to be the most common language while we were walking and hanging out. After a week in Dubai, we headed to another Emirate: Ajman. This one had a noticeably different vibe than Dubai. Definitely more Arabic, hardly any English heard, except when we spoke to people, and I would say we were one of the few white people in the area. The grocery stores were very different from the ones we used in Dubai, and it really felt like we were in a different country, even though we were only about 45 minutes away from Dubai. It was cool to go and experience Ajman, and we checked out the fish market, and did a safari from here. One of the things we noticed was the incense burning in the hotel lobby, and in other public areas we went. I also forgot to mention that we heard the call to prayer every day (I think 5 times). Like the bells in Europe, the call to prayer is something that you notice every time the first few days, but then fades into the background after awhile. (Unless you are staying in a hotel right next to a mosque, and then you really notice it at 545am 😉 ).
Anyways, for New Years we saw a record breaking fireworks show in Ras Al Khaim, another Emirate. So fun to see it in real life. And cool to see how the locals celebrate New Years. Fires and camping in the sand dunes beside the highway is quite common, and we saw a lot of people barbequing and ringing in the New Year that way. We also did the touristy thing and went on a desert safari….it was a blast! We went dune bashing in a Jeep (look it up on Youtube…it’s quite the ride), rode on camels, tried sandsurfing, and had dinner in the desert with a show in the middle. We also met some super nice people, and again, it was nice to chat with other travellers, and even some locals about the culture. After Greg left for home on Jan. 3, we took a few days to plan the next leg of our journey. We had flights booked to Bangkok for Jan. 5, but found an opening in a cruise that left Abu Dhabi on Jan. 14, and ended in Singapore on the 29. So we booked it. And then booked a place in Abu Dhabi for another week. We had gone to Abu Dhabi for a day trip earlier, and explored the Grand Mosque. Again, pictures do not do this place justice. The second time there, we enjoyed the beach, headed up to Al Ain for a day (amazing!!! Wish we had gone there earlier…saw a fort, the founding Sheikh’s family palace, Jebel Hafeet-highest point in the UAE, and even enjoyed a local festival that we stumbled upon), and then had another couple days of planning and booking.
It’s a great city!
Anyways, in terms of logistics, we are very glad we rented a car. We would not have seen half the things we did without one. Nathan did an amazing job of navigating through the crazy roundabouts and doing u-turns and following sometimes very hard to understand directions from googlemaps. We are very glad we started in Dubai, as it has a lot of chains, stores and other things that are familiar. And malls. With stores we know from home J (Not that we bought anything other than groceries, but it was nice to be back among the familiar). It is an amazing city, and we definitely understand the draw it has for people from all over the world. We are also glad we came in the winter. It got up to 30 degrees a couple of times, and we enjoyed the beaches and the warmth. Definitely hot enough for us in December/January 😉
And grocery stores are our best friends in terms of finding local food and popular eats. Even foods from home….once in a while 😉
Anyways, it was an amazing experience to be in the UAE for a few weeks. We will miss the sand, the call to prayer throughout the day, the bartering, and the friends. BJ and Virginia: thanks so much for making yourselves available and spending what time you could with us. We are very grateful you were here for us J
Greg, you came at just the right time…thanks for the laughs, the energy, for rooming with the boys, and having patience while we figured out life in the UAE. Jo still has your face as the screen saver on his ipad…it’s kinda creepy 😉 hahahah.
I am sitting in the Dubai port using the free wifi, so this is gonna go up unedited again. Sorry if it’s long, and kinda all over the place. We will be on the ship for another two weeks, stopping at 3 different ports in India, one in Sri Lanka, and then over to Thailand. Will catch up with you all then J
Thanks for checking in!!!