America’s Dubai?


On the topic of “over the top” like Dubai, Las Vegas definitely does things big! A friend sent me these pictures from a recent visit, taken at the Bellagio and the Venetian hotels. The glass work is done by Chihuly and it is on the ceiling of the Bellagio.

Old Dubai

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There is a section of Dubai that is considered “Old Dubai”. You can take a water taxi on old wooden boats, walk around an area where there are samples of houses from the past and most fun of all, you can go to the Souks for spices, textiles and gold. Remember -“Old Dubai” is only 60 years ago!

The Bastakiya area is home to Dubai Museum, itself located inside the city’s oldest building: Al Fahidi Fort, built in 1787. It was very nice walking around that area and taking a look at spices for sale.

At the heart of Old Dubai lies the source from which the entire city has developed outwards. Dubai Creek is very, very important. If you look back to when Dubai was first mentioned in 1587, the creek had the same purpose at that time.That’s what’s unique in Dubai. You still find goods being imported and exported to and from different areas – the creek is still the heart of Dubai.

It was fantastic to see the spice souk , the textile souk (grab a pashmina!) and the gold souk. Gold is cheaper in Dubai than anywhere else in the world, and the price is set twice a day. 

Skiing in Dubai??????!!!


Instead of telling you about this incredible place that is part of a shopping mall (Mall of Emirates) in Dubai, I think you should read what is on their website for Ski Dubai. I HAD to go see it!


“Ski Dubai has 5 runs that vary in difficulty, height and gradient, the longest run being 400 meters with a fall of over 60 meters. Test your skills on the world’s first indoor black run or practice your turns on the gentle beginner slopes. Skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels will enjoy these various slopes and snowboarders can also practice their stunts in the Freestyle Zone. Kids and parents alike will have fun in the huge interactive Snow Park, which at 3000 square meters is the largest indoor snow park in the world.

You don’t have to worry about ski clothing or equipment either. Ski Dubai has thought of it all and offers guests the use of winter clothing, ski and snowboard equipment. Your skis will carry you down the slope, and our quad-chairlift and tow lift will promptly carry you back to the top for another run.

You will enjoy our themed restaurants; St Moritz Cafe at the entrance to Ski Dubai, and Avalanche Cafe at mid-station, with views of the slope. Our exclusive retail shop, Snow Pro, has expert staff to advise you on your equipment needs and our team of professional Ski School instructors will guide you through the simple, fun process of learning to ski or snowboard.”

Quick Facts

  • 22,500m2 covered with real snow all year round – (equivalent to 3 football fields)
  • Temperature maintained at a comfortable -1 o to – 2o
  • 85 meters high (approximately 25 stories) and 80 meters wide
  • 5 different runs of varying difficulty and length, longest run of 400 meters
  • Full capacity of 1500 guests
  • Freestyle zone
  • Corporate and group bookings
  • 3,000m2 Snow Park with a snow cavern
  • Quad chairlift, tow lift and flying carpets
  • Mountain resort theme
  • Rental of quality equipment and clothing included in the ticket price
  • Qualified professional instructors
  • State of the art ticketing system
  • Changing areas with locker rental
  • Private kids party rooms
  • Exclusive retail shop – Snow Pro
  • St Moritz Cafe and Avalanche Cafe

The Desert-Falcons,Camels and Dune Dragging


Three forms of recreation that I found in Dubai and Abu Dhabi are falcon training, riding camels and dune dragging.

The Bedouin lived for millennia in the desert, a harsh, unforgiving place that required developing every available tool for harvesting its scarce resources. The ultimate hunting weapon in such an austere environment: falcons. Today, even as Abu Dhabi and Dubai have become rich, the old ways persist, and behind almost every camel stable and desert retreat is an aviary of saker falcons. Though hunting is severely restricted in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, (falconers travel to hunt with their birds in places like Syria or Iraq), the birds must be flown and trained daily.

I also learned a lot about camels. A camel’s hump does not store water. It stores fat, lessening heat-trapping insulation around the rest of the body. One reason camels can go long periods without water is the shape of their red blood cells. These are oval and so will flow when they are dehydrated rather than clumping, as ours do. The camel is the only mammal to have oval red blood cells. We were told by our guide that the hump stores the food and the legs store the water-enough for one month!

In terms of the dune dragging, this is something that people love to do and for good reason! You have to let a lot of air out of your tires to do it so the car is more stable in the sand. The danger, of course, is that occasionally you can get stuck (pictured!). After you are finished, you pump your tires back up-everyone keeps the equipment in their car. I also learned that you should always go with at least two cars- so if you get stuck, you can pull each other out!  Of course as these two areas grow, there is less and less desert that is wild and free.



We took sea planes and flew over Dubai which was great to really give you the scope of the city and the incredible architecture. It is hard to imagine that just 50 years ago it was a very small port city and most of what is developed now was all desert. There are some fascinating man-made land formations such as “the world” which is many small islands created and for sale for 10 milion dollars each! The fronds were also interesting-the land created literally looks like a  large palm tree-each frond has about 130 houses on it-brilliant idea as everyone gets a water view.

Here are some other interesting facts:

1. Dubai is one of seven states that comprise the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a country formed in 1971 from individual sheikdoms.

2. Foreigners make up most of Dubai’s population. The local people, called Emiratis, are just 15% of the total.

4. Dubai is apparently the fastest growing city in the world.In 1991, Dubai had just one tall building and it was at the edge of the desert. Now they have over 400 very tall buildings.

5. The tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa, is in Dubai. It has 164 floors (pictured)

6.. Dubai asked Disneyland to consider building a resort here and Disney turned them down, saying Dubai was too small. So Dubai decided to construct its own theme park called Dubailand.When it opens, Dubailand will be twice the size of Disney World in Florida and is expected to be the largest tourist draw in the world, with 200,000 people daily.

7. Arabic is the official language, but most of the locals speak English (as their first choice). Our tour guide said that when he speaks to the Emiratis in Arabic, they answer in English.

8. There are actually outdoor air conditioners! (last picture)

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque


We planned a trip to the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. The regulations for clothing are quite stringent(see sign!) so we were given abayas for the body and sheilas for the head to wear at the Mosque. These clothes address the Muslim need for modesty but they are also influenced by the scorching climate. The black cloth protects their skin from sunburn and because it is black,it can be thin fabric without being revealing.They were surprisingly cool to wear in the hot sun.

The Grand Mosque is one the world’s largest mosques, with a capacity for an astonishing 40,000 worshippers. It features 82 domes, over a 1,000 columns, 24 carat gold gilded chandeliers and the world’s largest hand knotted carpet. The main prayer hall is dominated by one of the world’s largest chandeliers –10 metres in diameter, 15 metres in height and weighing twelve tons. The mosque’s first ceremony was the funeral of its namesake, Sheikh Zayed, who is buried at the site. It was finished in 2007.

There were more than 38 contractors and thousands of workers involved with completing various elements of the structure and decoration. Materials were also sourced from many countries including Greece, Italy, Germany, China, Austria, India and New Zealand to name a few.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is well known for its diverse Islamic architecture and pure white colour.  White marble clads the external walls and columns and features relief carving of verses from Holy Quran and Islamic ornamentation.





Chinese Antiques in Abu Dhabi


One of the days in Abu Dhabi we went to a friend’s house who lives there. She had just moved from Beijing to Abu Dhabi and had beautiful antiques from China. I have to admit- I had never seen true Chinese antiques before and I was fascinated by them. I loved her paint brush collection,her day bed and most of all I loved her opium day bed-a place for people to REALLY relax! The colors and fabrics were beautiful.

Pearling in Abu Dhabi



We went on a morning trip “pearling” in Abu Dhabi. Pearling was a big industry for them, although a very tough one. Once the Japanese were able to create pearl farms, the business died down in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Fortunately for them, that was around the time that oil was discovered. On the tour the guide explains the logistics for diving for pearls (below). We were able to each pick an oyster and see if there was a pearl inside-in the end they made sure that everyone had one. They varied in color-from pink to gray to white. It was very interesting!

The lulu (locally qamashah), or pearl oyster was a source of wealth in the Emirates, long before the discovery of oil. Pearl oysters occur naturally on relatively shallow banks (fasht) in the Gulf.

Outsiders were forbidden to engage in pearling without the permission of the rulers and pearls were to be gathered only by the traditional practice of diving, for which the use of modern diving equipment was banned. For this reason, the time-honored methods, first developed thousands of years ago to harvest pearl oysters, continued to survive until the demise of the industry itself.

Despite much nostalgic reflection on the communal spirit encountered in pearling, there is no doubt that life was extremely hard for the average diver. Diving commenced about an hour after sunrise, the divers having breakfasted lightly on coffee and dates, and proceeded right through until an hour before sunset, except for prayers and sometimes coffee and a short rest at midday. The hard-working diver, nose pegged with clips of turtle shell (ftam) and ears plugged with wax, plummeted to the bottom with the aid of a stone (hajar) attached to his foot, which was subsequently pulled up by his attendant hauler on board ship. Fingers protected by leather caps (khabt), he quickly filled an attached basket (diyyin) with as many shells as possible, finally signalling by a tug on his rope that he needed to be hauled to the surface. The diver rested in the water after his arduous task, holding onto his rope in characteristic pose, while his basket was being emptied. But it wasn’t long before he was again descending to the deep.

In the early 1930s, the worldwide economic depression and the Japanese discovery of the cultured pearl (a pearl created by placing a shell bead inside an oyster manually) spelt disaster for the Gulf’s pearling industry. The vision of the Skeikh meant that Dubai, thanks to its free trade port, was not as badly affected as the rest of the region. Nevertheless, it was a serious blow to the local economy – one from which it would not fully recover until the discovery of oil.

excerpts from: UAE Interact and and article by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum

Abu Dhabi


Home to the Grand Mosque,many beaches and amazing water parks,race tracks,beautiful hotels…Abu Dhabi is in the process of change and significant development. 60 years ago, it was mostly desert. We were in a helicopter so were able to see it all from the air.

Abu Dhabi  is the capital and the second largest city of the United Arab Emirates in terms of population and the largest of the seven member emirates of the United Arab Emirates. Abu Dhabi lies on a T-shaped island jutting into the Persian Gulf from the central western coast. The city proper had a population of 921,000 in 2013.

In the early 1960s, oil was discovered in Abu Dhabi, an event that led to quick unification calls made by UAE sheikdoms. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan became ruler of Abu Dhabi in 1966 and the British started losing their oil investments and contracts to U.S. oil companies.

By 1966 it became clear the British government could no longer afford to govern what is now the United Arab Emirates.

The rulers of Abu Dhabi and Dubai decided to form a union between their two emirates independently, prepare a constitution, then call the rulers of the other five emirates to a meeting and offer them the opportunity to join. It was also agreed between the two that the constitution be written by December 2, 1971. On that date, at the Dubai Guesthouse Palace, four other emirates agreed to enter into a union called the United Arab Emirates. Ras al -Khaimah joined later, in early 1972.

In the beginning of the 1960s, the first oil company teams carried out preliminary surveys and the first cargo of crude was exported from Abu Dhabi in 1962. As oil revenues increased, the ruler of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, undertook a massive construction program, building schools, housing, hospitals and roads. When Dubai”s oil exports commenced in 1969, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum the ruler of Dubai, was also able to use oil revenues to improve the quality of life of his people.


excerpts: Wikepedia