Friday, February 4, 2011
The giraffe cage at the Al Ain Zoo.
One of my goals while in Dubai was to visit the Al Ain zoo. Today, this happened, and so did a lot of other adventures in Al Ain. It all began with a bus trip....
Allie, Nina, Kristin, Steve, Andy and I took taxis to the bus station early in the morning and bought tickets for the Al Ain bus. Two hours later we were in Al Ain.
The city is much quieter, less people around, less traffic, and a less intimidating road system. When we got off at the bus station we were accosted by a million taxi drivers. The level of English is much lower here than in Dubai. We asked to get to the animal souk, the livestock souk, the place with the animals, the camel souk, camel market, but no one understood. Finally we just told them to take us to the zoo because they knew that. At the zoo we asked them some questions and got some maps. They were very helpful. We took taxis to the camel market and wandered around. There were goats, sheep, camels, Arab men, four wheelers pulling carts with various livestock in them, one other group of tourists that we saw, and trucks loading and unloading livestock.
A goat peaking out of his cage at the animal souk in Al Ain.
Allie and I broke off from the group to go look at this one cow. We ran into a baby goat who was so freaking cute. I’m pretty sure the guy put the baby goat out of his cage just so that we could see how adorable he was. Eventually we found everyone else and the camel sections. Camels everywhere. The whole time we were afraid the were going to spit out of the cage and onto us. In the middle of the square there was a truck with 30 guys around it trying to push a camel out of the back of it. I wish I could have been invisible to take some pictures of the people there without being stared at really weird. There were just some great faces.
After the camel market we took a taxi to the Al Ain oasis. The oasis was sweet once we figured out how to get in. There were a bunch of walls separating parts of this really green areas with palms trees, plantain trees, and other plants. There were cement square channels running through all the sectors as an irrigation system. In some of them there was flowing water. We founda palm tree with some dates on it. Kristin got on Andy’s shoulders and tried to shake some down. That didn’t work. Steve climbed up and shook some down. They were actually pretty good. We found another palm tree that was sticking out over the path pretty far. We set up our camera timers and took some hilarious group pictures.
Found the exit and got taxis to the Al Ain airshow. It was out by the airport. Big place, lots of booths set up. Awesome planes around and helicopters that you could see. We saw one show where there were three girls standing on the wings of the plane as it flew around and at one point did a flip in the air. It was crazy. Allie, Steve and I found a race car simulator game that was pretty neat. It was hot outside, which I guess is normal because it's the desert.
The front of the Al Ain Airshow behind the bleachers.
My favorite booth was the one with the paragliding jetpacks. I talked to the guy for a while. Basically the jetpack allows you to steer yourself while you’re paragliding. There were stading single ones and also doubles where you had to pedal to get the paragliding shoot started and then off a cliff and then start the engine. It was awesome.
Two more taxis and then off to the zoo. I was so excited. My whole reason for going to Al Ain was to see the zoo. Mainly becuase back in Rochester I met a guy that lived in the UAE for a while and his one suggestion was, "Oh got to Al Ain zoo if you get a chance. It's pretty cool." And it sure was. The monkies were hilarious. There were a ton of Arabic/muslim families there, a lot of covered faces for the women and white robes on the men. One family was feeding bread and sunflower seeds to the monkies and the monkies were going crazy. Defintely illegal by the zoo rules but no one seemed to care.
Little monkey reading the newspaper....no big deal.
The reptile house was full of different slimy animals but kind of humid and hot inside. My favorite part was the view at the giraffe field. It has a great view with the Jebel Hafeet mountain in the background. My best pictures were there. It was awesome. We went to the birds of prey show. The owls and birds flew really close to the heads of people in the crowd. At one point a bird flew over Steve’s head and I swear it must have grabbed a few of his hairs because it was so close to hitting him. They showed falcons and owls and vultures and random other birds. I got a great picture of the guy playing the game with the falcon and catching it on the string.
The guy at the airshow catching the falcon on a string during their game.
After the birds of prey show and the big cat cages, we needed some food. I asked the really helpful zoo guy for a restaurant suggestion. He told us Al Yahar and drew one of his really detailed very clear maps on how to get there. At Al Yahar we were directed up to the family room to eat. A lady covered the table with plastic. We looked at the menu, ordered some things, asked her what we should order, ordered some of those things, and waited. The food was amazing. The best thing was chicken mandi with salsa, yogurt and mint leaves on it. So good. The date fatath was great. The banana one tasted pretty good too, like mushed bananas with some spice. After dinner everyone felt much more energized.
Getting back to the bus station was quite the quest.Allie swore that her photographic memory remembered where we were and that she could get us to the bus station. I doubted her the whole way but sure enough we turned a corner of a sketchy alley way and there was the bus station. Impressive. We bought our tickets, did a quick bathroom run and got on one of the really nice buses. Then they switched us to a different, smaller, not as nice bus. We all sat towards the back and held on for dear life. Or at least I did. The bus ride was crazy. We whipped around turns, went super fast, and listened to the what sounded like a crowbar hitting Thistle’s seat on every move of the bus. At the end of the day we all made it back to Etisalat safe and sound.
Al Ain was such a great day. One of my favorite adventures so far.
Thursday, February 3, 2011
A man painting a sign at his booth in the Africa pavilion.
Tonight I decided to go to Global Village with Steve, Mike Walsh, Allie, and Kristin. The five of us caught the bus to campus and then took a taxi to Global Village. It’s such a cool place. We hit almost every pavilion. For dinner we went to the Egyptian place that Mike and I ate at last time. I got koshari with meat. It was delicious.
Me Allie and Kristin at dinner.
Koshari with meat. It was great.
I WILL be making this when I get home to America.
During dinner we saw the diving show starting. Everyone ate really quickly, we paid our check, and then we headed over there. Mike and I grabbed the extra bread and the bowl of hummus to eat on the way (waste not want not). The Acapoco Diving show was already in the works. We came at the time where there were a bunch of clowns diving and messing around on the boards. Then they went into a little room below the pool and suddenly emerged as regularly dressed divers. They did flips, stunts, jumping tricks, and one guy even jumped from the highest ledge. After that we headed to some of the other pavilions.
One of the divers jumping off the medium height platform. It was dark so he's a little blurry because he was spinning pretty fast.
Front entrance of one part of the African pavilion. By far the biggest pavilion at Global Village.
In the Africa pavilion I found this awesome soap stone chess set. The board is painted with colors and the pieces are this orangish brown vs. black soap stone hand carved pieces. I asked the lady how much and right off the bat she said 70 AED. Really!?!? Less than 25 bucks for this awesome full sized chess board? I walked around the rest of the pavilion and then just went straight to her booth and bought it. I didn’t even try to bargain. It was so cheap anyways. As she was wrapping up the pieces she apologized that they were dusty. She said it was from the sandstorm. We talked about how crazy that sandstorm was. She said, “Have you ever seen anything like it?!” Turns out she’s originally from Kenya but lives in Italy with her husband. She came to Dubai to try out the Global Village thing but she doesn’t really like it. She said she’s counting down the days until the end of February when she leaves. I told her I was studying here and that I was secretly also counting down the days until I could go home. She laughed. She said she majored in something like economics. She was so nice. We chatted for a little while longer. Then I put the wrapped up pieces in my orange shoulder bag and carried the chess board in my arms.
The chess board that I bought in the African pavillion. (It made it home to America in one piece!!)
I held the chess board all night with both hands. I really really really really didn’t want it to break. At one point I had to go to the bathroom so I entrusted it to Mike Walsh. He didn’t drop it. Success. We went to a bunch of other pavilions. Mike and I constantly commented on the amount of Spongebob parafanalia in EVERY country’s pavilions.
One example of the strange Spongebob invasion of every pavilion.
I saw some drummers called “the workers” from America. We went to the Acapoco diving show again later. This time it was mostly the same stuff except at the end there was the FLAMING TORCH!!!! This guy climbed up the ladder (you could smell the kerosene he was soaked in) lit himself on fire, and then jumped in the pool. When he was on fire you could actually feel the heat. It was impressive.
Saturday, January 29, 2011
This is a display of the materials that were used to make inks and papers and dies in the past. At the Juma Al Majid Center for Culture and Heritage, they now use similar techniques to restore old manuscripts.
Center for Culture and Heritage
Dr. Mustafa and Dr. Tom met us there. We spoke with His Excellency Juma' Al Majid himself and his assistant. They had us all sit at this long wooden table with really comfy chairs around it. Majid talked to us for a while and his employees brought out water and tea during our conversations.
These are pictures of Juma Al Majid with different Sheikhs of the region. There was another wall of Al Majid pictured with different presidents of the world. So basically, from what I could gather, this guy is kind of a big deal.
"The researcher who spent half of his life for writing a book, travelling East and West, facing obstacles and difficulties, doesn't he deserve now as we have strength, health, and wealth to try hard for keeping this great valuable heritage which represents the result of those researchers for serving them and the scholars?!"
~Juma Al Majid
Basically, Majid's idea is that books belong to all human beings. If someone needs a book for research, they should be able to obtain the information in the book without having to travel to another country. So he has been collecting manuscripts from the entire world and digitalizing them and preserving them.
From left: Mike Baer, Andy Thistle, Juma Al Majid, Me, Dr. Tom.
He also used his money to start a school which had 10 thosand students. The school is only about 140 dollars a year but if the kids are too poor to pay it, he pays it for them, out of pocket. (He pays for about 400 students right now). The college he started has 3200 students, 2200 are females. He’s done a ton of stuff.
The entire Qu'ran is etched into this set of stones. You can just barely see the Arabic writing. The characters are so super tiny.
We got a tour of all the manuscripts and old documents rooms. They showed us where they digitalize old manuscripts and where they store copies of old manuscripts and some of the originals. There is even a section dedicated to personal libraries that have been donated to the Center. The personal libraries are kept in the same way they are donated. For example, they stay in the same order on the same bookshelf that was originally in the family's house. I took a lot of pictures. They had a photographer following the group around the whole time too. So intense. Here is a link to the website for the Center for Culture and Heritage.
One of the super old Qur'ans that is kept at the Culture and Heritage Center. Some of the pages had actual gold on them. Funny thing is, they could just take this book out and show it to us. It seems like you would want that thing locked away in a moisture sensitive room or something.
Dr. Tom took us all to the textile souk to buy scarves from his friend Abdul who has a shop there. All eleven of us, plus Dr. Tom headed into the tiny shop and started looking at all sorts of scarves. I think Abdul was slightly overwhelmed but siked to have so many potential customers. We did a lot of bargaining. Each of us would bring Abdul our scarves and ask for his price, then we would play off of each other to get the price lower by saying stuff like, "Ah that's too expensive, you can get that for a lot cheaper somewhere else." or "That's not even that great of quality, it shouldn't be that price." Finally Abdul realized that all eleven of us were going to be buying scarves from him and that he would be making a profit either way so he dropped his prices lower. I got six scarves, mostly for gifts for my family. As I was talking to Abdul, I knew I was getting a good price at the end because he asked me not to speak too loudly so that the other customers didn't hear how cheap of a price he was giving us. It was great. I ended up getting 6 scarves for 140 AED (about 45 US$) Not bad considering as I was walking out of the shop, a different worker at Abdul's was quoting the price of a scarf to a European couple as 280 AED, for ONE SCARF!!!! So I feel like I got a great deal ahha
Making a mess of scarves at Abdul's store. Look at Dr. Tom's face, I can tell he's in bargaining mode.
When we weren't bargaining at Abdul's store, we were looking around. Mike (left) found a really scarey looking dagger knife thing that came with a case. The other guy at the store had Jimmy try on a keffiyeh, or Arab head dress (pictured on the right). I told Jimmy it was his new look. I don't think he bought it though.
After the souks, Mike Baer, Stan, Jimmy, Mike Walsh, Steve and I went to Irish Village for some dinner. Irish Village sounds like a small town, but it is in fact a restaurant and bar with and outdoor patio. There was some low key live music and tables to sit at outside. I got this awesome dinner of risotto with chicken. It was so delicious, I wish I had a picture of it.
Outdoor patio thing at Irish Village.
Friday, January 28, 2011
View of the Atlantis Aquaventure water park from the top of the Ziggeraut. (Check out the Burj Al Arab on the left!)
Today a group of us went to the water park at Atlantis, located at the end of the Palm Island. Andy and Nina were hiking and Dylan was climbing but the remaining 8 of us went. It was Friday (Muslim prayer day) which means the metro didn't open until 2:00pm so we just took a cab the whole way. We used our Entertainer coupons to get three free tickets. It was a great day outside. We got some lockers, put some towels on chairs, and headed out to see the park. Jimmy and I searched for tubes and hit the rapids first. There was this big building called the Ziggeraut that had a bunch of different slides going out of it. One of them was a tube slide that floated you through a shark tank. You could see the whole aquarium surrounding you. It was awesome just being in that little square tube inside of a huge fish tank staring at sharks.
Mike Walsh chilling with the stingrays and fish in the tube of the shark tank ride.
One of the rides is where you have no tube, you just lay down and cross your legs and arms and the incline is close to a free fall. Then at the bottom you get shot through the same aquarium shark tank. We decided we had to go on this ride, just out of principle. Allie wasn’t so sure. I convinced her. I basically kept talking her into it as we walked up the stairs. I needed her to do it because if she backed out I would get real nervous because I wasn’t trying to convince someone that they shouldn’t be nervous. Kristin went first and almost slipped down the slide. I got up to the place where you sit down and hold onto the bar and then push yourself through. Right before I was about to go, Allie yells, “Maddie I love you I’ll come to your funeral!!” I whipped my head around and yelled, “Are you kidding me Allie?!?! SHUT UP!!” The guy working the ride laughed. Apparently Jimmy heard me yell that from the bottom. It was really steep and fast. I didn’t even open my eyes for the shark tank part because it went too fast. The slide kind of hurt my back but I'm glad I can say I went on it.
Aquaventure view. The Ziggeraut is that big tower and you can see the crazy slide coming out of the front of it. It was super steep and somewhat scary.
It started to get windy as we went in search of lunch. We looked to the mainland and saw a ton of sand blowing everywhere. Turns out Thistle and Nina were experiencing that sand storm full force while hiking in Hatta. We just had a little bit of wind to deal with.
View of the windstorm from the end of the Palm Island.
Got a burger for lunch. Found some sun and laid out for a while. Sun moved, then I moved. Once the sun decided to become completely blocked by buildings at the end of the day, I had to find a new activity. Mike Walsh and I grabbed some tubes and headed back to the shark tank ride at the Ziggeraut. He went through first and I got some great pictures of him floating with the fish and sharks. It was cold but it still didn’t take much convincing for me to go on the ride again. Mike took some quality pictures of me in the aquarium tunnel ride. One where I had just gotten hit by a huge wave from the Indian guys riding down the slide behind me.
Me in the shark tank tunnel, getting hit by a huge wave caused by the two indian guys that just entered the left end of the tunnel at record speeds. Don't worry, I didn't fall off or anything.
After the water park, we decided to go to Madinat Jumeriah for dinner. Me Stan Jimmy and Mike took the Palm tram to the end of the palm just to say that we did. It's basically a mini metro just for the Palm Island. It had a great view of the entire island and the sun was just starting to set.
Mike and Jimmy hanging out waiting for the tram on the Palm Island.
We met the other guys at Madinat Jumeirah. There were a bunch of shops inside modeled kind of like an old Arabian souk. There were little abra boats that go all around the river ways of Madinat. It was a cool atmosphere.
Outside at Madinat Jumeirah. There's a restaurant deck on the left and the waterways going by on the right.
Map of Madinat Jumeirah. Quite the extensive place.
Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Prime Minister and Vice President of the UAE and the absolute monarch of Dubai (pictured in rhinestones in the middle) His son is on the left in the red and black head scarf. Here's the deal, you know you've made it big when they've made a rhinestone phone cover of your face. Just sayin.
We went to a place called Toscana’s and had dinner. It was kind of expensive but very delicious. Jimmy ordered wine and the guy came to pour it for him. It was a series of hilariously awkward events where the guy stepped back to pour it, Jimmy tried to help by moving the glass closer then the guy poured a little bit (like how you’re supposed to taste the wine and approve first) Jimmy tasted it, the guy showed him the label, Jimmy kind of nodded, and then the guy stepped back again to pour it. So awkwardly funny. Overall we had a great day.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
TGI Fridays sign in Arabic.
Tonight a bunch of people went to the horse races at Meydan. Jimmy and Mike Walsh decided horse races weren't their spectator sport of choice and I had already seen the races with the hospitality group so the three of us went to the Dubai Mall instead. We headed to TGI Fridays for dinner. The restaurant is located on a balcony overlooking the fountains. After about a 15 minute wait, we were seated at this table right next to the railing outside with an awesome view of the fountain shows. The food was great. The fountains did a different show every half hour. My favorite was watching the fountains dance along to the beat of Michael Jackson's 'Thriller'. Quality stuff.
Excellent view of the fountains during dinner.
After dinner we wandered around the mall. We stopped in one of the grocery stores for a couple of things. It was a new grocery store, we'd never been there before. And guess what we found:
Pork Shop: For Non Muslims. So here's the deal, Muslim's don't eat pork, ever. Because of this, none of us have had any pork in our entire time here. Then suddenly in front of us was a huge room full of just pork items; ribs, pork, BACON. It was just awesome to see. And the sign was kind of funny.
Headed to Fibbers for the live music. The guy singing was great, and his outfit was even better.
Live music at Fibber Magees.
Jimmy and me at Fibbers.
There was this big obnoxious group of guys that came into Fibbers at one point. They were all dressed in ridiculous golfing outfits. Golf gloves, upside-down and backwards visors, bright colored pants, golf shoes, and polos. We talked to a few of them and found out they were "Pub Golfing" to celebrate two of their friends' birthdays. From what I could gather, every bar has a "par" and they going around to 9 different bars in one night. They looked ridiculous but were really funny to talk to.
Some of the crazy Pub Golfers dancing around at Fibbers.
Friday, January 21, 2011
The start of the Dubai Marathon and 10k race.
Got up really early this morning to go to the Dubai Marathon. Andy had signed up to run the 10k race and Steve Allie Nina and Kristin had signed up for the 3k Fun Run. I sort of missed the deadline and didn't want to sign up for anything so I just went to support them. We got there and Andy was in a huge mass of people waiting to start the 10k. They all started running. I watched them for about 15 seconds and decided the race looked fun. I handed Allie and Steve my jacket and my bag and said, "Uhh, I'll be back later. I think I'm going to go run this." Lucky for me I had my running shoes on. I hopped in with the group and ran the whole 10k!! It was great. Early on I found this middle age man that was running the same pace as me. We stuck together the whole race. Turns out his name is Rob (or Rod, not sure) he's from Australia. Really nice guy.
Me and Australian Rob finishing up the 10k race.
At the end of the race I could see the RIT Dubai gang yelling at me to sprint into the finish. I ran faster but it wasn't exactly a sprint. Finished the 10k in a little over an hour. It was such a great feeling. At the end they even gave me a participation medal (even though I wasn't registered!!<--I guess they figure usually people won't try to ghost run the 10k.)
The medal from the Dubai Marathon 10k race. One of my favorite souveneirs from the whole Dubai trip.
I said bye to Australian Rob and went to find the RIT Dubai gang. We hung out and watched the full marathon runners come into the finish. The winner finished in 2 hours and 7 minutes or something. Insanely fast. He was from Kenya. His country was cheering so loud and waving flags when he finished. It was quite the atmosphere.
All the Kenyans cheering when the winner finished.
Andy and I held everyone else's stuff while they went to line up for the 3k Fun Run. We staked out a spot on the side of the course and waited for them to come by. We got some pictures as they went by the first time and then sprinted down towards the finish to catch them again. One of the first ones to finish was this little boy that looked like he was about 8 years old. Turns out we were standing next to his parents. He's 11, he loves running, and he can run a 5k in 20 minutes. Impressive. So he finished before anyone in our gang, kind of funny.
Allie finishing up the 3k race!!
After the 3k Fun Run ended we all headed to the events set up at the end of the race. There were dance preformances, free give aways, companies handing out beverages, free head bands, small booths with stuff for sale, and even a drum circle. Quite the post marathon party I'd say.
All of us in our free Vitien C headbands holding our free Vitien C drinks. Vitien C is this weird energy drink a ton of people drink at RIT Dubai. We were just like a walking product advertisement. A guy from Vitien C asked for our picture and then another guy got a picture of us when we were all holding the free Lipton Iced Teas. So funny.
The Group with the Energizer Bunny mascots.
(From left: Allie, Bunny, Nina, Steve, Bunny, Thistle, Kristin, Maddie.)
Some funny guys dressed up at the Marathon.
Afterwards we headed to a restaurant called On The Border for lunch. Great mexican food. We were all starving. Right when we headed outside after lunch it started to rain, IN THE DESERT. Perfect timing though because all we had to do was catch a cab back to Etisalat. I really enjoyed running that 10k race. Overall we had a ton of fun today.