Saturday, January 29, 2011

Culture and Heritage Center and the Souks

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. 

Textile Souks
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.

Irish Village
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

Aquaventure at Atlantis

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 and the Fountains

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

Dubai Marathon

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.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Shopping Festival Opening Ceremonies

A great view of one of the bridges from Dubai Creek Park.

Dubai has this big shopping festival every year. It starts at the begining of January and goes on for a while (a month or two?). To celebrate the begining of the shopping festival there was a huge carnival and parade at the Dubai Creek Park. A couple of us headed there to check it out. Here's what we found:

Clown car in the parade.
Little paddle boats for kids and a blow up Burj Al Arab in the background.

Unicycling clowns from the crazy clown parade. It was really like a whole school of clowns.

Fireworks at the opening celebrations of the Dubai Shopping Festival.

At the end of the fireworks we headed back to Dubai Festival City Mall. We played a round of bowling, stopped by the grocery store, and then decided to call it a night. 
Overall, great day.

Waterfall staircase at Dubai Festival City Mall. 

Jimmy with the A-plus follow through. (Like Fred Flinstone himself). I'm no bowler but tonight I must have been really lucky because check out the scores!!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

3rd Years at Dubliners

Tonight some of us decided to go check out a new restuarant called Dubliners. Once we were sitting at the table we realized it was all the 3rd year students from the trip!! The food was awesome and we had a great time. However, Fibber Magees is still the reigning champion for best Irish pub/restuarant in Dubai.
Here's some pictures:

My meal: Beef and Guiness Pie <-- pure excellence!!

Me and Kristin outside of Dubliners after dinner.
(Kristin is my Dubai roommate)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Underwater Zoo and Sushi

Mike in the aquarium tunnel checking out a sting ray.

So this morning a bunch of people went to the Mall of the Emirates to go skiing at Ski Dubai. Mike Walsh and I decided that was not our activity of choice for the day so we hung back. We decided on a different adventure: the Dubai Mall. Yes, we have been there a few times before but this place always has something new in store. Before the Ski Dubai kids left, I snagged a couple coupons from the Entertainer Coupon Book.

First stop: the Dubai Aquarium. In the middle of the mall there's this huge fish tank that is three stories tall and about 50 paces long. Coolest thing. We decided today we were going to use a coupon to buy tickets to see the underwater tunnel part of the aquarium. The tunnel was great, you could see sting rays, sharks, fish, plants, rocks, other tourists, even some reflections of the stores outside of the tank. 

Me standing in the Underwater Tunnel. 

Our tickets said "Underwater zoo and aquarium" so we just thought the tunnel was the under water zoo. Boy were we wrong. After about 30 min in the tunnel we left and were then led by markers on the floor that said, "Underwater Zoo this way -->>". Turns out the underwater zoo is a whooolle different place. We ended up spending another 2 hours in this underwater zoo place. Here's some pictures:

Weirdest little animals ever. Water rats I think they were called. They were hilarious, just sitting all in a line munching away at their lunch. So funny!!

Finding Nemo tank!!

An awesome fish.

Mike and the Iguana. The Iguana was eating his lunch, well actually he was just sitting on his lunch at this point.

Underwater penguin close up.

I have no idea how they did this, but this is a REAL LIVE SHARK FETUS on about the 80th day of growth. CRAZINESS. They had about 5 different stages of shark fetus growth.

After the underwater zoo we headed to Yo! Sushi for lunch. Mike said the theme of the day was that we would look at all of the cool fish and then go eat them in sushi. Great theme! Best part about Yo! Sushi (yes with and exclamation point) is that the little covered plates of sushies come around on a conveyor belt!! Past all the tables through the entire restaurant!! You just see one you like and take it off the conveyor belt. The plates are color coded by price so they just tally up all your plates at the end. It was a great lunch. Apparently at one point we ate eel. Who knew!

Mike at Yo! Sushi Check out the awesome table set up with the wasabi and soy sauce holders built into the table. 

One of the chefs at Yo! Sushi. You can also see the sushi conveyor belt going by.