Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Adventures in the Middle East

The kids were on "February holiday" and we planned a trip to Dubai.  Our quest was to journey to a faraway place that would be less likely traveled to, if we were living in the US.  We packed our bags, and headed to Heathrow...flew Virgin Atlantic through the night and seven hours later, landed safely in the United Arab Emirates.  Wow, we were really in the middle east and our first sights in the airport confirmed it.  The UAE flag (did you know the black stripe is for oil?), the burqas, kanduras, Arabic language, turbans, dirhams, etc.  Forging ahead...American passports in hand...we were ready to learn about a whole new land.

Our hotel was the Atlantis The Palm, basically paradise.  Just as beautiful as in all the pictures.  Enormous fish tanks, white sandy beaches, and those crazy water slides...which by the way include a conveyor belt to bring you to the top of the more standing in lines and dragging a tube in tow AND some rides can last up to an hour.  We were quickly upgraded to a suite, thanks to our dear friends the Sasso's.  Bring on the fun, the sun, and all the good stuff! 
Within minutes, Jack catapulted from The Leap of Faith, which is a 28 meter steep slide.  The rest of us choose option wait until tomorrow. And yes, all five of us absolutely took the challenge and survived.  Lots of fun was had around the pools, slides, ocean, and cabanas.  Many leisurely hours drifted away...
We decided to leave paradise for a bit of culture.  We headed to Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.  This mosque was pretty incredible.  It had 80 domes, but the main outer shell dome is the largest in the world.  The materials, crystals, gold, and architecture would stun you.  It really was massive.  We were able to tour it as it wasn't "prayer time" yet.  Now here's the interesting part...before entering, all shoes must be taken off and women needed to put on a burqa.  Say what?  See below...don't laugh at me.
Our next outing was to go "behind the scenes" in the grouper tank and to the fish hospital in the Atlantis.  Kyle, Kate, and Nick took part in this.  There are over 65,000 marine animals throughout the aquarium.  The kids loved their tour, fed the groupers, and learned a lot.  Jack and I had an adventure of our own awaiting...I somehow found myself boarding a helicopter with one very excited kid.  We saw "the world" (man-made islands) from above the Atlantis, The Burj Khalifa (world's tallest bldg), and many other amazing sights of Dubai.  I must say...VERY COOL.  We could have stayed up there all day. 

Now comes Arabian Adventures.  Our highlight to our trip.  This was about four wheeling in the desert.  We had our family and a driver in a Tahoe SUV.  (Yes, a little piece of America)  The air was quickly drained from the tires and before we knew it we were flying around the middle of what seemed to be no where. Thick sands and lots of dunes.  Everyone loved every second.  We even got stuck at one point and needed a tow, but we were back in bounce motion in no time. can take a toll on a stomach...mine at least!  At sunset we stopped for an Arabian dinner, camel rides, henna tattoos, belly dancing....(not us...them) and lots of pictures.
Lastly, if you're still following, (I realize I'm going on and on, but I promise I'm leaving a ton out!!) our final excursion was swimming with dolphins.  As you can imagine, the kids were more than a tad excited.  With the help of Sol, a male dolphin, we all had some fun rides and lots of interaction with him.  I know that memory will stay alive a long time xo!
So...that was Dubai, but believe it or not, there was much more I didn't mention.  We saw the gold souk, the Dubai and Emirates Malls which are CRAZY BIG & busy, the Marina and walk, and even a sandstorm. Kate and I had a tour of the penthouse suite where many of the royals and celebs stay...aka Kardashians.  The resort was so accommodating, had loads of fun stuff for everyone, and we enjoyed some delicious restaurants.  For being so far from America, Dubai shares so much of what we have.  Every sign seemed to be written in both Arabic and English.  Can you just picture the three littles begging to go back?  An unforgettable week spent in a new land very far from home. Fondest memories Dubai!  (Oh yeah, gas...dirt cheap.)