Miracle Gardens, DubaiNovember 29, 2019 in the United Arab Emirates ⋅ ☀️ 27 °C
Quite beautiful what can be done with plants and flowers!
Quite beautiful what can be done with plants and flowers!
It's going to be another warm day here in Dubai - expecting a high of 34 deg. C. Doug and I thought about hitting one of the two gyms downstairs after breakfast, but ditched the idea. Hey, we're on vacation! Besides, the better-equipped gym doesn't allow men in between 9:00 a.m. and noon and we sure weren't moving fast enough to be in and out by 9:00 a.m.
Bob dropped Patty, Doug and myself off close to a main train station and then went to work on his golf game in preparation for a tournament tomorrow. The trains are fully-automated and driverless, clean and well air-conditioned. The stations and the platforms are air-conditioned also. Some of the train cars have sections designated for women and children only. We made our way to the oldest part of Dubai. Along the way, we saw hundreds more construction cranes. I did see some lovely green lawned areas with huge beds of bright pink and red petunias. I also saw the every-present irrigation lines. Dubai averages only 25 days of rain per year for a total of only 3.7 inches of rain. Patty says that rain causes schools to be closed down. The roads are simply not engineered to shed the water. I really wouldn't want to watch Dubai's crazy drivers drive on wet roads.
We got off the train near the Mall of the Emirates - it has an indoor ski slope where you can ski, snowboard, toboggan, zip line and take a chairlift to the top to enjoy the views. We see enough snow at home, so we bypassed the adventure.
We started with lunch at the Arabian Tea House - had great chicken shish kebabs, warm bread, salad, tzatziki sauce (yogurt and cucumber and garlic) and french fries. Delicious and all in a lovely old setting.
From there we headed to the Dubai Souqs (pronounced sooks). It's an area of warren-like alleyways full of tiny shops selling a dizzying array of goods - textiles, shoes, clothing, spices, souvenirs, perfumes and textiles. Cash is king in the souqs and haggling is expected. The vendors, are to put it mildly, aggressive. Doug got yanked into the first souq and dressed up in one of the traditional head scarves. When he said he didn't need a scarf, the store owner asked if he needed Viagara!! You can buy any knockoff designer goods you'd like - especially watches and purses. The colours of the fabrics are so vibrant - deep golds, reds, blues and pinks. Beige is certainly not a popular colour here!
We took a short boat ride - the boats are called dhows - across the Creek to another souq. The Creek is a long, narrow, crooked finger of water that runs inland from the Persian Gulf. The buildings of the old city of Dubai are clustered along the banks of the Creek, harkening back to Dubai's roots as a trading centre. This souq, the Gold Souq, specialized in jewelry. There was gold and silver and gems everywhere. Incredible.
Back across the Creek on another abra. Patty and I bought finally succumbed to the urging to buy and bought tops - hers in a sapphire blue, mine in ruby red. We made our way back on the train to the main station and hopped a cab home from there.
We relaxed and watched the lead up to the Masters Golf Tournament - it's Bob's favourite golf tournament. We are dining in tonight - chicken caesar salad. There is a 24-hour grocery store on the ground floor of Patty and Bob's building. As Patty says, "You can wake up at 2:00 a.m. and get those bananas that your forgot!"
All in all, another excellent day. Not sure what's on the agenda for tomorrow which is the beginning of the weekend. Weekends here are Friday and Saturday, so Thursday nights here are like Friday nights at home. Fridays are a day of prayer for Muslims, the followers of Islam.
A few observations:
The currency of the United Arab Emirates is the dirham - denoted as AED. There are about three dirhams to the Canadian dollar, so we have become very quick at dividing all prices by three.
A 5% VAT (equivalent to HST) was introduced on January 1, 2018, much to the annoyance of all in the UAE. The aim is to reduce the UAE's dependence on oil revenues and to fund the development of high-quality public services.
The Emirate's Western-style model of business drives its economy with the main revenues now coming from tourism, aviation, real estate, and financial services. Many of the stops on the train line are named after banks. The 2020 World's Fair will be held in Dubai.
There are very few bicycles in Dubai. I suspect, that considering the crazy traffic, the hot temperatures and the constant, widespread road construction, cycling is just not a good option for getting around.
Arabic is the official language of Dubai, but English is the most widely-spoken language. Signs are posted in both Arabic and English. English is the official language of instruction in schools.
Western style fine dining abounds - McDonalds, KFC, Red Lobster, Subway and Tim Hortons. I can't get a Tims coffee in Florida, but I can get one in Dubai. Go figure. Tim Horton would be gobsmacked to see what has happened to his little coffee and donut enterprise that began just up the street from Dofasco in Hamilton.Read more
Patty and Bob graciously gave up their bed to us weary travellers. They slept at another apartment in their building - their friends who live there are away for a few days in Thailand. Doug and I slept well.
Patty and Bob went to get new tires for the car while Doug and I held the fort.
We set off eventually for Abu Dhabi, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates. It's about an hour's drive away. We got to experience more of the traffic around here - aggressive, impatient drivers are everywhere. You really have to have your wits about you to drive here. Kudos to Bob for his great chauffeuring. The scenery in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi is dominated by construction and overhead cranes. Everywhere, new buildings are going up while, oddly, other partially-constructed buildings sit untouched. Doug got to do some car gazing - Lambourghinis, Rolls Royces and Bentleys. The scenery between Dubai and Abu Dhabi is mainly sand and desert. The only greenery seen anywhere is there because of intensive irrigation.
Our destination in Abu Dhabi was the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque - the largest mosque in the country. It was constructed between 1996 and 2007. Natural materials were chosen for much of its design and construction due to their long-lasting qualities, including marble stone, gold, semi-precious stones, crystals and ceramics. The mosque is large enough to accommodate over 40,000 worshippers. Patty and I had to don abayas - long dresses with hoods - to cover our bare arms and legs and our hair. These dresses are to ensure modesty and to ensure that everyone is treated equally. Doug and Bob had to pull on track pants to cover their legs. Bare arms and hair on men are apparently acceptable.
The mosque is fabulous - marble everywhere with mother-of-pearl inlays. The seven chandeliers are made of Swarokski crystals. There are four minarets on the four corners of the courtyard which rise about 107 m (351 ft) in height. The courtyard, with its floral design, measures about 17,000 m2 (180,000 sq ft), and is considered to be the largest example of marble mosaic in the world. The specially-designed hand-knotted carpet contains almost 2.3 billion knots.
After a lovely tour of the mosque, we had lunch at the coffee shop there. Then we headed back to Dubai along a different route - still just sand and desert and the odd camel to see.
We stopped at the beach for a few minutes - we'll go there for a long visit later in the week. We passed a whole series of buildings dedicated to plastic surgery. Nip or tuck, anyone? Then we went to Madinat Jumeirah - a complex which includes a beautifully recreated Arabian marketplace - a wonderful place to browse for jewelry, clothing, carpets and prints. The complex is built around a series of manmade waterways. We had dinner overlooking the canals - the temperature had eased off from the high of 33 deg. C. so it was just right for sitting outside.
It's time to recharge our batteries now (human and electronic) and get ready for tomorrow's adventures in Old Dubai.Read more
It's going to be another hot one - the high is expected to be 38 deg. C. That's 99 deg. F. for you non-metric people. But the heat at this time of year is a dry heat, so it should be bearable.
Our good intentions of going to the gym this morning because there are no restrictions on when men can use the gym on the weekends got thrown out the window when we didn't surface until after 9:00 a.m. We're encountering some jet lag hangover effects. Instead of working out, we watched highlights from the Masters Golf Tournament instead. There was some fabulous playing - the conditions were perfect, but are expected to decline over the next three day of play.
We finally set out about noon. We dropped Bob at the golf course for his tournament and headed to the Dubai Mall. While yesterday's shopping at the souqs made us feel as if we were in the 19th century, the Dubai Mall showed that we were firmly in the 21st century. Opulence abounded, starting with the valet parking at the mall entrance. There were even golf carts to ferry customers around this huge complex. This mall is probably 10 times bigger than any mall that I've ever been in. The mall has a huge, high-end hotel attached to it that we cruised to see the fabulous Friday brunch spread - Friday brunch is like a ritual here in Dubai. There are lovely outdoor lounges bordering a 30-acre manmade lake. In the lake is the world's largest choreographed fountain system. Every half hour, the fountains erupt in a wonderful display of water ballet all coordinated to music that is broadcast overhead. At night, the pools are illuminated with coloured lights.
Across the pool from the ritzy hotel is the Burj Khalifa. It is both the tallest building in the world (828 metres vs. 553 for the CN Tower) and the tallest free-standing structure in the world. It has the highest number of stories in the world (160) and the highest occupied floor in the world. Not suprisingly, it also has the highest observation deck in the world. It is truly a stunning work of art and an incredible feat of engineering.
The inside of the mall is stunning, with marble everywhere. It has two indoor fountains, a merry-go-round, a huge aquarium and an ice skating rink. There is almost every kind of shopping store imaginable there (no Home Depot). You know you can't afford a store when the door is closed and there is a door man wearing an Armani suit. Lots of those kind of stores. There is a whole section of children's stores - Gucci for Children anyone? Patty and I bought sandals in Clarks - we got a deal for buying two pairs. Dubai is truly a shopper's paradise, but only for shoppers with really, really deep pockets.
We took the scenic route home, via one of the most popular beaches. It was packed with people enjoying the warm weather on a hot Friday afternoon. We saw some huge homes that look like mini castles.
We joined Bob at the golf course. He enjoyed his tournament today but didn't shoot particularly well. We had dinner by the 18th green. The special tonight was an all-you-can-eat BBQ buffet. Excellent. Dubai doesn't observe daylight savings time so it was dark by about 6:30 p.m. The setting was spectacular and the company was terrific.
Patty and Bob are playing golf early tomorrow morning, so Doug and I will be left to amuse ourselves for a couple of hours. Maybe we will finally hit the gym. After our consumption of cheesecake and brownies tonight, we're going to need it.Read more
Patty and Bob were up early to play golf. Doug and I, after breakfast, finally hit the gym. There are no restrictions on when men can use the gym on weekends. We went for a walk afterwards. Ernie Els, the PGA golfer, has a gorgeous golf course nearby with a gated community of lovely homes bordering it. We saw lots of gardening crews watering gardens.
When Patty and Bob got back, we headed to Jumeirah Beach - a lovely 12-hectare park on the Arabian Gulf. It's got lots of children's play areas, volley ball courts and lots of food kiosks so it's very popular with families. There are also vendors in a little outdoor market selling clothing, jewelry, shoes, souvenirs and lots of other bits and pieces. We had delicious gelato while we walked. There are lovely restaurants overlooking the beach. In a few weeks, it will be just too hot to be out at the beach and this whole area will be deserted.
From there we walked to the marina area where there are fabulous boats and some of the most expensive condos in the whole city. We watched people zip lining from the top of a nearby skyscraper down to the marina. A 30-second ride costs $200. We passed on the opportunity.
We drove home via the Palm Jumeirah, an artificial archipelago created using land reclamation. No surprise here - Palm Jumeirah is the world's largest artificial island. The complex has fabulous hotels, high end restaurants, a water park and very expensive condos and villas. When viewed from the air, the whole thing looks like a giant palm tree with a 2-km long trunk, 17 fronds and a surrounding crescent. It has its own monorail system, the first monorail in the Middle East.
Two observations - first, cell phone towers here are disguised to look like giant palm trees. Secondly, designing new buildings here must be very, very challenging. All the good ideas seem to have already been used.
We are now watching the Masters coverage from yesterday and relaxing after a very warm day of seeing the sights. Tomorrow is Patty's first day back at school after a two week break. Doug and I are probably going to do the Hop On Hop Off bus tour.Read more
It was Patty's first day back at school, so she was out the door just after 7:00 a.m. The rest of us rose to greet the day shortly after 9:00 a.m. We all slept like logs last night.
Bob graciously drove us to the Mall of the Emirates and stayed with us while we navigated getting tickets for the Big Bus hop-on-hop-off Bus Tour of Dubai. Patty gave us her phone with a 2-for-1 special coupon on it. Sweet.
We headed out on the Blue Route. There was English commentary for us to listen to on individual earphones. The route took us past the marina and the Jumeirah Beach where we were yesterday. We passed Sky Dive Dubai with its own airport right in the middle of the city. Then we saw the city block of Dubai that has the highest group of buildings. The architecture in Dubai is simply amazing. It's staggering to believe that Dubai's first skyscraper was opened in 1979 to great fanfare - that's less than 40 years ago. It looks minuscule now that it is flanked by much taller buildings. Then we drove by Media City, one of thirty free-trade zones in Dubai. These are special economic zones set up with the objective of offering tax concessions and customs duty benefits to expatriate investors. The best part is that investors pay no taxes.
From there, we travelled down to the Palm where we were yesterday with Pat and Bob. We got right up to the front door the complex known as Atlantis the Palm which overlooks the Arabian Gulf. Five stars just doesn't seem to be enough stars for this place. The grounds were impeccably manicured - not a weed or a brown patch in sight. Lots of fine dining, water sports and chi-chi shopping available here. There is another one of these manmade islands being built about 20 kms. away. It will be twice as big as this one.
Last stop on this route was the Mall of the Emirates. Nicest and cleanest mall washrooms I've ever seen. We were slightly disappointed - there is no Tim Hortons in this behemoth. We settled for Subway. We scouted out the indoor ski hill. It even has a human luge track. Unbelievable.
Back to the Big Bus. We hopped on the Green Route for one stop and then transferred to the Red Route. This route took us past the WAFI Mall which is designed like a pyramid and has lovely grounds. At the Dubai Museum, we hopped off and went in. My favourite bit of trivia for the day is that a camel can smell water up to 2 km away. We also learned about the pearl industry that played such a big role in Dubai's history during the first half of the 20th century. The development of cultured pearls crushed that business.
We jumped back on the bus after coaching the young Big Bus attendant about the best time to visit Canada. He's getting married next year and wants to spend his honeymoon in Canada. This part of the tour took us past the souqs that we visited earlier in the week - the Old Souq, the Gold Souq and the Spice Souq.
From there, it was back to the Dubai Mall. To our delight, we found that the Dubai Mall has two Time Hortons. Mind you, they don't seem to know how to make a proper grilled cheese sandwich. But the cookies tasted good. Jumped into a cab and headed back to Patty and Bob's place. Dinner of pizza and salad in front of the TV watching the third round of the Masters Golf Tournament. I'm cheering for Rory McIlroy from Northern Ireland but Patrick Reed from the US is making it hard for my favourite leprechaun..
Tomorrow is going to be gym and laundry day and there might be time for a sit by the pool. I've already checked us in for our flight on Tuesday afternoon.Read more
So gegen 14:30 wurden wir mit einem Jeep zu unseren Wüstensafari abgeholt. Nach ca. 45 min. Fahrzeit erreichten wir den Eingang zu den Dünen. Dort war auch der abgesperrte Bereich für das Quadfahren. Nach einer kurzen Disskussion über die bereits bezahlte Quadtour konnten wir dann doch fahren. Die Quads hatten zwar schon starke Gebrauchsspuren, aber wir hatten trotzdem viel Spaß. Nach ca. 30min wechselten wir noch auf ein Wüstenschiff und schaukelten ein paar Minuten durch die Dünen.Read more
When we finally surfaced, we had breakfast and then went to the gym. We skipped going for a walk afterwards - it was a really warm day. So, instead, we put in the first of two loads of laundry and watched yesterday's action from the Master's. Patrick Reed won by one shot. My little Irishman finished in a tie for 5th. Did more laundry then did some reading. When Patty got home from work, we went out for dinner (our treat) to the Els Club, one of four golf clubs owned by Ernie Els, the professional golfer. Ernie even has his own wine called Big Easy which Patty and I both tried - excellent. Dinner was on us. Everything was fabulous.
Tomorrow we are off to Jordan. Bob will drive us to the airport for an 11:00 a.m. drop off for our 2:00 p.m. flight. We will get into Amman, Jordan about 4:00 p.m. local time. Jordan is one hour behind Dubai so it will be a 3-hour flight.
Our visit here in Dubai has been wonderful. We have seen and done so many things and have been amazed at this city and its rags to riches rise to prominence on the world scene. It's an incredibly clean and tidy city. The malls are spotless due to the efforts of the legions of cleaners who continually patrol every square inch. Patty and Bob have been incredibly gracious hosts - generous with their time, their knowledge of Dubai and even their bed. We will always remember this visit to the stunning and vibrant city of Dubai.Read more
You might also know this place by the following names:
Dubai Sports City