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Published: July 18th 2018
Tuesday 11 September 2018
On the eve of departure for the next rip to Dubai - with our friends Kathy and Graeme. Having sold the house, downsizing and moved into rental accommodation in a two week period, life has been a bit hectic and we are looking forward to the break.
Fly at 10:50pm tomorrow night and arrive Dubai 7am on Thursday morning.
Will see how I go with the blog this time around. Wednesday 12 September 2018 - Brisbane
Megs drove us to the airport and had us there in plenty of time at 8pm for our 10:50pm departure. Met Graeme and Kathy as we were checking in. After a glass of celebratory wine, we boarded at 10:0pm taking up our seats neaer the rear of the B777 aircraft. We paid extra to get seats in Row 46 where the aircraft narrows and instead of a 3-4-3 seating configuration, it goes to 2-4-2. So we only had to climb over each other rather than share a row.
Good flight with a few significant bumps long the way as we passed over coastlines of the land masses. 13 hours and 40 minutes flying time Brisbane
to Dubai. Thursday 13 September 2018 - Dubai
Arrived about 15 minutes ahead of schedule and we were met inside the Customs Hall by an Arabian Adventures representative who was providing the transfer to the hotel. We are staying at the Sheraton Mall of the Emirates where Roz and I have stayed three times before on our journeys.
The drive from Airport to hotel took about 30 minutes.
On arrival, one room was made immediately available (at 8:30 am instead of 3pm) and the other became available shortly thereafter. So good having that at such an early hour.
Settled in and then went for a walk and a coffee at Hummingbird Cafe. Then headed to see the Dubai jeweller - Vijay using the Metro. 6 dirham one way to First Bank Station from the Emrates Mall. Had to visit on Day 1 so that Vijay had time to make changes in the week we are here. Vijay did the right thing and provided his driver to get us back to Mall of the Emirates.
Getting on to 2pm, we were all hungry so just hit the food court and had a reasonable salad and
yoghurt lamb kebab with rice.
We did not know it but today was a public holiday in UAE. Many families out and about with all school and public offices closed.
Had to do some maintenance shopping at Carrefours - the HUGE supermarket on the ground floor. Think Costco at Northlakes with everything in it and multiply that by about 10 times in terms of size - literally. Unbelievable. Very crowded at the checkouts.
Back to the room for unpacking and a rest until we had a 5 o'clock wine o'oclock in G & K room which included a strategy meeting about where to from here...
• Decided Friday would be a tour around more modern Dubai - Palms, Jumeirah, Marina.
• Tonight we have a traditional Dhow Dinner cruise on Dubai Creek.
• Graeme made contact with a friend who lives here, Max (who by the way Meaghan is the son of Conrad who you worked for in Crown Law - small world) and he is going to pick us up on Saturday morning and take us for a spin around Dubai and for coffee/lunch.
• Sunday and Monday we are flying to Oman
• Tuesday we have booked a
driver/guide through Vijay - Mr Amit - who is going to take us to Abu Dhabi
• Wednesday is the swing day - nothing specifically planned although Roz and I are going to look at a hotel on the northern side of Dubai Creek between the airport and the port for us to use next year in April when we join our Dubai / Southampton cruise on Explorer of the Seas.
• Thursday is departure day back to Brisbane, arriving in Brisbane at 5:30pm on Friday 21st.
Weather is very hot in straight dry temperatures. Around 30 degrees at 6am and climbs to over 40 in early to mid afternoon. Not good in anything but airconditioning. Dinner at the Californian Pizza Kitchen which we have used a number of times in the past. We were all fading pretty fast at this stage (around 8:30pm) and decided it was bed time. Finally into bed around 9:30pm. Friday 14 September 2018 - Dubai
Woke around 6am after about 8 hours sleep. Not a bad night but a little bit on and off. Weather looks same as yesterday. There is a constant dust/sand haze which limits viewing more than a
kilometer or two.
No photos yet - I am having problems uploading from my camera to the computer to include them here. Will have to work on that.
Breakfast in this hotel is great. They have a good range of fresh and prepared foods which are available from 6am to 11 am. It has been of the same high standard on each of the three other occasions we have stayed here.
Started our tour of modern Dubai with a visit to the Atlantis Hotel, then to Souk Madinat and Mina A Salaam Hotel and then to Dubai Mall. Significant changes in access and paid services now. Areas we use to be able to get into are now off limits and we have to pay to access others. For example at Atlantis, it now costs 40 Dirham (about AUD$15) to view the aquarium, which used to be free and access to the foyer area of the hotel is now restricted to hotel guests. It was always a highlight to see the bright interior design and over the top magnificence of the spaces. Times change.
We went between locations by taxi, spending about 120 Dirham (about AUD$45) between
us - so good value at less than AUD$25 per couple for a day's touring.
Still very crowded in most public venues as Friday is the Islamic holy day (our Sunday equivalent) and most workers seem to be taking time with their families to get out and about - and into air-conditioning. It does seem to be a family oriented society - good to see.
Back to our hotel at Mall of the Emirates on the Metro - 8 dirhams per person one way (about AUD$3) - cheaper than a taxi.
Now after 4pm - time for a rest (still being affected by jet lag and the heat) before being picked up at 7pm for a Dhow dinner on Dubai Creek. It was part of the package we had purchased for the trip.
6 o'clock wine o'clock interrupted by the early arrival of our transfer to the dhow for dinner - how inconsiderate !!
On board the (aging) dhow with about 50 or 60 passengers for dinner and a cruise. Sad to say, Roz and I have not changed our opinion since 2003 when we did the first of these excruciating evenings. good thing we
did not pay anything extra for it - it was part of a package bought by the travel company. We went on it in the vain hope that things had improved - sadly not the case !
The interior decoration looked as old as the dhow, the food was less than average (chicken must have been cheap this week - nothing else - chicken done 5 or 6 different ways with rice, without rice, ice on the side... get the picture ??!!).
The wine selection was interesting - only AUD$100 for a Jacob Creek red or white - which we would buy for less than $15 in Australia. Needless to say, we became teetotallers - until mine host finally revealed we had one free drink in the package as well. Should not have taken the bait - the glasses of red and white were from a lesser known flagon or Chateau de Cardboard range.
The highlight of the evening was an energetic young man dressed up as a Whirling Dervish - and whirl he did on the top deck to the applause of the admiring public. It was a hot evening and he did a great job
to keep his act going - he must have lost a few kilos doing it.
We sailed at 8pm and disembarked just after 10pm - more than long enough.
Back to the hotel by 10.30pm and into bed by 11.
For John - well over 11,500 steps today.
Still having problems uploading photos. They will come in a rush when I solve the problem. Saturday 15 September 2018 - Dubai
Awake at 6am - 32 degrees outside temperature. Sand/dust in the air has not improved.
Quick breakfast as a friend of Graeme's - a PE school teacher who has lived in Dubai for the past 12 years, Max, had kindly agreed to pick us up and take us for a tour.
Max is teaching at a British International School, as is his wife, and is the son of Conrad Lohe who was Meahgan's boss at Crown Law some years ago. Small world.
Max was on time at 9am and we headed off for the beachside Jumeirah area to view one of the public beaches and to get an outstanding photograph of Burj al Arab - which we did.
on down the coastline dropping into various nooks and crannies or retail, residential and beach areas until we reached Jumeirah Beach Resort (JBR) which is a relatively new development including extensive man made canals. Again, a very upmarket public beach - complete with camels for riding - and a huge ferris wheel which is still under construction. The wheel is obviously larger than any we have seen before in London, Brisbane etc.
Coffee at a pleasant beachside coffee shop and then onto Dubai Skydive - a purpose built skydiving centre on the water's edge, with private aircraft runway. The centre was apparently built because the Crown Prince loves adventure sports and wanted to have a skydiving club nearby.
By this stage, the morning had passed and we headed back toward Mall of the Emirates as Max had to get away to play in a touch football competition, trying to get a guernsey on the UAE team to play in the touch football championships to be held in Malaysia next year.
Before leaving us, Max took us (at our request) to a bottle shop. In Dubai, you must have an alcohol license to be able to buy alcohol
and we needed to top up supplies for out afternoon happy hours. Mission accomplished !
Max gave us the opportunity to see an area of Dubai to which Roz and I had not been before and that was well off the tourist track. Plenty of local expats live in the area but few tourists would even know about JBR. We have arranged to meet Max and his wife for dinner next Wednesday night at a Thai restaurant at Dubai Mall timed to be able to watch the spectacular Dubai Fountain Light Show.
Part of the afternoon was spent in a sports bar near our hotel watching New Zealand get beaten by South Africa in the Rugby. the rest packing for our trip to Oman tomorrow.
We have to be up at 4:30am, and leave the hotel by 5:30am to catch a 7:55 am flight to Muscat in Oman.
Evening meal was a Greek restaurant just outside our hotel inside the Mall.
So, a good and productive day spent visiting areas of Dubai that we had not seen before.
We are unlikely to be adding anything to the blog over the next two days as
we will be in Oman and in the desert. Sunday 16 September 2018 - Oman
Bright and early start to the day at 4:30am to be ready for a 5:30am departure to the airport for our flight to Muscat. Taxi to the airport (70 Dirhams - about AUD$30) and all followed the plan for our flight at 7:55am - although there was a late departure until 8:30am. Apparently there were some connecting passengers and baggage to be taken into account. Flight to Muscat took 47 minutes - smooth all the way.
Met at arrivals by Mr Haroun Al Siyabi who we had engaged as our driver / guide for our two days in Oman. A larger than life character in more ways than one ! Haroun became a good friend in the two days, even if he multitasked by driving at 140kph on the (very good) roads, texting and talking on his phone, maintaining a conversation with us, and taking the occasional swig from a water bottle.
The plan was to drive to a town in the desert - Nizwa - about 150km inland - about one and half hours of driving on very good roads.
This we did, arriving at a Date Souq where there were a multitude of dates to sample (and buy) along with a full range of date products - date honey, date pillows, fresh dates, dried dates, date cakes...…..et al. Some purchases were made for future consumption.
Then onto the fish and the fruit and vegetable markets - which were very quiet late in the morning getting on toward midday. All trading ceases at 1pm, shops locked up and everyone sensibly goes home for lunch and a snooze. They then come back after 3pm and trade into the evening.
The final visit in Nizwa was to the Nizwa Fort. It was built at the beginning of the 17th century by the Imam Sultan bin Saif Al Yarubi. It took approximately 12 years to complete. T he tower has a 45m diameter and reaches 34 meters in height with foundations which extend 30m underground. The fort is attached to a Castle which was originally built in the 9th century and renewed in 1624. It contained rooms for the Imam, his family, his guests and the royal guards. There were also a kitchen, coffee-making room and a date store. http://nizwa.net/oman/explorer/places/nizwafort/nizwafort.html
Leaving Nizwa we headed back towards Muscat but turned off to visit Anantara Resort, a luxury resort facility built high on Al Jabal al Akhdar - which we were advised means Green Mountain. The road up is controlled by police for entry and exit and is a 40km long drive on switchbacks and sharp, steep turns. But when you arrive at the resort, it is spectacular, serene and resting. A lookout is located on the edge of the escarpment giving a view down into the deep ravines and the craggy mountains surrounding it. the location is a place where Prince Charles and Dianna visited before the resort was built (they too the helicopter option !). It is said that Charles painted the scenery while Dianna read a book - but she also fell over at a point and shed blood. That location is reverently remembered by a plaque, nominating the site as "Dianna's Point". The air was fresh and clean and much cooler.
The resort is really a place to visit and stay - if we could afford it. https://www.anantara.com/en/jabal-akhdar
Onward to the 2 hour journey home, getting back to Muscat and our Ibis hotel at
about 7pm - a long day from the 4.30am rising and covering about 500km in all.
Dinner in the hotel restaurant - actually good value and reasonable food. A few settling in problems - only one towel in each of the rooms, the door card did not work on our room.
To bed about 9.30pm, a 2m knocking at the door (did not answer it and whoever it was must have realised they were at the wrong room). Monday 17 September 2018 - Muscat
Picked up at 9am by Haroun for a city tour. first location to visit was the Grand Mosque of Muscat. the ladies were deemed to be adequately dressed but Haroun though we gentlemen with our shorts were not appropriate. So he headed off and rented / bought / borrowed / stole 2 x dish dashes (the white dress like garment worn by men in this neck of the woods). Worn over our normal clothing, it was a hot outfit. In the course of the morning, Graeme would be told twice by different parties that he looked like an "Omani Man".
On to the mosque - the detail, finishes, cleanliness and design
were just beautiful We first visited the ladies prayer room and then to the main prayer room. The grounds were spotless and well kept. before departing, we were directed to the Islam Education Centre where a well spoken and knowledgeable young man was explaining to tourists the meaning of Islam. The way he explained it sounded very logical and worthwhile.
We then headed to the Royal Opera House. A relatively new building of epic proportions and absolutely outstanding finishes and design features inside the building A guided tour cost 3 Omani Rialls (about $10). The interior was dominated by marble floors (from Italy) and beautifully carved teak wood (from Burma) in panels, balustrades, decorative infills, handrails etc. No estimate was given about how much it cost to build as the building was virtually priceless.
After the Opera House, we headed to the local fish market. We had arrived after 12pm and its morning operations were just about over. The smell was somewhat overpowering on arrival but we did get used to it. Tuna seemed to be the most popular offering. with a lot of other smaller fish on the tables. Next to the fish market was the fruit
and vegetable market. Much colour and aromas. Ladies seemed to be in the majority as shoppers.
Nearby was the local general market, or souq. It was contained in an older building at ground level with many laneways and cross paths. Most of what we saw was less than saleable to us and fell into the category of junk. A gentle ramble through the winding laneways with Indians offering their wares to us, left and right. It reminded us somewhat of Hong Kong where we receive much the same offers from Indian tailors, copy watch and copy handbag salesmen. Best part was at the end when Haroun purchased a couple of vegetable curry samosas for each of us. We figured the deep frying would kill any germs - reminiscent of chiko rolls at the Ekka !
We then moved on to The palace of the Sheik of Oman- a huge and imposing structure right on the water, guarded by many armed soldiers.
Tour time as over as the time was approaching 2pm when we needed to be at the airport for our flight back to Dubai.
In summary, we thought our journey into Oman was great, well
supported by Haroun and we saw a more "human" side of the middle east, compared to the fast paced concrete jungle in Dubai. If anyone was visiting Oman, through Muscat, we would recommend Haroun as a driver / guide - he was great.
Flew back to Dubai on a Flydubai flight, arriving back here around 5:30pm after an hour in the air.
A taxi back to the hotel, a short happy hour to get over the dry dusty day and then to the sports bar n the hotel for a pizza. It had been a long day and we were all ready for bed.
John - about 8,000 steps in the day. Tuesday 18 September 2018 - Dubai
A slower start to the day as we were not being picked up until 9:30am for our day trip to Abu Dhabi.
Mr Amit and Mr Ketan met us with a comfortable 7 seater Toyota Sierra and headed off down the highway to Abu Dhabi. Mr Amit proved to be a very good driver, taking his time, staying in his lane (unlike a lot of other drivers) and within the speed limits (see previous comment).
Roz and I last travelled this road from Dubai to Abu Dhabi in 2011. The amount of development and construction between the cities is staggering - it is Brisbane to the Gold Coast infill stuff. And the size and quality of the road itself is amazing - a multi-laned highway in both directions now in very good condition with a speed limit of 140kph. The drive took about an hour and half from pick up to arrival in Abu Dhabi.
We were first taken to a private art gallery - read sponsors visit - which had a large range of surprisingly good art, jewellery, rugs, clothing...… However we were not tempted and managed to get out without a purchase. Bus loads of mainly Asian tourists coming and going.
On to the Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque and the requirement to cover up to enter. The ladies were issued their black garment including veil and the men had to put long trousers on. Huge numbers of tourists and significant restrictions in terms of the areas that could be accessed, compared to or visit there in 2011 which was unfettered.
The beauty and craftsmanship of this building defies description -
suffice to say that it is an incredible structure. We spent about an hour wandering the site.
Moved on to another incredible structure at the Emirates Palace Hotel. Apparently built to accommodate parties from each of the 7 UAE Emirates as well as paying guests, the grandeur and fitout in this building is again a tribute to the designers and those who constructed it. Another hour spent wandering the corridors. Access is somewhat restricted at the entry gate and we were lucky to get into the place.
A short drive through the Government building and Embassy sector along the Corniche to the city and then on to Yas Island for a late lunch. thoughts of visiting Ferrari World as well were quickly extinguished when we saw the general entry price - 320 dirhams per adult - about AUD$130 each. So we just satisfied ourselves with a nice lunch at the Yas Island Mall before departing for Dubai at about 4pm.
The amount f development and modern high rise buildings in Abu Dhabi has increased dramatically n the years since our last visit. While it does not rival Dubai in terms of the numbers of buildings, it certainly
has a more "lived in" look to it than the glass and concrete jungle in Dubai.
The drive back was an hour and half again. We followed that up with a late 5 o'clock wine o'clock and then headed for a light dinner in the food court.
John - over 12,000 steps today. Wednesday 19 September 2018 - Dubai
Today is going to be a catch up day - sleep in (for some), late breakfast and generally rest up a bit after our somewhat busy touring schedule. We are due to fly tomorrow late in the evening and arrive back in Brisbane about 5pm on Friday.
Late start to the day and down to breakfast at 9:30am. Boarding passes printed and a visit to Carrefours to get a new USB cable to solve the problem of uploading photographs from the phone to the Netbook - success !! Good service from the lads at Carrefours.
Vijay had offered to provide a car to revisit him to pick up some items so we took advantage of that and the lads did the usual drinking coffee and playing with phones.
The car was again provided to
drop Kathy and Graeme up at Dubai Mall and then take Roz and I on to Al Rigga on the other side of Dubai Creek. The Ibis Hotel there is located well between the airport and the port area for us to stay for a couple of days in April next year when we again come to Dubai to join a cruise. We wanted to see the area and check out the hotel because we have not been in that area of Dubai before. All good and now its just a matter of what price we can get the rooms for. There is a Mall nearby to be able to pick up a few items that we cannot fly with - the aerosols, liquid soaps etc and a few grocery items to take on board - important stuff like chips, chocolates, Coke etc. We will have 8 days at sea from Dubai to Athens so it pays to be prepared.
Caught the Metro from Al Rigga Metro Station to Mall of the Emirates - took about half an hour. I did the wrong thing, not realising there ae some areas on the metro trains dedicated to women and children.
I sat with Roz for a while before realising the mistake - 100 dirham fine if caught apparently - so moved further down the carriage to the area where men are allowed. Funny - nobody is offended or feels humiliated or is embarrassed or is discriminated against by this separation. Must be a Me Too, leftie pinko Western thing.
Back to the hotel and started getting ready for our night out a Thai restaurant with Max and Kelli.
Dinner was at the Thai Thiptara Restaurant in the Palace Downtown Hotel which is right on the lake surrounding Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall. It is well located to watch the nightly Dubai Fountain light show which goes off every 30 minutes through the evening.
Max and Kelli proved to be great dinner company and the food was very good too. They are PE teachers at international school in Dubai. Max has been here for 12 years.
A long evening though and we were not back to our hotel until 11.30pm. Thursday 20 September 2018 - Dubai
Last day in town before flying out at 10:00pm tonight. We have managed to get the rooms extended to
3:00pm at no cost but have to pay another 125 dirham per hour to extend 3-6pm. We will just extend one room to put the luggage in and to have somewhere to rest until we depart at about 6:30pm with our transfer to the airport.
A lazy day at the ranch just meandering in the air conditioning in the Mall, coffee, lunch and packing the bags.
At 3pm, Roz & I checked out and moved our luggage into Graeme and Kath's room. Dinner at Common Ground
- an Australian themed cafe just outside the doors to the Sheraton. Not much Australia about it unfortunately.
Picked up at 6:45pm by Arabian Adventures for the transfer to the airport - Terminal 3. All smoothly through the procedures and into the departures hall. 9:40 departure scheduled but we did not push back until closer to 10pm.
The route home was much further south than on the way over. For the forward journey, we were over Indonesia, Malaysia and India - a lot of land mass. For the return journey, we travelled over the Indian Ocean until we hit the West Australian Coast. Very bumpy in the middle with many
seat belt warnings. and on landing in Brisbane, the aircraft slewed left and right as we touched down, scaring us all. We thought we would end up on the grass.
Arrived on time but it took over 2 hours to get out of the airport as the luggage carousel broke down and it took them over an hour to decide to shift our luggage delivery to another carousel.
An Uber home, arriving at about 9pm - a long day !
In summary, enjoyed the visit to Dubai and to Oman. Oman was the surprise package and was well worth visiting.
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