Sharjah, Flamingos and the desert

Published: March 14th 2017
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Tuesday March 7 – Today we took advantage of a lot of the free extras that came with our Big Bus tour, namely three additional tours. They all left from the WAFI mall, which was not so far from out place by metro, and they were timed so you could do them all in one day. First up was a quick wander through the mall, and then the 10:30am tour to Sharjah, another emirate. Dubai and Abu Dhabi are each also one of the seven emirates that makes up the country of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Sharjah is the most conservative of all seven, and the only one is which you cannot get any alcohol. Like the night tour, this tour came with a tour guide, and it was quite nice to have that interaction. She was from the Philippines and our driver was from Nepal. The Sharjah tour lasted three hours and had two stops, at a historical village and at a gold and textiles market. We walked through the first but decided to skip the second, and walked around outside instead. Sharjah is not nearly as new and sparkly and shining as the other two emirates we had seen, but instead has a lot of architecture from the 1970s.

The next tour was to the wild flamingos that live in an artificially created area around Dubai. The are seasonal and leave in the summer to go to Iran. As you do. There was a walkway with a sort of hide, a building with windows where you were mostly hidden from the birds. It was really nice to see them, and reminded me of the time I worked at the zoo and helped hand-raise flamingo chicks there.

The final tour was the desert sunset tour. We had originally wanted to do one of the official sunset tours with my friend Jerry, who we would see later, but we did not have time to organize it properly and decided to give this freebie option a go. It was ok, but not nearly as good as the others. There was no guide for this tour. Instead we were just driven out to a desert camp, offered an opportunity to buy an extremely expensive dinner and get a different bus back, and then left to wander around. We did not partake. There were some free things to do, like ride a camel, which we did not, or get a free henna tattoo, which I did, or hold a falcon, which I did. Of course I felt bad for the camel and the falcon, and even the woman who did the henna tattoo as she looked pretty miserable. We eventually pulled away just as the sun was setting, which was even worse. One or two more minutes would have been perfect for photos. Overall that bit was a bit goofy and not so recommended. We ended the night with another shwarma meal.

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