Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Petra and the Dead Sea

this photo of the Petra Monastery courtesy of Kermit Kauffman
Armina gets a Dead Sea mud bath!
Our group at the Dead Sea - a very 'local' breakfast!
Holiday Inn Resort at the Dead Sea

The Treasury at Petra

Mother hikes out of Petra - Mom makes new friends

Mother & Armina are amazed
Armina, Mother, Gaylene, Roger and I stayed an extra night in Dubai and then flew Sunday morning to Amman, Jordan. There we met Kermit Kauffman and headed south for Petra - the "Rose Red City Half as Old as Time!" Armina had seen it years ago and asked me to take her there again so she could see if it was really as fantastic as she remembered. It was. We stayed in the Crowne Plaza, overlooking Petra and a magnificent rock wonderland. Next morning we headed down in. We spent several hours exploring and we couldn't stop taking photos. Such an enchanting and amazing place! Mother and Armina even walked all the way back up through the siq! Congratulations. Later in the afternoon we headed for the Dead Sea and stayed at the new Holiday Inn Resort, overlooking the sea and with a view of Israel on the other side. Beautiful place. In the morning we went out for a 'very local' breakfast then enjoyed the Dead Sea. Armina had a Dead Sea mud bath on her legs!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Back in Dubai

High Tea at the Burj al Arab Hotel
Burj al Arab
The gold souk
Jumeirah Beach Hotel

We arrived back in Dubai Friday noon and our shuttle bus took us to the Dubai Mall. There is a huge walk-through aquarium there with thousands of fish. Out back of the mall is an area of ponds, walks and bridges with incredible close-up views of the Burj Khalifa (tallest tower in the world). We stopped at a supermarket for local goods at low prices, then spent some time shopping in the Gold Souk.
Saturday was our grand finale. We all went for high tea at the Burj al Arab Hotel, the hightest rated hotel in the world. It was gorgeous. We went early to have time for photos and ride up the glass elevator to the top. I think everyone enjoyed our farewell 'tea' there. Had a bit more time for shopping in the local souk (market) back in the downtown area.
Saturday night the group flew home, except for my Mother, my sister Gaylene, Roger, and Armina. We stayed the night in Dubai and flew early Sunday via Kuwait to Amman, Jordan. Stay tuned for some amazing photos of Petra - the rose-red city half as old as time!

Friday, February 19, 2010


Thursday was our last port of call on the cruise, Manama Bahrain. We were so pleased to have our tour guide from last year, the beautiful, young, Bahraini lady, Nada. She gives a delightful insight into their culture from a woman’s perspective, and also make it clear what differences there are between the various Arab countries. She toured us through the national museum, past the mosque, through the downtown which boasts really stunning buildings, and out to the Bahrain Fort. A visit to a camel farm preceded our drive out to the middle of the causeway leading to Saudi Arabia, where we went to the top of the view tower so we could see across the water into Saudi Arabia. Nada plans to marry within the next year and we wish her all the best!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Abu Dhabi

Wednesday we were in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. The highlight was the visit to the Grand Mosque. It is built of white marble, inlaid with semi-precious stones and adorned with gold. The chandeliers are worth millions. This is one of the most exquisite buildings in the world – rivaling the Taj Mahal in India! We also saw the presidential palace, the Emirates Hotel(!), Heritage Village and the Abu Dhabi marina.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Dubai, Muscat & Fujairah

So much for a running blog! Here we are halfway through the trip and I'm finally getting an entry. The blizzards in the eastern United States really screwed us up. My 3 United flyers had their flights via Washington cancelled and missed the first day of our tour.
Friday morning we had a tour of modern Dubai and started with the new marina area. What was nothing but sand 5 years ago boasts a vast assortment of highrises, restaurants and shops around several miles of manmade lagoon. From there we drove out to the end of the Jumeirah Palm (80% complete) to the Atlantis Hotel for a walk-through. Of course the Ski Dubai complex in the Emirates Mall is a must-see as well.
In the afternoon we took off in SUV's for a desert safari. Up and down the dunes our drivers raced, even sliding down sideways at precarious angles. We ended up in a bedouin camp for typical Arabic dinner, where we could go on camel rides, try henna painting, and enjoy a belly dancing show before heading back to our 5-star Radisson Blu on Dubai Creek in the heart of the city.
Saturday morning started with a visit to the Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club, home of the Dubai Open tournament. We walked through the Dubai Museum, then took an abra (small, motorized, wooden fishing boat) across Dubai Creek to the spice market and the gold market. Both tend to be overwhelming for the senses. We'll have opportunity late to spend more time and money there! We ended at the ship and embarked the Costa Luminosa, a new ship which just came into service last June! Much nicer.
Monday we were in Muscat, Oman and had one of the best tour guides I’ve ever met, Badar, a native Omani. He gave us wonderful insight into his country, culture, religion, and family as we toured exotic sights. The mosque is exquisitely beautiful with one of the largest chandeliers (Svarowski Crystal) in the world, as well as the largest hand-made carpet in the world. We enjoyed time in the Muttrah Souk, or main market, shopping for frankincense, shawls/scarves, daggars, ornate boxes, and lots of other treasures. Fascinating place. We ended up out at the Al Bustan Palace Hotel for tea and Arabic sweets and were allowed to walk down to the beach and photograph the hotel and grounds. Some of us went back in to town after the tour to take advantage of the market – what a great place!
Tuesday was our leisure day, but 16 of us took taxis into town to the fish market, vegetable market, and Iranian market. Didn’t buy much but interesting to look. We went to a Lebanese Restaurant for lunch in a beautiful arabesque building and I ordered platters of various cold and hot appetizers for the group to share family style and that was our delicious lunch.