Monthly Archives: April 2013

Madinat Jumeirah Souk

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*sigh*…. Where to begin? This is a very picturesque touristy-shopping-eating area inside the Madinat Jumeirah Resort that’s been purpose-built to resemble an old-world souk.  And it kindasorta does, a little bit – but not really. You do have to acknowledge the efforts put into the theming though – again, Disney would be proud!  This is what the approach looks like, and on the right side of that bridge is a *perfect* place for a photo, fast, easy to get to, and never a bad photo.  No one else is gonna be in your shot, either!

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Meandering walkways and canals will eventually lead you to an amphitheater area, as well as some lovely restaurants and cafes. On this early April day, sitting outdoors to enjoy a coffee in the early to late morning would be pleasant. Much later than that and this gal would be searching out some air conditioning.

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moving water makes you feel cool and relaxed, I think

moving water makes you feel cool and relaxed, I think

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There is a scenic sort of a canal that runs around the outside of the area, and small abras will take you from area to area if you’d like – it’s quite a bit of walking! I did take some photos of the area, the shadows and lights make for some interesting patterns.The landscaping is quite lovely, and the grounds of the resort are just beautiful.

framed by a lovely arch, the trees provide privacy and a barrier to the city beyond

framed by a lovely arch, the trees provide privacy and a barrier to the city beyond

light and dark, shadow and sun - we're always looking for one or the other here

light and dark, shadow and sun – we’re always looking for one or the other here

loving the pergola and shadows here

loving the pergola and shadows here

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shadows and angles

shadows and angles

beautiful landscaping all around

beautiful landscaping all around

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Around the grounds here there are some awesome photo opportunities, and we took advantage of all of them, I think. There are some cute decorative items all throughout the souk areas and the restaurants have some wonderful “local flavor” built in, too.

me standing in front of the ampitheater area - it's quite large!

me standing in front of the ampitheater area – it’s quite large!

and yet another photo op

and yet another photo op

just stand in front of just about any place here, and the photo is really pretty!

just stand in front of just about any place here, and the photo is really pretty!

outside one of the restaurants

outside one of the restaurants

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This is what they look like during the holidays, quite crowded and decorated.

 

inside the dark cool souk.  And I've also noticed it spelled souq.

inside the dark cool souk. And I’ve also noticed it spelled souq.

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This is a favorite photo – it captured both the top of the Burj Al Arab, plus the wind towers on “old” buildings…. they actually funnel the wind blowing and acted as early air conditioners!

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So, if you’re exploring Dubai and looking for some afternoon shady entertainment – this is your spot. Take some money, check for vouchers from the Entertainer or Big Bus Tour books, have a late lunch and snag some memorable photos before you leave.

Al Ain Zoo – I fed a giraffe!

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OK, so…. this is the part I’m excited about, and you’ll read about in a bit…..

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Al Ain is another town about two hours’ drive from Dubai, it’s a much smaller town, and from everyone’s description of it, I imagined it to be a sort of Podunk kind of place small, not much to it, you know?  Boy, was I wrong AGAIN.

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It sits on the border of Oman, and is built around seven oasis areas.  It’s referred to as the Garden City or Oasis of the Emirates and is a very fertile area, we saw tons of small family gardens all along the way.

The drive there was as uneventful as any drive in the UAE is – you just learn to roll with the lunacy and keep your insurance paid.  I did get to see the difference in the sand in the various desert areas, though.  Here around Dubai it seems mostly white-ish sands, and khaki colors.  But further into the desert, it turns red because of the iron oxide content – kind of like Alabama red clay.  Interesting.

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Filled with incredibly ornate villas/mansions, the drive to the zoo had my head swiveling around like an owl’s.  I looked ahead through the haze and said to TBG “So, honey, does Al Ain have mountains, or are those clouds ahead or what?”  He hesitated a second, looked at me funny and said “Mountains.”    And after a bit of googling, they’re the Al Hijr al Gharbi mountains to be exact.  But the one we were seeing is called Jebel Hafeet and it is the tallest mountain in the UAE at 1340 meters high.  It straddles the Al Ain city and Oman borders.  Here’s  photos taken on our drive in through a  desert area I’d not seen yet as well as some of the homes, and scenery.

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I had asked some of my “imaginary friends” on a local website about any tips they may have for me during my first trip to this zoo…. They all said “go early, wear comfy shoes, sunscreen and take a picnic lunch”.  They were exactly right, except for one tiny detail….. a big sun hat!  TBG reminded me just as we were walking out the door, and I’m grateful he reminded me of that – it was a lifesaver!

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This is the entrance sign, and area right inside the “gate”…. You go to a window on either side, pay for your tickets, and go to the turnstiles.  Of course, you can’t possibly scan your *own* ticket, so there’s a guy there to scan it for you and then hand it back.  ??  Anyway, it’s only about AED15 each to get in, a big bargain, for sure.

And then?  The animals begin….. enjoy!  (I think the meerkats are one of my favorites – they posed for me.)

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Look at these guys.... they're learning to fight to get the girls!

Look at these guys…. they’re learning to fight to get the girls!

Pink Flamingoes - they look kinda peachy-colored here, but in the shade???

Pink Flamingoes – they look kinda peachy-colored here, but in the shade???

In the shade they're pink as can be!

In the shade they’re pink as can be!

cute metal sculpture of a zebra

cute metal sculpture of a zebra

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Desert Dogs.  Doing what all dogs do in the heat of the day.... they sleep.

Desert Dogs. Doing what all dogs do in the heat of the day…. they sleep.

Now, aren't these just the cutest critters?  Meerkats!

Now, aren’t these just the cutest critters? Meerkats!

They remind me of prairie dogs.... but smaller.

They remind me of prairie dogs…. but smaller.

Meerkats are very social critters... they love being around other meerkats!

Meerkats are very social critters… they love being around other meerkats!

And this guy just flat-out sat down and posed for me..... waited for me to take his photo!

And this guy just flat-out sat down and posed for me….. waited for me to take his photo!

Sleeping dogs.

Sleeping dogs.

This is where the White Tiger lives!

This is where the White Tiger lives!

Hey!  He was awake!  Awesome looking critter, isn't he??

Hey! He was awake! Awesome looking critter, isn’t he??

But, by far, my favorite part of this excursion was definitely getting to feed the giraffes!  There’s a fairly mundane-looking sign that says “giraffe feeding station” and I made a beeline for it…. Walked up the ramp to the GIRAFFES!  Well, after I stopped at the lady’s kiosk and paid my AED30 for a cup of carrots to feed them… and washed my hands….

This is the little feeding station at the Al Ain Zoo

This is the little feeding station at the Al Ain Zoo

Listen, till you’ve seen one of these suckers heads coming towards you quickly because they know you have their favorite snack, you don’t really understand how BIG they are!  I had no clue that their heads were almost half the size of my whole body.  Huge.  Really big.  With horns, and eyelashes, and a muzzle that feels like a horse’s – all furry and with long prickly whiskers on it.  And apparently ticklish, because they would always jerk their heads away when I tried to pet their noses.

Oh my gosh... there's one!

Oh my gosh… there’s one!

It's TBG, and he's gonna feed the giraffe???

It’s TBG, and he’s gonna feed the giraffe???

Oh my gosh, he did it!

Oh my gosh, he did it!

They're just so cool looking!

They’re just so cool looking!

Look at their sweet faces!

Look at their sweet faces!

Holy cow - they've got a dang big ole head, now!

Holy cow – they’ve got a dang big ole head, now!

I did get to pet his nose, but not for long.

I did get to pet his nose, but not for long.

"Come here and let me pet you!"

“Come here and let me pet you!”

Awww......how about a carrot?

Awww……how about a carrot?

But they have personality, too…. One was bold, knew exactly how far to lean towards you for photos and carrots.  Another was timid, wanted to get his mouth close, but on *his* side of the fence, and just stick his giraffe-lips and tongue through the fence to get the goodies he smelled….. funny.

He's got that tongue all stuck out, huh?

He’s got that tongue all stuck out, huh?

He's wondering how close he's gonna have to get.....

He’s wondering how close he’s gonna have to get…..

Speaking of giraffe tongues, did y’all know how incredibly flexible they are?  I mean, here comes this big long slimy snail-looking thing out of his mouth, but it’s pointed, and searching gingerly for the carrot he smells…. When the tip of his tongue touches it, he coils his tongue around the carrot in a spiral, like a snake or something…. I never imagined that!  Then, he’ll gently take it from your hand and back away to munch it.  Funny as heck.  I got to scratch one’s neck and jaw for a minute, y’all, it was so cool!

OK, but this is my laaaaassst one!

OK, but this is my laaaaassst one!

There now.... doesn't that feel good??

There now…. doesn’t that feel good??

Oh my goodness!  Who knew they could do this??

Oh my goodness! Who knew they could do this??

Too funny.... he wanted more!

Too funny…. he wanted more!

They have fur that’s almost exactly like a horse’s, or a cow’s….. straight, stiff and soft feeling if you pet it in the direction of growth.  If not, it’s bristly.  Pretty cool.  Oh, and the giraffe toes are just like the camel’s…. only two, poor things.

Yes there were other animals there, a reptile house…..

Outside of the reptile house.

Outside of the reptile house.

A giant tortise.... we got to see them at lunchtime too, and I was surprised at how quickly they can move when there's food involved!

A giant tortise…. we got to see them at lunchtime too, and I was surprised at how quickly they can move when there’s food involved!

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There was an area with the big cats too – white tigers were totally amazing.  I watched them for a long time.

This lion guy was licking his paw - I thought it was such and oddly endearing thing for him to be doing.  Well, at least he wasn't sleeping!

This lion guy was licking his paw – I thought it was such and oddly endearing thing for him to be doing. Well, at least he wasn’t sleeping!

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This is a pacing puma.  Honest.  All he did was pace.  Made me wonder if he was unhappy??

This is a pacing puma. Honest. All he did was pace. Made me wonder if he was unhappy??

And a pretty cool aviary.  That’s the bird house, right?  😉  There were parakeets, parrots, and tons of tiny little finch-like birds…. too cute.  The parrots were paired up, and we’ve seen a number of them flying around in our neighborhood here.  The other day, two of them about maybe…. 16 – 18″ long landed on the upstairs balcony handrail and sat there and screeched and scrawked for a bit, not minding at all that I was there watching them and talking to them!

Bird neighborhood.  Wonder if they like having their houses so close together?

Bird neighborhood. Wonder if they like having their houses so close together?

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Hey now, you're hidden in there pretty well, aren't you?

Hey now, you’re hidden in there pretty well, aren’t you?

The parrot's other friend... hanging upside down from the screen covering the roof of the aviary.

The parrot’s other friend… hanging upside down from the screen covering the roof of the aviary.

Finally managed to snap a photo of one of the parrots - they're such a vivid green.

Finally managed to snap a photo of one of the parrots – they’re such a vivid green.

Looks kinda like one of the US southwest's roadrunners, doesn't it?

Looks kinda like one of the US southwest’s roadrunners, doesn’t it?

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These two doves were building a nest.

These two doves were building a nest.

I forget what these are called, but there's a pair of them that comes to our back sliding glass door.  They're REALLY loud, and will peck at their reflected image in the door.  I have video somewhere I have to dig out.

I forget what these are called, but there’s a pair of them that comes to our back sliding glass door. They’re REALLY loud, and will peck at their reflected image in the door. I have video somewhere I have to dig out.

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This is where the big green parrot *was*..... dang, they're fast.

This is where the big green parrot *was*….. dang, they’re fast.

parakeet gang

parakeet gang

Parakeet gang home

Parakeet gang home

There was also a penguin exhibit…

Penguins.  Sort of an obligatory display..... they were so far away, you couldn't touch them, and we've got Peng-friends already.....lol.

Penguins. Sort of an obligatory display….. they were so far away, you couldn’t touch them, and we’ve got Peng-friends already…..lol.

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This place is really popular with families… you can see people sprawled out all over the grassy lawn areas in the shade…. most brought picnics….

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I’m so glad we went there – it was a really good day.

Shopping review – Park ‘n Shop

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It’s not often that I find a local store with higher-than-normal prices that I’ll continue to frequent…. but Park ‘n Shop is one!  Amazing customer service, excellent selection and bright clean store.   Park n Shop opposite Green Communities East … anyhow, it’s new, bright, clean, has a nice and wide assortment of goods, especially those pesky American items that catch my eye. I had to resist a number of things that weren’t on my list! Covered parking, and the cashiers were kind and friendly, not bored and indifferent – but the big plus was that the bagboy actually pushed my groceries out the door without asking! One thing, watch the expiration dates closely – a “buy one get one free” salad dressing deal certainly looked like a great buy, until I checked the dates, and they were just a few days out. But – lovely bakery, watch the signage – if they’re out of something, they’ll just leave the sign there next to something that looks exactly like it, but with a different price. Annoying. Overall? Yeah, a bit spendy, but much nicer produce than my local Motor City Spinney’s and a faboo bakery.  They also have a fish section that’s sort of “separated” from the rest of the store, as well as a “pork” section – no aromas from either make it out.  Oh, and the store is on two levels, with one of the flat magnetized escalators helping you up and down.

 

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Just don’t forget that traffic in and out of the Greens can be monstrously difficult if you aren’t in and out between say 10 am and 2 pm daily.

At theTop of the Burj Khalifa – tallest building in the world

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Wow.  Just wow.  I mean, we just went up into the tallest building in the world.  There’s not a whole lot of superlatives that haven’t been used to describe it….. huge, amazing, intimidating, wondrous, I mean, it’s really really tall.

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You can read all about the specifics and all the statistics here on their website and be amazed at how tall it is, how long it took, how many people it too, just all the specifics.  I’m just here to give you my impressions……

Wow.  First, you pay to go in.  I didn’t know that, but found out.  If you’re a planner, good for you.  If you’re a planning slug, you lose out.  Buy tickets in advance = AED125, and walkup is AED400.  That’s about $46 for planners and $148 for you slugs out there.  Me?  I planned!!

Our appointed time was Friday morning at 10 am, I’d hoped that the seasonal fog and haze would have lifted by then, but it would still be early enough that the crowds wouldn’t be there yet.  Close.   The fog was gone, but the haze was still with us.  *shrug*

We arrived at the Dubai Mall, parked and walked through the mall to get to the entrance.  It was kinda cool, because the mall was pretty much deserted at this time of the morning!

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I stepped outside and snapped a few photos of the scenery of the day…. pretty, wasn’t it?

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Presented ourselves at “will call” as instructed after our online purchase.  We had our tickets now, and were just waiting for our allotted time…..

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When the big countdown clock in the assembly area hit 10:00, the woman manning the turnstile scanned and then stamped each person’s ticket.  They then could proceed to the security area where all pockets were emptied into bins and scanned, all pocketbooks, bags and pouches were scanned, and people walked through the detector things.  If anything alerted the security people, they would also “wand” you…. Just like going into the courthouse back in Dothan, Alabama.

Once you were through security, you proceeded to a moving walkway that was wonderful because to get to the actual base of the building, the elevator entrances are about a mile from the entrance at the mall….. OK, maybe not an *entire* mile, but dang close to it.  I was grateful for the moving walkway.

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It let you off close to another  area that had a director’s chair and plaque in it noting Tom Cruise’s movie Mission:Impossible Ghost Protocol that was filmed there…..  I made TBG stand beside the chair for a photo.  Oh, and the areas around you are quite lovely and surprisingly sedate, white, black and chrome are the colors that prevail.

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OK, next, up a really really really long escalator, I took our photo to entertain me…….

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We arrived at another area with a queue for the elevators.  Two elevators for this tour.  The tour guidepeople were not shy at all about “helping” folks enter all the way into the elevators, either.  Different cultures have different requirements for their personal space…..  frankly, TBG’s personal space requirements were NOT met during this elevator ride.

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I’d noticed that the elevator had a mirrored ceiling, so to distract him, I got him to look up with me so I could take our photo in the elevator.

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When the doors closed, I’d been a bit apprehensive about these….. thinking “what if I feel motion sickness”??  No danger of that, the trip was over before I could clear my ears from popping the first time, honest!  Seriously fast.  Honest.  Like 40 mph fast!

Then, the doors opened.

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It was like the entire city was laid at my feet.  Seriously.  It was like I couldn’t get enough of looking at it – but I did remember to take some pictures!

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I went through a revolving door following some other folks and had this sudden spike of absolute panic – I was OUTSIDE.  With the wind.  And the air.  And the nothingness below me.  Breathe deeply – there are other people out here even children can come it must be safe there is no way they’d let you up here if it wasn’t safe look there is an old man and old woman and they can do this so just shut up and breathe.

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Yes, I was a bit nervous, a bit shaky…. a picture of TBG’s elbow?  What the heck?  Well, I tried to take photos of us, but I was stressed and it was too bright and and and……

OK – I got this.  I stepped closer to the handrails and again, just stood there gawking at the view.  Amazing.  And, you can see exactly where the city ends and the desert begins, reminding me that if it weren’t for the brazillion gallons of desalinated water used daily, there would be no green places in Dubai, it would all be sand and more sand.  Wow.  And the roads, they make no sense on the ground, and still made no sense from this height.  Loops and curves to the oddest manners – I’ll never get it.

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And then, I looked up.  And realized that again, there was nothingness above me.   To calm my mounting panic, I took this photo – it only shows this level of the building, not the many floors above it!

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Now, at the top was a gift shop, pretty nice, a bit pricey, but where else can you get things like that??

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Instead, I opted for a pressed penny like the ones I get from Disney Parks!

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So, after an awesome time looking out over the city, we headed back down the elevator, and onto a long escalator for the ride back to the Dubai Mall, and…. a…. you guessed it!  Gift shop!

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Enjoy the photos, I enjoyed the experience of going up in the world’s tallest building!

Broke Fork? Nah…… video inside

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So, I had a fruit salad from either a local grocery store or a delivery guy – can’t recall which it was.  But, incorporated in the lid was a utensil that entertained me for a bit….. watch…..

Now, I know that it probably seems like I’m easily entertained…. and I really am.  But I thought that this was a pretty cool way to include a reasonable-sized spork in a very small space.  Thought you might enjoy seeing what I’m seeing here in Dubai!