The UAE has developed into one of the richest countries in the world and that is why everything is the biggest, fastest and over the top spectacular. It is so advanced, clean and modern and that is probably why it is a business and tourism hub. The Arabian emirates of Dubai and Abu Dhabi are the richest and most powerful of the seven city- states that make up the UAE. These places offer the best of the East and West. You experience Arab culture, Bedouin heritage and Islamic architecture alongside luxurious modern amenities such as shopping, dining and hotels. Abu Dhabi is the capital and second most populated city of the UAE. It has enormous wealth. Thanks to the natural resource of oil it has transformed from a fishing village into a spectacular and attractive Arab city. Abu Dhabi preserves its Islamic heritage and Arab cultural roots. You will be amazed by what you see. One of my favorite places was visited during my first day in Abu Dhabi. It was the Skeikh Zayed Mosque. There is a mosque dedicated to him in all of the emirates, but this one is the biggest and most lavish. If you have ever been to the Taj Mahal in India you can see some similarities in it grandeur. I was in awe of the details and beauty this mosque exhibited. There are so many malls and theme parks to visit, but my heart feels most connected to the cultural sites. I loved wandering around the site of the mosque covered from head to toe in 100 degree heat. Yes, it was 100 degrees and some days even hotter. Even though it was hot your mind is not focused on the heat. It is focused on what you are looking at and the feelings who experience as you hear the sound of the muezzin [prayer caller]. I remember being in Istanbul and the sound of the muezzin was one of my favorite sounds and I felt the same way in Abu Dhabi. The more I travel the more I see that the world is small and connected in so many ways. Islam is an interesting faith. I love to study and teach about religion. It is so interesting to learn the practices and teachings of other people in various parts of the world. While traveling I had a tour guide who lived in Dubai, born and raised in Sri Lanka, practices Buddhism, and studied in Germany. He is a true world citizen and very knowledgeable in many areas. I really enjoyed our time together. If you choose to travel to these places I would suggest using Smartours and hopefully you will be lucky enough to learn from Mr. Shirley Karunaratne.
Dubai looks like a city out of the movies! Between the glistening golden sand of the Arabian Desert and some of the most iconic architectural structures it is fascinating. It is not a place with tremendous historical impact but it has the world’s tallest buildings and the innovation that you experience is amazing. Dubai was a small fisherman village and not that rich. It turned into a successful port in the 20th century. What makes this city so intriguing is how fast it has grown. Twenty five years ago it was just a desert. Oil was discovered in 1966 and Sheikh Rashid utilized the oil revenues to bolster infrastructure development in Dubai. Dubai is known as the entertainment capital of the Middle East and is not a hub of world travel. It is the busiest airport in the world followed by Heathrow and Frankfurt. There is a thousand things to do in Dubai. You can visit man- made islands, shop, indoor ski, watch fountain shows, visit museums, go on a desert safari, admire luxury hotels, drink and eat gold, and enjoy amazing nightlife. I really enjoyed many of the activities I did, but the desert safari was my favorite. Driving in land cruisers over the dunes of sand is incredible. It is like a roller coaster and even though I dislike rollercoasters because I get motion sickness I loved this. The driver was amazing and had a great combination of fast and furious and slow and smooth as part of our ride. All I kept thinking was how do we not flip over and how do they know where to go since there is sand for miles. The desert safari ends with dinner at a camp in the desert and you can participate in falconry, ride a camel, smoke shisha, get henna on your body and eat dinner. I love henna so that was the first item on my list to be done. The whole experience gives you a great feel for life in the desert and leaves you dreaming as you head back into the busy city after experiencing the calmness and mystery of the desert.
Oman is a true oasis. It is gorgeous. Oman is mountainous, coastal and pastoral. Most people have never even heard of this country, but I suggest you get there now before it gets too popular and loses its traditional charm. It made an appearance in the most recent edition of Conde Nast Traveler and is growing in popularity. A few years ago I had a former student who lived and taught English in a school in Oman and my classes that year had pen pals with Omani kids so I wanted to visit ever since that collaboration took place. I spent a whole day traveling in Musandam. It is a stunning location and the water is gorgeous. I felt like I was in the Greek islands. This trip was exciting for so many reasons especially since I had my mommy right by my side, but also because I had the opportunity to swim in the Persian gulf, Gulf of Oman and the Indian Ocean. Maybe I was a mermaid in a past life because I love the water, but dislike the boats. I always feel blessed for my experiences because that is the way I learn more about the world and myself. This trip was a great combination of traditional ways and modern life. Each day I felt like I was in paradise.
Abu Dhabi: Fish market, Corniche, Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Dhow Cruise, Lou Lou Island, Emirates Palace, Saadiyat Island, Yas Mall, Heritage Village and Ferrari World.
Dubai: Dubai Museum, Dubai Creek, Jumeirah Mosque, Burj Al Arab, Madinat Jumeriah, Spice Souq, Gold Souq, Desert Safari, Burj Khalifa, Al Fahidi, and the Islands.
Oman: Muscat and Musandam