Thursday, January 9, 2014

Dubai: the Desert and the Oasis

This year we decided to do things a little differently for Christmas.  Specifically, we decided not to go to Texas.  This decision was fueled, in large part, by my growing anxiety of flying long haul flights with small, time zone resistant children.  It was a little sad to celebrate Christmas away from our families back in the US, but it was pretty awesome to hop on a four and a half hour flight and find ourselves in the middle of a desert oasis. 
In just a couple of decades, Dubai has gone from desert nothingness to one of the world's most opulent and efficient cities.  Now pull up a map of the Middle East.  Look at Dubai's neighbors along the Persian Gulf:  Oman, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq... not exactly tourist hot spots at the moment.  

What they have done with the city (that didn't exactly exist 20+ years ago) is amazing.   They world's biggest this, the world's fastest that... it's remarkable. 
The hotel we stayed at was built on a man made island in the shape of a palm frond, aptly known as "The Palm."  Sheikh Mohammed, the Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirate had quite the vision... there wasn't enough of a coastline along the Persian Gulf... so all these islands were created to make more coastal property.  There is another chain that was built in the shape of a map of the world.   
Here's everyone stepping lively on one of the man made islands.  

look left for the chain of islands shaped like the world.  
Paddy and Daddy and the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building.  It also holds the world's fastest elevator.  We climbed over one hundred floors in 60 seconds the elevator.  We never even realized we were moving.  

Visiting our dear friend Karim and his horse was a big highlight for Claudia!
Sweet Karim also took us on a boat ride through the Marina.  Patrick slept through the whole thing and Claudia refused to take off her backpack.   Silly kids!
Saw a lot of these around the Marina.  This one belongs to Sheikh Mohammed's son, but it used to be the property of one Mr. Saddam Hussein.  I physically cringed just looking at something that belonged Saddam Hussein.    
And this.  In addition to ATM machines dispensing dirham, the local currency, they also had gold ATMs for when you just need a bar of gold.  I still can't wrap my head around this one.  
Just one of the many skylines of Dubai.  Again, NONE OF THIS was here 20+ years ago.  Nothing.  Just desert.  


And the desert.  We spent a day in the Rub' Al Khali desert visiting a Bedouin camp, riding camels and touring the Dubai Conservation Reserve. 

I asked one of the Bedouins about children of the camps and what they do for fun.  He said that they often play hide and seek in the desert, following up with "sometimes you find them, sometimes you don't."  We made sure not to let the kids wander off too far.
Not us, but I loved this picture of a sweet family from China that was at the camp with us that day.  
Our main guide was exceptionally great with the kids.  He toted this little monkey around quite a bit.  

Claudia really took to the food at the camp, nearly eating her weight in chickpeas. 

We observed several desert fauna on the Conservation Reserve, but I favored this sweet creature, the Oryx.

Now, here's a few (hundred) desert pictures.  Sorry, it was just such a cool place to explore.  It was disappointing to hear that the Bedouin culture is dwindling as more and more Bedouin families decide to leave the desert camps for a life in the city.  But after seeing both worlds and the stark contrast between desert and city, I can understand why so many families are embracing modern living in Dubai.  












And look how happy Patrick was that Santa and Rudolf came to the Middle East!  Sweet Claudia explained to him that it wasn't the real Santa, but just a helper with a man in a reindeer costume.  So practical, this girl!   ;)

Dubai.  Regardless of how you feel about downright opulence, one thing is certain, the vision it took to build this city is unparalleled.   The infrastructure, the population boom the commercial surge... amazing.  It was a perfect place to spend Christmas and wrap up 2013.
But, as always, I'm glad to be back in Budapest, even if everyday is just more freezing fog!

9 comments:

  1. Your pictures are amazing! Dubai does look like it was a fantastic place to spend Christmas.

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  2. Oh my! I'm so sorry that you weren't able to be with your family for Christmas, but wow!…I can guarantee that where you were was much more amazing than Texas, for sure. :) What great memories you made with your kids. And the pictures are absolutely STUNNING! I LOVE the desert shots and especially the camels. Your life is so adventurous. How fun to be able to see it through your blog. Thanks for sharing!

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  3. I think I'd take a day frolicking in the desert over the maddening frantic christmas runaround we had! Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and Mandeville all on christmas day. It was exhausting. Give me camels and turbans over 3 cities with 1 tired toddler any day. Bravo to you on your wise decision! But we did miss seeing yall. When will yall visit the states again?

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  4. Amazing!! It seems like each subsequent trip you guys take is better than the last! I learn so much for your blog posts, I cannot believe how new the city is! My favorite pictures have to be the camel ones, so cool!

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  5. wow great pictures! LOVE IT!
    x Hannah
    http://theadventurouslifestylelab.blogspot.be/

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  6. Oh my, a GOLD atm?!?! That just blows me away! (although it shouldn't really, given it's Dubai after all!). Love your desert photos especially - it makes me want to go back and give Dubai another go :)

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  7. Beautiful pictures, Meryl. Loving "sometimes we find them, sometimes we don't"...

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  8. what gorgeous pictures! and what great memories your little ones will have. we didn't go back for Christmas this year either. Bittersweet but it was the right decision all the same. (the gold to go ATM is hilarious!)

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