First, thank you for the friendly comments from home. You both know Chad well enough to know pictures won't be a problem. Unfortunately, we don't have a great way to upload them here, and so I won't be able to share many (or maybe any) until I get home. The blog posts are just using stock photos, but they are accurate to what we're seeing!
I missed sharing how we ended our first full day in Dubai. We arrived exhausted back at our hotel from our intense day of walking (20 km according to Chad's phone) to rest up in the hope of going to dinner. As we're sitting here, we hear a boom. Wouldn't you know, but Dubai had fireworks going off and our balcony had a perfect view. It was a really cool surprise. We think they may have been leftovers from New Year's Eve. The fireworks re-energized us and I managed to get us a 10 p.m. dinner reservation at a restaurant called The Observatory, on the 52nd floor of a hotel on the north end of the marina. We took a taxi over and enjoyed a good meal and good views. Made up for not being able to go up in the Burj Khalifa.
Today was our "day of sand" because this morning we strolled along the marina walk and then walked up to the beach to see the gulf. I know it as the Persian Gulf, but maps here call it the Arabian Gulf. I think they're the same, but my world geography isn't so good.
It's a nice beach here, not too crowded but still a good crowd. Easy to rent towels and umbrellas. Soft sand, warm water. Really can't ask for much more from a beach, except maybe caipirinhas, which are a definte no-no here. Swim and surf wasn't really on our agenda for today, so we took a taxi back to our hotel and rested until the car came for our "desert safari" tour.
By car I should say Toyota 4x4, and Chad and I, as the first picked up, piled into the far back seat. It was clear this car was tricked out for its specific purpose - carrying tourists across sand dunes. Carrying is too mild a word for what this vehicle did, but more on that later. The whole inside was cushioned, with roll bars across the top and sides of the vehicle.
Chad and I had made a bet about who our safari mates would be - the group size is six so we knew we'd be joined b four more. I was closer to right, but we'd both expected a family and instead we got four young adults from four different countries - Argentina, Czech Republic, Spain and England. All spoke English but they mostly spoke to each other in Spanish. They were friendly enough, and the Argentinian lives here working for a sky dive company.
So, the tour package began with a 60 minute drive out of Dubai into the desert near Oman. At the designated site, our driver (and several dozen others) deflated his tires to 15 pci and then we headed out across the dunes, zigging, zagging, ramping up and over. It was a lot like a moderate roller coaster (think Zambizee Zinger at WoF) but really fun. There were lots of 4x4's and Hummers out there. He drove us up to a peak for photos and then back down.
After that, we drove a ways back toward Dubai to the location of the "Bedouin dinner" portion of the package. It was a lot like the luau we did in Hawaii, but more confined and less cheerful, and featuring Arab culture rather than island. But, it was fun, and we shared a table with our 4 safari-mates and enjoyed chatting with them. The food was actually pretty ok and the entertainment, at least the final act, was terrific - an Egyptian dance (male) who did this amazing spinning routine. There's a traditional name for it, but I'm too tired now to look it up.
We've arrived again at our hotel and are getting ready to turn in. Tomorrow we go to Abu Dhabi for the day, to see the Grand Mosque and get a taste of another Emirate. Will be another long one, but I think it will be awesome. The sky diver and his girlfriend had been recently and were both awed by it. He had really good things to say about Bahrain too, so I think this trip is going to just keep getting better.