Friday, 19 February 2010

A Perfect 24 hours in Dubai. (for me anyway).

The January evening temperature in Dubai is just right for a bit of Golf, well, not Golf really but practice a bit of driving. Dubai has really good golfing facilities, world class in fact. We have already been to The Emirates Golf Club on a previous visit, so tonight we went to The Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club. After hitting a few balls, we made our way over to The Boardwalk for a bit of Al Fresco Dining. The Boardwalk is housed at the Creek Golf and Yacht Club and is very popular among Dubai residents - both for its view and for delivering good value for money. The Boardwalk is perched on three wooden platforms on the edge of the Dubai Creek. In the day it has a great view of the busy creek side life. At night the wooden boats passing by were all lit up. For me, the real value of The Boardwalk restaurant lies in the fact that you are sitting under open sky, it is warm and you are enjoying a wonderful panoramic view of the city, even in the dark - and you are not asked to pay ten times the normal price... Now that's very unusual in Dubai!
The next day we drove to the Dubai Museum and found a place to park, then starting at the Museum, which is housed within the beautifully restored Al Fahidi Fort, this was erected around 1787 to defend the city against invasion. We walked to .........
Hindi Lane, this is behind the Great Mosque in Bur Dubai, it is one small narrow alley of tiny shops selling Hindu paraphernalia, such as gaudy pictures of blue baby Krishna's and bright Marigold flowers.
At the end of Hindi Lane, parallel to Dubai Creek is the delightful textile souk, where wholesalers hang pashminas and sari silks on the wooden shutters.I just love it here, especially when you emerge onto the creek. here the area is alive with the bustle of abras (water taxis) criss-crossing the creek and wooden dhows (boats) being loaded with goods.We did not cross the creek, but went back to the textile suq, walking again under the wooden latticed arches, looking at the shops selling everything from saris to sparkling Aladdin slippers.
Next stop was Bastakiya.
Bastakiya is a labyrinthine of lanes, lined with restored merchant’s houses, art galleries, cafés, and boutique hotels all dating back to the 1900s. You can go into some of the buildings, and many have beautiful courtyards and are decorated with decorative grilles, hanging oil lamps, and wooden lattice work.I went upstairs for views of the Bastakiya rooftops. I love the wind towers. This traditional form of air-conditioning, constructed to funnel cool air into the house, was an architectural feature of buildings in southern Iran.
We stopped for a drink at the Basta Art Café, in another splendid courtyard house.
Then we went to find the car and drove up the Sh Zayed Road to the Dubai Mall and the newly opened Burj Khalifa.
Burj Khalifa was formerly known as Burj Dubai prior to its inauguration, this is the tallest man made structure ever built, at 828 m. Construction began on 21 September 2004, The building officially opened on 4 January 2010.
First we looked around the MASSIVE Dubai Mall. As well as shops, The Mall has an Aquarium and Underwater Zoo.A large waterfall, adorned with divers,
A gold Souk,An Olympic size Ice Rink, Cinemas and a chair for a Queen.....
As well as a visit to the top of the tallest building in the world.
We had called prior to our walk and booked the tickets, very soon we were in the lift and on our way up, the lift ride took 60 seconds.
From the top, Dubai looked like toy town, and you could see how big the city is. Once back down, we waited for the sun to go down and the Dubai Fountains to start. If you want to see them, there is some good footage on u-tube.
For us, it was time to dash back to the flat, then out again to meet up with an old Friend at the Rock Bottom pub for steak and a free bottle of wine. A great end to a great week. And a perfect end to a prefect 24 hours in Dubai.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Driving from Bandar Jissah, Oman to Dubai. January 2010

Today we were driving from Bandar Jissah, Oman to Dubai. We drove along the Muttrah Corniche to get some photos of it in the day.
The main road from Muscat to Sohar is on the flat and fertile strip of land between the Mountains and the Gulf of Oman. This area was very populated. Many of the small towns we passed through had a fort (and plenty of roundabouts), most of the forts appear to have been renovated. We went in to Barka Fort, it had been very well restored, but unfortunately we were not allowed to take photos of the interior.
The Door to Barka Fort.

The next stop was Sohar, some books say this is supposed to be the birth place of Simbad the Sailor, and I saw a mosaic picture of a sort of Simbad looking person on the ...............roundabout!
We called in at the Sohar Beach Hotel for lunch. It was also shaped like a fort, a white one. A bit India meets Oman Fort in style I felt?
The gardens and pool at the rear of the building lead out onto the long sandy beach, but the hotel its self was very quiet. There did not seen to be many people staying at it, the dining area was very busy with 'business men' having late lunch.
Once we had finished our club sandwiches, we set off again. The boarder crossing into the UAE was easy, I saw a Mobile Mosque at the boarder, built in a small porta cabin, but couldn't take a photo due to the restrictions on photography at such places.
Once we were through the Hatta Mountains it was a straight drive in the Desert. Then, very soon the worlds tallest building could be seen, Dubai, in all its glitzy glory, looking good at sun set. So, reflecting on a four day break in Muscat, Oman. Well, it has left me wanting to visit again. I feel we only scratched the surface of this beautiful country. It is such a contrast to Dubai. It has genuine heritage, we saw Omani families living family life! Walking on the beach, playing with the kids, stuff like that. I have never seen that in Dubai. Altogether it was more normal that Dubai appears to be, but I don't know why. Anyway next time I visit, I will have done my research, and know where I am going, visiting all the wadis, beaches and hot springs, and hope to get to meet a genuine Oman Turtle face to face!

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Oman, Bandar Jissah. Jan 2010.

When planning my trips abroad, I normally spend many hours researching the country I am about to visit. This means that I usually have a good understanding of the geography of the chosen country, if nothing else! This trip to Oman was so spontaneous, (booked upon arrival to Dubai, two days ago). That I seriously over estimated the distance from Qurm to Bandar Jissah. What I had failed to realise is that they are both 'suburbs' of Muscat.
We left the Crown Plaza Hotel at around 10.00am, it took about 15 minutes drive into the City of Muscat. We drove through the Gates of the old city and the Muscat Gate Museum, into a very clean and orderly city, with the mountains on one side and the sea on the other side. The area around the Sultans Palace looked to have been recently renovated.
This area, the old port area, is the site of the Sultan's palace. At the back of the Palace, Two forts, Jalali and Mirani, which were built by the Portuguese in 1587 and 1588 respectively, dramatically guard the entrance to the port of Muscat and serve as sentinels to the Sultan's palace. Fort Jalali, also known as the East Fort, was built to strengthen the Portuguese defences and sits on the foundations of an earlier construction. Fort Mirani, known as the Western Fort, lies at the end of the west wall overlooking the sea.
The Palace Gates.Because we did not visit any of the many museum in Muscat, it was not long before we had walked around the Old City. Still over estimating the distance we had to travel, we set of to Al Jissah Beach.
Passing the Al-Bustan Roundabout, with its Dhow on it. We passed my favorite roundabout to date! This roundabout was covered in golden Arabic coffee pots, and because it was a water feature, the pots were pouring water. I was getting obsessed by theses decorative roundabouts in Oman! We turned left onto a very new road, this road cut through the mountains. This side of Muscat was so different from the Qurm side. Gone were the long unspoiled sandy beaches, here rugged red mountains plunged into the clear blue sea. Oman is truly a beautiful country, and we had only travelled through a very small part of it.
We drove past The Oman Dive Centre, I would have stayed in one of the Barasti Bungalows on this beach but it was fully booked. The Dive Center is next to The Sangri-La Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa, this was our next destination. This rambling hotel complex is set on a lovely long beach, with the Sea Arch at one end of the Hotel complex.

Even though we had arrived early, the hotel was happy to let us check in. We spent a relaxing afternoon on the beach. Then we set out to explore this area. The next bay along seemed to be undergoing some kind of development. A lot of houses were knocked down and it looked as if a great deal of ground work had been done. I think this is for The Salam Resort & Spa, Yiti. Disappointed with this area, we drove towards Bandar Khayran and Al Seifa. Along this rout we encountered some magnificent scenery, The Khors, or lagoons and sheltered bays fringed in places by mangroves.We even saw a tidal football pitch along this stretch of road. We went to the village of Al Shaikh and snorkeled from this beach. The only down side was the presence of a very intrusive Man, he made very rude and suggestive comments to me! This made swimming, for a 50 + woman (in a full wet Suite) near to the shore rather unpleasant, and I don't think this would be a safe place for unaccompanied women....especially younger ones. This is possibly the reason the large resorts do so well!?

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Qurm Beach. Muscat, Oman, Jan 2010.

The Crown Plaza hotel, Muscat, overlooks the beach of Qurm. There is a promenade adjacent to the beach, with two coffee shops and a restaurant, 'Japengo', on it. It all looked very new, I have read that this area was badly damaged by Cyclone Gonu in 2007. Well there is no evidence of the damage now, and this area is well set up for visitors. It has a number of picnic areas and palm shades. The concierge at the hotel informed me that when the tide is low, one can take a 4km walk towards the Embassies' area in Shati Al Qurum.(? you may need to check the tides!!). The main beach was being well used by local families, I did not see any tourists sunbathing on the main beach, but this is not a problem as it can be done in private on the Crown Plaza Beach. After a hard days sunbathing, we set out to follow the walk described in the Lonely Planet, 'Oman, UAE & Arabian Peninsular'. 'Muscat Walking Tour: A Day In The Life Of The Arabian Sea'. The book recommends starting the walk in the morning, well, due to the sun bathing, we did not set out till after 15.00!
We drove towards the town of Mutrah, and parked close to the Al-Samak Roundabout, This roundabout is close to the fish market.The Mutrah corniche runs along the harbour for about 3KM.
Dominating the skyline of Mutrah is the Al Lawatiya Mosque. It looked striking with its gold-flecked, teal blue minaret and dome. This mosque is used by members of the Lawati community, who migrated from India over 300 years ago. The Lawati also built the attractive 18th century white-washed balconied merchant houses fronting the corniche beside the mosque.
Overlooking the town is the sixteenth century Muttrah Fort. The fort, built by the Portuguese during their occupation. It is closed to visitors, however, it is possible to visit, via a steep 100 step climb, a restored watchtower with panoramic views of the city and harbour. Next we went into the Muttrah Souk, it was busy as a cruise ship had called in at the harbour. The souk was busy, but it did seem to be very 'tourist' centred. Some stalls were selling Omani type artifacts, but there was a lot of Indian stuff for sale. The frankincense stalls were authentic, and the smell was Divine! One very authentic stall was Azi Stores Tobacco. This stall sells tobacco grown in Oman. The leaf tobacco is laid out on a mat at the front of the shop. The ground up tobacco is packed into old water bottles.
Our walk continued , past a children's park to a large ornamental incense burner.
Having enjoyed the evenings stroll, we drove over to Shatti al Qurm, it is in this area that most of the embassies are located. In a shopping mall we ate at a Lebanese Restaurant called Automatic. it was cheep and cheerful, with mezze dominating our menu choice and the usual delicious Hummus going down well.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Manchester to Dubai to Oman. Jan 2010.

In case you don't know, In England, December 2009 was cold. The snow started the week prior to Christmas. I struggled into work, on un-gritted roads, in a rear wheel drive car that turned into a 'Snake' in the snow.
In the NothWest we had a White December, White Christmas, White New Year, and its still white!
I had a weeks holiday commencing 04/01/2010. We did not have plans. As the cold weather continued, we decided to head to the Sun. So, if we couldn't get on a flight to Dubai, we would go to Sharm. Tuesday 5th of Jan was chosen as our day to travel. We woke up to this. Our Village was 'snowed in'.
The roads were chaos! The traffic on both the M6 and M61 was gridlocked. We decided to get the train. We drove very slowly to the Train Station. At Preston station the information boards informed us that all trains were running normally. Then it showed that the trains were delayed, 10 minutes, then 20 minutes, the snow continued to fall. Finally, we got on the next train heading to Manchester. At Manchester Piccadilly we swapped trains, for one heading for the airport.The driver said it would be the last one, as the snow was coming over the tracks.
Arriving at Manchester Airport at 11.30, it was no surprise to find the airport was closed. A lot of flights had been diverted to Birmingham. The status of one flight bound for Montego Bay was 'travel by road'?
At 12.00, EK17 (DXB-MAN) was listed as 'on approach'. At 12.45 EK17 landed, the first flight of the day to arrive. We checked in, and got a seat on the flight to Dubai....Sharm will have to wait until another time.
We had to go to the only gate that was open to board to flight at 14.00.The plane was packed.
Once we were all on board, the wings had to be de-iced. This took a long time as Manchester has only one de-icing machine. At last, at 16.00 we taxied to the runway. Then we stopped. A passenger announcement informed us the 'The pilot will come into the cabin to look at the wings'. He did. He was happy. Then in a blizzard, we took off. EK 18 on its way to Dubai. I don't know if any other airlines got in and out of Manchester, but we did!
From this.......................
To this, in 7 easy hours.......................................
Well almost!
We got to Dubai at about 04.00 am, went to the Cabin Crew flat and slept till around 11.00. Hired a car, got a good deal from National Car Hire. Then drove to Oman.
Dubai to Muscat too just over 4 hours. It was a very nice drive. Once you cross the boarder into Oman, you follow the coast road all the way to Muscat. The road has many roundabouts, all with different features on it. I am told that you can get a Calender with photos of the Oman Roundabouts on it!
By the time we checked into the Crown Plaza on Qurum beach, Muscat, it was dark. We had a fantastic supper at the Crown Plaza, it was a help yourself BBQ, the meat was delicious....we did the sums wrong and halved the Oman Riyal instead of doubling it!!!!! I though those two bottles of wine were cheap?? Ow only live once.
After a good nights sleep, we woke to this... Qurum Beach, Muscat. In the distance,at the very far end of the beach, is the location for the British Embassy of Muscat.....I knew I chose the wrong career, should have been a diplomat?
Waking in the morning, I could see what a good location The Crown Plaza, Muscat is in. It is on Qurum beach, the hotel also has its own beach. Lovely, it was 25 degrees........worth the flight and the drive.

December 2009.Air Emirates Crew Roster.

This was destined to be a dreaded Standby month. And in my opinion what an awful month to not know what you are working! However it seems I am wrong. According to 'Galley Gossip', on Emirates, if you are rostered to work over the festive season and call in sick, you get sacked! (if this is not true please comment). I find this rather harsh, as some people do really get sick over Christmas and New Year.
However, once again it was a case of skiping 'Reserve' and received her December Rota via email on the 29/11/09. So here goes;
03/12/2009 DXB-Dam-DXB.
05/12/2009=DXB-Manchester-06/12/2009=Manchester-DXB (got my Xmas Prezzies!)
10/12/2009=DXB-JFK-11/12/2009 JFK-DXB (Xmas shopping at Macy's).
15/12/2009= DXB-DOH-DXB.
24/12/2009=DXB-LHR Stay in Hethrow till Xmas morning. Just time to;
Go to a west End Show?
Have Afternoon Tea?...Spot the location?
See an artificial snow maker...not needed as LHR getting snowed in?
Oxford Street Xmas Market?
Go last minute shopping? Or stay and watch TV in a nice Hotel?
29/12/2009=DXB-Athens-DXB (turnaround).
31/12/2009=DO.(Can use early AM 01/01/2010).
All in all, not a bad month, roll on 2010x