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Sunday, 16 October 2016

Day 16 - Homeward Bound

When we woke up today Anuzya had joined Joe in his cold misery. David rose to the occasion to ensure we all had breakfast. He introduced us to "home food delivery" in Dubai. Mid day Joe enjoyed the condo pool while Monica and David took advantage of the well equipped gym.

Late afternoon was spent packing. Then we strolled through the local Marina and explored the local stores. For dinner we headed to the Westin hotel for the "best pizza" in Dubai.

Finally our trip was almost at an end. We had warm hugs and embraces and then grabbed a taxi to the Dubai airport. Checking in was easy, although the lineups for immigration looked daunting. The options for shopping and eating at the airport were limited. We were happy when at 10:45 pm we boarded our Air Canada plane. This plane was more modern than the one we flew to Barcelona. It was pleasant, but economy in Emirates was a better experience than our Premium Economy in AC. We manage to stay up for the first 5 hours of our 13 hour journey, hoping to minimize jet lag.

We arrived in Toronto at 5am and we were soon home and back to bed.

We look forward to planning our next trip very soon.

Day 15 - Back to Dubai

We all agreed to ask for late check-out today. After another gourmet breakfast we headed to the pool for a half day of lounging. The weather collaborated and we had sunshine and heat :)

At 3pm we convened in the hotel lobby and we were greeted by our driver. I was surprised that we had the same gentleman that had gotten us lost a few days ago. He appeared in a larger, nicer vehicle and this time he got us to Dubai without major hiccups.

David and Anuzya still had more of Dubai to show us so we headed out for dinner in the Palm area. Although it was 8pm there were many families strolling along the avenue and there were lots of activities for children and adults. It had a fair like atmosphere. We ate at a wonderful Moroccan restaurant. The highlight was the Lamb and Prune Stew and Pigeon in Philo pastry.

 We saw this local musician as we strolled the Palm

 Parents were lining up to try their luck to win one of these for their kids.

Unfortunately today was also the day that Joe began to develop a sinus cold. So after dinner we headed home for bed.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Day 14 - The Camels Rule

Our morning started with the complimentary and very grand breakfast buffet.  Any thing you can imagine was on offer, including camel milk. We dined on an outdoor deck and the temperature was still cool enough to enjoy.

After breakfast we headed to the pool. Our oasis was surrounded by sand dunes. We had comfortable lounge chairs and excellent service. The pool was pleasant and we had frequent dips for exercise and to cool off. A lunch of salads and indulgent calamari kept us going.

Late afternoon we left the pool and donned our jeans. We then headed out on another dune trip. This time we were deposited alongside a caravan of camels. These were lovely and peaceful creatures, each equipped with a saddle over its hump. Hand knitted snout "warmers" colourfully adorned each Camel (and kept them from biting). You will see in the pictures that one Camel's snout warmer had Jamaican colours.

After very brief instructions - which basically told us to "hold on for dear life - and lean back" - we each mounted our selected steed. David of course was in front, followed by his dad, then Monica and coming up the middle was Anuzya. The rest of the guests were also in the procession. At the leaders command the Camels stood. Everyone enjoyed the brief moment of terror and instability, but we all remained safe in our saddles.

The caravan ride lasted just under an hour. The whole time no matter what direction we looked - all we saw were sand dunes. The Camels moved at a slow steady pace. When they went up or downhill I understood our instruction to "hold on for dear life". During the ride Monica's Camel occasionally nuzzled me and I reciprocated with a pat on his snout or head. Every once in awhile I  looked back to see Monica and Anuzya, but that felt very unsteady.

When we came to our destination the procession came to a halt. One by one each Camel knelt down so its rider could dismount. David, Monica and Anuzya were very graceful. Joe grunted and was a little loud as he landed. If you are reading this on a computer you can see a video of Monica and Anuzya's dismount.

After the dismount we were greeted by some more friendly staff and offered tea, turkish coffee and dates. We spent half an hour with many people playing in the sand - actually climbing up a dune.

When the rest period was over we were informed that we now had to walk or roll down a "very" steep dune. If you lean back int your heels it is surprisingly easy - although at first quite scary. We all made it. Later we found at least 2 litres of sand in each shoe! We were then driven back to the hotel for showers before dinner.

Dinner was a out on a terrace. As usual it was difficult to find a decent wine at an affordable price, but we managed. Most of us had fish and one had lamb. The setting was romantic and the company divine.

Day 13 - Into the Desert

Tuesday was an early start for David who had to go to a business meeting out of town. We left mid morning and headed to Abu Dhabi, the current capital of the UAE. Our driver was late picking us up, an omen of things to come.

Our first destination was the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. It is a relatively new building created in honour of Sheikh Zayed. It is truly a work of art. Navigating the entrance was somewhat tricky. Monica and Anuzya went inside one of the entrances (there are separate doors for men and women but once through security everyone is on one large room) to find out where they could obtain appropriate robes. We found out we were on the wrong side of the building and it took our driver another 20 minutes to get us to the correct door. Monica and Anuzya disappeared inside while I waited in the very hot sun. I thought I had lost them but about 25 minutes later they appeared dressed in the appropriate hijab. We then waiting for David to arrive and finally entered the Mosque.

As you can see in the pictures it is quite beautiful.

After the Mosque we headed toward the desert resort where we were staying for the next 2 nights. Before we left David had alerted the driver that there may be road construction. He assured us that he knew the route.  Well he certainly didn't!  What should have been a 2.5 hour drive took five hours. AND he almost ran out of gas in the middle of the desert!  Some words were spoken but we did eventually find the resort. As we were driving in the 4-5 kilometre hotel drive we passed two cars (also with guests) stranded on the side of the road. They had obviously not seen the signs that warn drivers to NOT pull over off the road. The sand on the side of the road is very soft and tires sink easily.  We sent rescuers from the hotel when we arrived.

We arrived late so we had to rush to get ready for our special dinner. We checked into our rooms and found we had been upgraded. We each had king beds, huge bathrooms with large tub and a balcony overlooking the desert.

At this resort there is some walking but mostly people are shuttled from place to place on small golf buggies. The drivers always ask if we are enjoying our stay. This place has customer service down pat. Our buggy dropped us off at reception where we were directed to a four wheel drive SUV for a 20 minute adventure drive through the sand dunes. It wasn't exactly dune bashing, but it was fun and gave us great views.

When we arrived at the top of one Dune we were greeted by a maitre d' and his 3 team members who proceeded to cater to our every whim. This was a private dinner right in the middle of the desert. We had a 360 view of sand, sand and more sand. It was gorgeous. It was pointed out that we were approximately 8 kilometres from the Saudi border. We also were on the exact Dune where the last Star Wars movie had been filmed. Wow!

The team had set up couches and coffee tables along with fire torches and a fire pit. We spent the first 15 minutes watching the sunset and taking pictures. We then settled in with a glass of wine and were served lovely appetizers consisting of humous, salad, .....  It was all delicious.

As the night progresses so did the wind. At first it was amusing to feel the sand scraping our faces and plates. But as the wind increased the maitre d' pulled an SUV closer to us to try and block the wind. Finally he wisely suggested we abandon our Dune for the safety and comfort of the resort. We concurred and he piled us into his SUV and dune buggies his way back. Sadly the outdoor alternative dining area was full of people and kids and lacked the romance of the Dune. But at least we had the sunset time.

After dinner we shared some wine on our balcony and had a wonderful night sleep.