Oman Musandam Khasab Dhow Tour

24 Feb

The day after the Wadi Bih Run our school had scheduled an all day Dhow Tour in Oman. If you recall from the previous blog, I had mentioned that I was on my grace period for my visa. So yes, we were heading back up to Oman the next day to a border crossing that would renew our visas. We woke up bright and early and got on a bus that the school had arranged for us. When we arrived at the border there was a slight problem. The Oman border patrol had told us that we actually only had a 10 day grace period and that some of us were over by a couple days. Everyone went to different places over Christmas break so some us were over the grace period by a little more. In order to let us through, we had to pay 100 dhs per day that we were past our 10 day grace period. I ended up being 4 days over so I paid 410 dhs because there was a 10 dhs fee for something else, not really sure. We called the school to let them know what we had encountered and were told that we would get reimbursed if we just paid the fee. An hour and a half later, everyone was successfully into Oman territory. If you didn’t know, Oman resides north of UAE and is a small peninsula that juts out between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. In between both of these gulfs at the tip of the peninsula lies the Strait of Hormuz. We snaked along the windy road that was wedged between the magnificent Hajar Mountains and the Persian Gulf. The weather was amazing and the scenery was picture perfect. The drive along the west coast was very relaxing and after three hours we finally reached the boat.

[Coastline Drive]

We hopped out of the bus and grabbed a pair of flippers and snorkeling gear. We all boarded the traditional dhow boat then sat down on cushions and pillows that bordered the perimeter of the dhow. On our way to the island for snorkeling, we were greeted by some friendly dolphins that followed in the wake of our boat. There was even a baby dolphin! Our dhow turned around a couple times to stay in the vicinity of the dolphins. Sometimes we would see a group of five or so and they would do 360 degree spins under the water within the wake and even show off by jumping out of the water. As soon as they did we all tried to get the best shot of their tricks. We decided to give the dolphins a rest and continue our journey. We anchored at Telegraph Island and all jumped in the water to go snorkeling.

[Momma and Bay Dolphin]

[Me Jumping in to Snorkel]

Snorkeling was great but I could only handle about a half hour of it. Lunch was served shortly after everyone had enjoyed about an hour of snorkeling. the lunch was the typical hummus with pita bread, chicken in curry sauce, fresh fish, rice and salad. The lunch was delicious and we headed out to another island were we would go snorkeling again. This time I decided to not jump in but instead stay aboard and warm up by sipping on some wonderful  lemongrass tea. I asked the captain how the tea was made and he said that he took regular Lipton tea and wrapped it in lemon grass! SO doing this when I get back to the States.

As people started to board onto the Dhow I found out that some people were stung by small jellyfish. I was glad that I decided to stay in the boat because I would not have been a fan of those jellyfish at all! After about an hour snorkeling at that island (don’t know the name) we headed back. We met up with the dolphins again and then we all passed out shortly thereafter. We also passed by some villages nestled within the shoreline at the base of these mountains. The only way to get to these villages is by boat. As we headed back it was windier and the water became choppy. As we tried to fall asleep under the beating sun we would occasionally get splashed with water onto the boat waking us up.

[Small Village Along Coast]

Approaching our dock, we passed by some small boats with people smuggling goods into Oman. One boat even had what looked like a 1997 white Nissan Altima. You know you’re a dedicated smuggler when you can get a car into a fishing boat. We all pondered how in the world they accomplished this but overall were impressed. We finally docked the boat and were told that we could tip the crew if we wanted. Considering this was all paid for by the school (which technically we paid for as our program fee) we tipped them 5 dhs each. We boarded the bus that was waiting for us and completely passed out for the 3 hour ride back! What a wonderful relaxing day after the Wadi Bih Race the day before!

[Smuggling Car]

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Wadi Bih Relay Race in Oman

20 Feb

Holy 5 Days left of Dubai! I can’t believe it! The time has gone by so fast. Basically my life the past couple weeks have been Senior Design and major projects for my classes. It feels great to finally get a break from all the work and look forward to coming back. However, this is not the time for my good-bye Dubai blog…

First of all I want to say that I lost my camera when I went to Al Ain a few weeks back. This has made it hard for me to get excited about putting up pictures of mine and blog about them. Basically I have to wait for others to post their pictures or give me some of them to post. Al Ain is a whole other blog but I first want to talk about my trip to Oman for the Wadi Bih Relay Race.

The race was a 75 km (about 44 miles) relay race up the Hajar Mountains starting and finishing in Dibba. Since I have come to Dubai I have started to run 2 miles every time I workout. Entering this race would mean that I would be obligated to run up a steep mountain on unstable rocky ground for a minimum of 6 miles total. Since I was only running 2 miles a day I wasn’t comfortable in participating because I was clearly going to be the weakest runner. However, Thistle and everyone else were adamant that I run and weren’t worried that I wasn’t the best runner they just wanted me to join the fun. So I did!

We reserved an SUV from Budget Car Rental and had plans to pick up the car from Airport Terminal 1 about an hour before leaving. Also, since the race was suppose to start at around 7 am or earlier we decided to camp out on the beach next to the Golden Tulip Hotel with the majority of the other runners. We ended up picking up Michelle Vaz’s tent that fit 5-6 people. We also went to Carrefour and picked up some cheap sleeping bags, campfire wood, and food for our camping extravaganza.

It was the night of our departure and Maddie and I went to go pick up the car. We took a taxi to the airport and wondered around trying to find the rental place. Luckily we found it fairly quick and were about an hour ahead of schedule. However, when I went to hand the guy my passport he noticed that I was on my extension period of my visitors’ visa. You see, we were told by RIT that our passport would be valid for 30 days and that we had a 15 day grace period after that. This was all fine and dandy except that we couldn’t rent the car if we were on this grace period. This posed a major issue considering we were all set for leaving within the next hour. Luckily for us, this rental place was at the airport so it was surrounded by other car rental places. Maddie and I rushed between car rental places asking about their policies. If it wasn’t one problem it was the next. For example, if one rental place allowed for us to rent during our grace period they wouldn’t because we had to get Oman insurance on the car 3 days prior or no cars were available.

We finally found a place called Hertz that ended up having paperwork to get Oman insurance and allowed us to rent under our grace period. Only other issue was that I was not 25 so I couldn’t rent SUV’s. Considering this was our only option we ended up picking out a small Toyota Corolla. We paid 212 dhs for one day rental and 100 dhs  for one day Oman insurance. As Maddie and I high fived ourselves for such a great save, the lady behind the counter said “I’m sorry but your card says not authorized”. I just starred at her and thought “Of course that would happen”. She instantly replied  “Just kidding, I just give you small heart attack, just small one.” We all laughed because we all needed a laugh at that moment.

We also needed a GPS but Hertz didn’t have one available to rent. Usually they are rented for 30 dhs but some guy from another rental place offered his GPS for about 20 dhs more. So if you do the math right, that’s right, we paid 50 dhs for the GPS.

Finally, after all that commotion it was time to get from the airport back to Etisalat to pick up the rest of the crew. This was going to be a challenge because typically GPS’s are not very reliable since there are really no addresses used in UAE. Maddie had about five different maps with her and we figured we would test our navigating skills. With GPS destination set for Muhaisnah 2 (an area near Etislat Academy) Maddie took up the whole right side of the car with her ginormous maps to make sure we were heading in the right direction. Turns out we didn’t get lost! So far, so good! We were about an hour behind schedule but that was okay. With the tiny trunk packed to the max, we stopped at the gas station to stock up on water and map out our trip to Dibba/Golden Tulip Hotel in case the GPS failed us.

[Maddie and I Navigating]

The drive was relaxing because it wasn’t like the hectic city driving of Dubai. The roads were clear of cars and directions were rather straight forward (mostly straight roads with multiple roundabouts). As we approached the border I handed him our stack of passports. He glanced over them quickly without saying a word or asking any questions. He then let us through with no problems. We reached the beach at around 11:30 pm and saw tons of teams camped out and hanging around their campfire. Excited that we arrived without any issues we went to drive onto the beach and ended up getting stuck in the sand. All of us piled out of the car to push it out and were worried that if we got stuck in this sand that there was no way we were going to make it up the mountain. We looked around and realized that we were pretty much the only ones with a car, however, one step at a time. The girls set up the tent while Thistle made a small fire. We huddle around the fire trying to load up on some carbs before the race from the bowls of pasta that we brought. We eventually ended up getting to sleep at 1 am and woke up at 5:45 am.

As we packed up everything we couldn’t help but notice the gorgeous mountains surrounding us that were hidden in the darkness the night before.  Although beautiful at a distance, this was the beast that we were mentally preparing ourselves to encounter within the next hour.  We hustled over to get registered and pick up our t-shirts. Some teams had started to run as early as 6 am and some individual runners started at like 4:00 in the morning. As we waited in line to start we saw many teams decked out in funny, creative costumes.  Our team represented RIT Dubai!

[Representing RIT Dubai]

The rules of the race were to have four people run the first and last leg. With all of us lined up at the starting line, we took off at around 7:10 am. Maddie hopped in the car and met us at the end of the leg while Thistle, Nina, Kristin and I ran the first leg. We tried to map out in advance the legs we preferred to do. Personally, I chose the legs that were about 2 km with not much of an elevation change. The scenery was amazing and so serene. At points the silence was broken by the sound of a goat crying out from the top of the mountain. It was just simply amazing!

[Cars Waiting for Their Teammate at the End of the Leg]

The last two legs before the turn around point of the mountain were far too steep for our car to make it up. Other teams had mentioned that they were surprised our car had made it thus far (honestly, so were we). We were offered from another car to drop two of our teammates off at the last two legs while the rest of our team waited for them to finish. We took up their offer considering we didn’t have much of a choice. Thistle and Maddie were the lucky ones to volunteer the hardest part of the race. Overall, I was so proud of my teammates for running and pushing through some of the toughest parts of the mountain. In total I ran the least amount of about 10km, Nina, Kristin and Thistle ran about 12-15 km and Maddie ran the most with about 20 km. This was the most I’ve ever ran in one day so my left hip was in a lot of pain, probably from the steep climbs and unstable footing. I think we more practice, I can get better.

[Me Running!!]

The end was in sight and we all decided to park the car and run the last leg of the race together. This leg ended at the back patio of the hotel greeting us with a huge lunch buffet and an announcement that RIT Dubai was approaching the finish line. The worst part of that leg was running through the soft sand of the beach approaching the finish line. We were dying but glad we finally finished. I think our total time was about 7 and a half hours. We devoured the lunch as we watched the ceremony congratulating teams and individual runners for various things such as best times or best costumes.

[We FINISHED!!]

It was time to head back so we could return the rental car in time. Everyone was exhausted including myself but I had to drive back. We were told to return the car with a full tank of gas. So I dropped everyone off at Etislat and Maddie went with me to return the car. We stopped at the gas station to fill the gas tank and also put it through the car wash. The car was caked in dirt on the exterior and on the interior from the windows being down all day. By the time it had gone through the wash and the inside was polished, there was no way they could tell we just brought that car up a mountain!

We arrived at the airport safely, returning the car without any hassle from the car rental people. Maddie and I caught a taxi back to Etisalat and passed out after a long day. I was tired from such an eventful day but proud that I was able to finish it. I hope to continue being involved in events like this because it was truly an amazing experience.

Aquaventure and Madinat Souks

31 Jan

The malls in Dubai on the weekend close at midnight so we ended up shopping late the night before. We only have less than a month left here in Dubai so we are still trying to fit as much as we can in. That means that the next morning at around 10:30 we all planned to be ready to go to Aquaventure which is the water park for the Atlantis hotel. We decided to take a taxi because it would be faster. It ended up being about 90 dhs and we split it between four people so that is about $6 a person to drive all the way out to the Palm Island. We bought our tickets and a locker. Tickets were 200 dhs and 40 dhs for a locker but we got a little bit of a discount because we once again used the coupons from our entertainer book. We put on our watch bracelets that were used to give us access to the water park and lock/unlock our lockers that we purchased.

[Watches!]

This water park was different than Wild Wadi in the fact that you actually had to take your tube up stairs to hop onto waterslides. For this exact reason, I was more a fan of Wild Wadi, just because I could be lazier there. Plus at Wild Wadi, it just takes you to the top, you just point to a tunnel and the lifeguards push you towards that option. At Aquaventure you had to actually choose the stairs that would take you to the best waterslide and the signs weren’t very clear sometimes. Some of the slides had jets like Wild Wadi to propel you up a little higher and for some they even had belts that would give you a push down a slide. There was one tube slide that near the end you went through a transparent tunnel that went through a tank full of sharks and fish. It was so cool to just float through the tunnel on a tube under a shark.

There was another slide that takes you through the same tank but this slide is without a tube. It is called Leap of Faith and it starts at the very top of the Ziggurat. According to Maddie, this slide is in National Geographic Magazine for kids (she recalls reading it). For this exact reason she tried to persuade me to go down this slide. I was hesitant because this slide was essentially a straight drop. Number one, I’m not a fan of straight drops because of the whole weggie part and second because I feel like I’m going to fly out of it. I really really didn’t want to go down, and especially when I climbed up to the top and got myself all worked up. I started to walk away and everyone pretty much yelled at me to stay. Maddie was the biggest influencer because she pretty much bullied me into going down. She said I would regret it if I didn’t go down, which is true.

[Zigguart-Leap of Faith]

When it was my turn to go, I sat on the slide going running through the 3 things that needed to happen before I took the plunge..1) cross my arms and legs, 2) plug my nose and 3) squeeze my butt really tight! I placed my hands on the bar and went to thrust myself forward and just as I was about to let go, I pulled myself straight back upright. I had to convince myself that I would survive this and off I went! Don’t really remember much of the 3 second ride down because I was praying the whole time. I didn’t even open my eyes to take a glance at the tank but I heard that even if I had you can’t even really see anything.

After we all successfully survived this slide there was a huge wind storm that created a sand storm on the beaches and the sun seemed to disappear. We were freezing and decided to run into a restaurant to grab some food and shelter from the storm. About the time we had finished eating, the storm had cleared up and the sun came back out. We took the rest of the time to get our tan on and take some pictures of the waterpark before leaving to go to the Souk Madinat for the rest of the night.

[Atlantis]

Souk Madinat is located right outside of Wild Wadi Waterpark near the Burj Al Arab. It is more like an upscale souk with 75 different boutique shops and 23 waterfront café, bars and restaurants. It was nice to walk around the shops but we were waiting to get souvenirs until the next day when we planned to go to the souks near the Dubai Creek with Dr. Tom. We figured we could bargain for better prices there anyways. This area was quite pricey because it is near the seven star hotel and is a huge tourist attraction. We tried to find restaurants here that we had coupons for and the only place that had coupons was a bar called Bar Zar. The only problem was it was mostly for smoking shisha and drinking so there was really no food (also you had to be 21). The patio of this bar was neat though because it had lots of black bean bag chairs that everyone was lounging on and smoking shisha along the waterfront. There was also a band planned to play there at a certain time but we couldn’t stay. There were abras that were used to transport people to and from different areas along the waterway of Madinat Jumeriah. The rides are free for people staying at the hotels that are part of Madinat, those who weren’t staying there had to pay 15 dhs to tour the complex. I’m not sure how much it costs to not take a tour.

[Madinat Jumeriah Souks on Waterway]

We decided to go to a nice Italian Restaurant called Toscana and Kristin and I shared a pizza because we weren’t that hungry. Plus we were eyeing-up the Gelato stand right behind our table so we wanted to save some room for dessert. We ended up grabbing the gelato and decided to catch a taxi to the metro to save ourselves some money. We also had an early day the next day as well.

Meydan Horse Race

30 Jan

Thursday night, January 27th, a couple of us decided that we would go see what the horse races are like in Dubai. Now, I’ve never even been to a horse race in the U.S so I really can’t compare. However, one major difference that was obvious ( even though I’ve never been at one) was that there is no betting because gambling is not allowed in Dubai. However, upon entering the Meydan Stadium (free entry), they hand you a competition predication game card called “Pick 7” along with a raffle card to win prizes. The Pick 7 card is suggested to be handed in 15 minutes before the start of the first race. They also handed us a booklet with each race time and small profile of the horses involved in each race. There are usually about 6-7 races a night. One thing I found interesting while entering the stadium was that they had a separate line for men and women, not sure why because we just greeted again after passing through the gate.

Walking into this stadium a couple things caught my eye. The first thing was the five huge projection screens placed in front of the stands.

[Projection Screens]

Below the grandstand was an area with benches spread out and not many people were down there. At first we thought it was reserved seating but we realized that there wasn’t anyone stopping people from walking down. We decided to walk down to get a better look of the stadium and figured worse came to worse they would just tell us we couldn’t go down there. We went down without a problem and took a couple great pictures of the stadium and its gorgeous architecture of course. Apparently there is a five star hotel that is part of this stadium which is pretty cool.

While standing at the bottom level of the stadium on the patio, looking up towards the grandstands we noticed LED lights flashing under the seats. It seemed unnecessary but as it started to get dark out it looked really neat.

We all found a seat in the free section of the grandstand and were about to fill out our Pick 7. One small problem…no one had a pen! We looked everywhere asking people for a pen, no one had one we could borrow. Thistle ended up asking this worker who was sweeping if he knew a place where he could get a pen. The guy just walked away without acknowledging Thistle and ended coming back like 10 mins later with a pen!! Surprised, Thistle started to fill out his card only to find the pen running out of ink half way through. Of course that would happen! The men behind us saw that we were in need of a pen and let us borrow theirs pens 10 mins before the race began.  Most of us ran out of time waiting on the pen, so we just “gambled” between the seven of us. Everyone picked the horse they thought would win first place based on various reasons. My main pick was the horse that had the owner whose name was Mr. Tinkler!

[My Pick- Barney McGrew]

The race began and our eyes were glued to the screen for the couple mins that the race lasted. You couldn’t really tell what horse was in the lead from the camera view so they had a screen showing animated numbers of the horses along with another screen showing actual animated horses running, it was pretty cool.

[Animated Numbers On Screen for Each Horse]

From our previous luck that night (recall the pen running out of ink) don’t you know that out of all seven of us, not one of us picked the top winner. We were all confident that the second race one of us would surely pick a winner. This time a couple of us went to get a closer view and take a picture of the actual horses running, not just the view from the screen. The sound of the horses stampeding past was incredible! Of course, once again, not one of us picked the top winner. First place for the 1st and 2nd race were City Style and Happy Dubai, respectively. Looks like I’m not gambling any time soon at a horse race.

[Race Shot from the Screen]

We only stayed for two races and decided to go to the Dubai Mall afterwards. We were starving and went to eat at a place called Ribs and Rumps! We had coupons from our entertainment book so four of us went to eat with a coupon saying “buy one meal-get one free”. We all ordered plain old hamburgers because they ran out of rib-hamburgers. Although it was still delicious, nothing beats good ‘ol American Red Robin Burgers!! I looked around the mall for some souvenirs but the mall is just so big that sometimes it felt overwhelming to even shop. I ended up not buying anything just enjoyed the mall.

I Ran a 3K in Dubai!!

30 Jan

Before writing my next blog I would just like to say two things. First of all, holy crap Egypt is in a friggin revolution right now which is insane because I was there not even a month ago. There are crazy people doing self-immolation and revolting while the government coordinated to have all access to the internet shut off.  Second, (totally different subject) my blogs are going to try to keep up with the fun activities I am trying to do before leaving Dubai.

Last week (yes last week), January 21st five other students and myself (Thistle, Steve, Maddie, Kristin and Nina) decided to run at the Dubai Marathon Race. There were three categories, the marathon (which I was contemplating on running in), 10K and then the 3K. Although the prize for the first place winner for the Dubai Marathon was $250,000 I decided I would give someone else the chance to win that money. So instead of finishing the Marathon in first place, I decided to join about every mother and small child in Dubai running the 3K (about 2 miles). Okay so I hope by now you realize that I am completely kidding.

The night before the race we were suppose to go to Rotana Hotel in Dubai Media City and pick up our race packages. This was a bummer because it is quite a pricey taxi ride and the next morning we would have to drive out there again.

[Rotana Hotel]

However, we heard that there was a festival going on at the park near there so we decided we could make the most out of our trip. We arrived at this gorgeous hotel and stood in line to grab our packages. Thistle went to the 10K section while the rest of us headed towards the 3K area. Our shirts were very nice, they were the dry material made from Adidas with a Dubai Marathon logo on the upper left part of the shirt. The girls received pink shirts with black strips and the boys received blue shirts with lime green strips.  However, Dr. Tom, the VP of RIT Dubai made us RIT Dubai shirts so we could represent our school..and promote of course!!

The Marathon started at 7 am and the 10K started shortly thereafter at 7:15. Thistle did a great job running finishing in less than 45 mins. Maddie also did great because she ran under an hour even though she wasn’t feeling good. I’m glad she ran it!! At 11am it was my time to run. I was sooo nervous and didn’t think I could do this. The last time I ran was in high school for a mandatory mile run in gym class. I had been practicing running a couple weeks before this race to see if I could actually even fully run two miles. Well I did! It wasn’t the best of time so I will not post that. This was the first race I have ever ran in and I received a nice little medal! Everyone was being very supportive for me and said that I did a great job. It makes me feel really good and makes me want to prepare and train for summer 5Ks! About every other day here at Etisalat I’ve been trying to get in at least 2-3 miles around the track to improve my running.

[Running the 3K]

After the race, we went to visit lots of the booths to receive free drinks and other small stuff like awesome yellow headbands for this vitamin drink called Vitaene. It was funny because since we were all drinking Vitaene and wearing the awesome headbands we were asked by several people if they could take a picture of us. We were essentially promoting for other companies but the good news is that Dr. Tom will be glad to know that his bright orange t-shirts promoting RIT were also in the picture. Which also, the bright orange was a great decision because NO ONE seemed to be wearing orange because everyone was wearing the pink or blue shirts so they stood out very easily!

[Us Promoting Vitaene]

I also saw for the first time in my life Arab men playing bagpipes. I also saw a cardboard picture of a marathon runner so you could place your head in where his was missing. Yes, unfortunately they didn’t have a woman marathon runner so I had to but my face on this mans body.You will notice that the legs are quite hairy. Also, I couldn’t reach the cut out so I was standing on my tippy toes and could barely get my neck to show. Hence why in the picture below, I have no neck!

[Playing the Bagpipes]


[Imma be a Marathon Runner!!]

After the race we toured around JBR which is a more upscale place with lots of restaurants. We stopped in at a Mexican Restaurant called On the Border and it was the perfect ending to a perfect day.

Egypt Day 5

27 Jan

Today was the earliest we had to get up by far out of the whole trip. We were getting ready for a Baharyian Desert for two days and we had no idea what to expect or when the next time we would shower. Therefore, we all wanted to allow enough time for us all to get a chance to shower. Ready to rumble, we met our driver at 6:30 am and headed off to a bus station that was located below an underpass. When we arrived we were motioned to sit on a bench next to other local people waiting for the bus. It was so cold and we had to wait about 45 minutes until our bus showed up. After quickly going to the bathroom in a sketchy alley way behind the bus station, our bus arrived. Our driver decided to wait until the bus arrived because he knew we would have a hard time getting on this bus. Turns out, if tourists heading to this safari were suppose to be on the bus, locals had to either be kicked off or had to stand or sit in the isle for the whole 4 hour ride there. Our driver kicked four people out of their seats for us and then said his good-byes. We had no idea what stop to get off and just assumed we would get off with the couple other people who clearly looked like tourists. Many of whom were Asian and had “surgical” masks on their face.

The bus ride was one of the hottest and stuffiest bus rides I’ve ever taken. I soon started to wish that I had one of those masks on my face. We literally drove out to the middle of nowhere because all we saw for hours was sand upon sand. About half way we stopped at a station to take a bathroom break and stretch our legs out for about 15 minutes. Of course the bathrooms were squat again and no toilet paper. Good thing I had mastered my squatting skills by now and brought along some handy dandy toilet paper!

We finally arrived into a small village and were told that this was our stop. We jumped out and hoped to hear someone tell us what to do. Luckily, this guy called out our hotel name and pointed us into a Land Cruiser to take us to our oasis. It was essentially the bed of a car with a metal top ( I don’t know what you call them). When we arrived, it was not like I havd expected (just like most of my trip in Egypt). The Oasis was very pretty inside and outside, completely made of stone. We were told that we would grab some lunch and then head off to see the Black Desert, Old White Desert, and New White Desert. Lunch was the typical pita with spreadable cheese and jelly but this time were got a plate of cucumbers, tomatoes and a bowl of liquidy tuna fish YUM! I only ate the pita with jelly.

[Entrance to Oasis]

The four of us hopped into a jeep and were paired with a nice Australian mother and daughter. We went to see the Black Desert that was black due to a Volcano erupting thousands of years ago. It was pretty neat. Our driver was very fun for the whole 3 hour dune ride out to the White Desert.

[Black Desert]

By the time we reached the White Desert we weren’t really able to see it because it was getting dark. Our driver swerved in and out of what later we realized were HUGE rock formations (at night we couldn’t really tell). Our driver loved our screams in response to his driving skills and enjoyed the fact that we were dancing to the Arabic music he played for us. My only concern was that he was snapping his fingers to the music while dodging these huge rocks. I managed to try to express my concern by screaming “ROOOOCCCK!!!” he replied in English..” STOOONNEEE!!”  Oh and earlier when I told you about the whole driving with the lights off on the streets in Egypt, well same pertained to driving in the desert.  This only added to the thrill!

[Our Pimped Out Rides]

We finally arrived and we stopped in a random open space…I was like “oh..how nice..this is our camp?” The other four drivers told everyone to pile out of the cars while they arranged the cars to build a 3 wall barrier. They pulled down what looked like carpets and rested them upright against the cars to build these walls. They also put mats on the sand to build a comfy floor and pulled down about 6 coffee tables to create a table set up for dinner.

[Dinner Setup]

We all stood by the fire to keep warm as two of the drivers banged on drums and sang some songs and the other two were cooking dinner! The sky was amazing because it was so clear and I could see every single star in the sky. The moon seemed about 5 times its normal size and happened to be a half moon with the flat side horizontal and parallel to the ground. It was just so cool. By this time we had about every single piece of clothing that we brought with us on. We looked absolutely ridiculous.

It was finally time for dinner and all parts of the meal were hot..THANK GOD! I practically cuddled with my soup bowl and placed the hot plate full of rice and potato and chicken tomato curry on my lap. After dinner the drivers cleaned the dishes and pulled down sleeping bags. We grabbed a nice cup of hot tea while sit around the fire and listen to everyone stories from all over the world. The Australian mother was actually a travel consultant who has ended up in all parts of the world. Hearing her stories really made me realize how ignorant I am of many countries and makes me want to travel more. She said that Sushi bars in Australia are really big except instead of seafood they are stuffed with chicken or other sorts of meat. I have to try this out because last time I tried sushi it was a fail, but I do like chicken!

[My Yummy Dinner]

We were all exhausted and went to lie in our sleeping bags. I cuddled close next to Kristen hoping her body heat would seep through her sleeping bag into mine. It was the first time I had literally fallen asleep under an open sky. If it wasn’t for the unbearable cold of the desert, it would have been very enjoyable.  However, most of the night I woke up wishing for the first time in my life that it would be 5 am so that the sun would rise and heat things up!

Day 4 of Egypt

22 Jan

Today was our last day to Tour Cairo so we had a lot of destinations to go to. Our stops were first to the Muhammed Ali Mosque and Citadel, then to the Coptic Churches of Cairo and lastly the Egyptian Museum. There wasn’t too much to see at the Citadel except inside of the huge mosque.

[Citadel]

We all took our shoes off and yet somehow even with everyone’s shoes off the carpet was extremely dirty. Everything seemed to be falling apart and I overheard a tour guide say that they have been trying to “clean” this site and showed us one part of a structure that had only one shiny surface (pic below). Everything else seemed to be in bad condition and falling apart like the clock in the court area that supposedly has never worked and still needs to be restored. Honestly, the restoration seemed to just be left at the part where there were supports on the outside holding the structure up..not kidding.

[Courtyard: Notice the Clock is to the Right]

[Inside Mosque]

Other than that, I didn’t see much of anything else being cleaned. Walking around I did find some things amusing such as the plaque in front of a tank that said “it played a great role in tank battles”..no..really?!?

[Tank Description]

The Coptic Area was a nice change in scenery. We first walked into a graveyard that was really amazing to look. Some of the structures in this graveyard were amazing along with the Mausoleums bordering the edge of the graveyard.

[Mausoleums at Coptic Area]

The churches were pretty neat inside, but a lot of which I didn’t really understand because we didn’t have a tour guide. There was one wall carving on the side of a church that symbolized Saint George slaying a dragon which was my favorite.

[St. George Wall Carving]

We also went inside what was known as the hanging church because it was suspended over the streets of Egypt and there were a couple places in the floor that had clear glass so you could see the streets. We also went into a section that was a small museum but we couldn’t take our cameras inside. Once again, we kind of just looked around tried to read as much as we could off the cards next to the artifacts to gather as much information as we could.
Finally, it was time for the Egyptian Museum. Upon standing in line to the Museum, I saw out of the corner of my eye a guard go behind a man and pull his shoulders down towards the ground and kick him behind his knees. Failing to get him on the ground, he pushed him into this small guard shack inside the museum. I turned to Mike and asked if he saw that and he said no what? Then all of a sudden the same guard came over to the metal detector screamed at the lady sitting at a table near the detector and slammed his gun on the table. Another guard ran over, unloaded the gun and hid it under a magazine! I was SOOO scared! No one should EVER slam a loaded gun on the table #1 and #2 that guard would have been fired on the spot if he was in the U.S. People were yelling in Arabic and I had no idea what was going on. It was up next to go through the metal detector when the guy that got kicked in the knees came over and stood in front of me and was motioned to go through the detector again facing the guard that had just moments ago kicked him. I felt so uncomfortable that I stood behind Mike. Luckly, we squeeze through and went past one more metal detector before entering the museum.
We decided this time to pay for a tour guide because up to this point we had toured most of Cairo but not really understood much of the history behind what we were looking at. Our tour guy spoke really good English and explained many amazing artifacts within the museum. King Tut’s artifacts were the most amazing and it was too bad that we once again couldn’t take our cameras inside to take pictures. The tombs were so big and completely made of stone and almost everything was done with such detail it was amazing! We only spent an hour or so with our guide but it is said that one could spend hours inside the museum and not even see half of everything. Our tour guide suggested that we stop at a legit papyrus shop (not a fake place that made paintings with banana leaves) and so we did. We of course had to barter for the paintings that we wanted and we ended up thinking that we got a good deal however, later one we learned we could have gone much lower. I bought two paintings and I’m not sure who I am going to give them to but there was a story for every painting and the two I picked out were just perfect! I figured if I went to Egypt I had to get a papyrus painting.
After a long day of touring we were starving once again because we skipped lunch. Our hotel manager said that there was a dinner boat cruise on the Nile if we were interested. He informed us that the price did not include drinks. When we got there we ordered mango smoothies and were entertained by guy and a midget with bright colored skirts that literally spun around about a million times. He came over to charm us with his moves and did some tricks such as pouring a glass of water on a tray while spinning in a circle.

[Spinning Guy]

We were next entertained by a belly dancer who had an absurd outfit with two hands cupping her breasts as her bra/top. She came over to our table to charm us with her moves however, this time we all blushed and felt immediately uncomfortable.

[Bellydancer]

The dinner was a buffet and took what seemed like an eternity because we were starving. In the meantime, we had gulped down our mango smoothies and ordered some sodas. When the bill for our drinks came, it was ridiculously expensive..well not really but more than normal prices which was stupid but whatever. Overall the meal was delicious and the boat was classy. It was time to head back and get ready to wake up early for our two day Bahariyan Desert Tour.