Monday, August 31, 2009

Review of travels

Okay, so I was clearly quite terrible at updating my blog as I was traveling, but here are some bullets on the rest of the places I visited:
  • India (Pics: went to Ahmedabad for my friend Pranav's wedding (one of my former Atlanta co-workers). The wedding was AMAZING. Pranav had taken care of all of our arrangements, so our cars hotels and food were organized all weekend. And food and venues were absolutely incredible. Pranav's bride, Smita had an amazing home, which played host to the events two nights before the wedding and the night of the wedding. Two nights before, there was an awesome Indian pop group performance. It was a professional set and the group played some great music. There were 15 food stations (all Jain vegetarian food). The night before the wedding we had a sangeet on Pranav's farm, complete with magicians, traditional dancers, puppet shows, animals, and family dance performances. That was my birthday night, and it was a super fun night cuz there was a DJ and all of the young people danced the night away. PK had some great friends show up for the wedding and we all hung out and had a fabulous weekend together!
  • In the beg of March, I went to Yemen with Sabeen and Ali. We were visiting our friend Asif there and one of Sabeen's college friends who worked for the State Dept. Yemen was a city I would never go to unless I had someone to visit and I was going with people who knew Arabic. No one speaks English. And there aren't a lot of tourists or sights that you must see. It's a neat place to walk around in, VERY old and undeveloped, unlike any city you will probably ever see. There was a brand new mosque that was beautiful and apparently cost $60M to build, which is pretty crazy given the per capita income of Yemen. The city is wonderfully cheap. And I thought Yemen's food was some of the best in the Middle East. It had great spice and flavor and some uniqueness. I loved the kababs, fresh salsa, fresh pita bread, tea, and a stew. Bottom line on Yemen is that it's cool to visit if you want to be a bit adventurous and get off the beaten path, but I think there are a lot more "must-see" places in the Middle East... Pics here:
  • At the end of March, I went to Vienna to see my sister, who was studying abroad there. I had not been to Vienna, so it was a nice trip. We went to Prague for a night-- another city I'd heard a lot about but never been to. Europe really is a beautiful place and these cities were no exception. Gorgeous buildings and lots of fun walking around, sitting in cafes, and checking out the history. I really liked the Rathaus building and my tour of the Parliament in Vienna. The castle in Prague was also beautiful. I found out I got into Wharton on this trip, so that was some nice news. I also got to see Benedikt, as he'd come in from Munich to hang out for the weekend, so we also had fun together. And of course, it was wonderful seeing the sister. Pics here:
  • In mid-April, I went to the U.S. to check out Wharton. This was my only trip to the U.S. while I was abroad in Dubai. Philly was great. Won't spend much time on that...
  • At the end of May, I went to Beirut with Min and Nathan. Beirut is known as the party city of the Middle East, but I thought it was a lot cooler than that. It had tons of history from the Greek and Roman times that we visited in Baalbec and Byblos. Baalbec is the current center for Hamas, so that was cool to see too. And I thought the most beautiful sight was the Gaeta caves, which are trying to be one of the wonders of the world. The caves were spectacular. And you could walk up really close to all of the neat formations. In the U.S., a place like that would have been glassed up. The bar and party scene was also fun, so our Beirut trip was a huge success! Oh, and the shish tawook was delicious, too! Pics here:
  • My final trip was Istanbul in July with Sabeen. I think this was actually my favorite city of the ones I went to because I love cities that are set in water, and Istanbul is so well integrated with the Bosphorus River. You can take ferries everywhere. And the city is so lively! I had no idea, but there are 70M in Turkey and 13M in Istanbul! There was an area called Taksim that seemed to have about 1,500 shops, restaurants, and bars, and there were people walking around everywhere! I loved it! People were all eating and drinking outside, which was such a welcome relief from the summer weather in Dubai. The Blue Mosque and Hagi Sophia and Topkapi Palace were gorgeous, as expected. We also took a day trip to the Princes Islands and rented bikes, which was super beautiful and fun. And I went to a Turkish bath (hamam) for the very first time, which was quite the experience. Overall, this was a great final Middle East adventure. Pics here:
Anyway, I'm guessing no one actually follows this blog anymore, so I'm updating more for my own memory. If there is anyone still out there, enjoy :)

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Muscat trip

A group of my coworkers and I went to Muscat for two days and had a great time!

Pics here:
  • Muscat was awesome! Very pristine city with beautiful landscaping and flowers (you don't see many of those in Dubai) and very peaceful
  • As you will see, the Grand Mosque is GORGEOUS! I thought it was super cool that the mosque was actually completed in 2001, so it's a fairly new building, but still has such grandeur
  • We decided it would be cool to go boating, so we had taxis take us to an area with boats. A random man in a boat approached us (see pics) and offered to take all 7 of us around for only 5 omani riyals (like $12). The boat ride was amazing-- definitely a highlight of the trip.
  • We were walking around the city and saw a little amusement park and decided to go bumper car-ing. Turned out these were some super-powered Omani bumper cars-- way higher impact than the ones in the States and no seat belts. Was a random but very fun experience
  • Going out in Muscat was almost impossible. We tried to go to the only club in the city, but it was totally empty. Then ended up in a hotel bar that closed at midnight. Finally went to a bar at our own hotel that had a rather amusing girl band performing... twas cute
  • The Chedi hotel is gorgeous
  • Taxis in the city are super annoying. They don't have meters so they can charge whatever they want. They also seem to all know each other so they hold a unified front when you try to bargain with them
Anyway, Muscat was the kind of city I would totally like to live in some day-- very peaceful and beautiful...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


So I know it has been AGES since I've posted on the blog, but I'm back! I think the issue is that Dubai has actually started to feel more like home and less like an exotic getaway spot that I have lots to write about. But I've actually been doing more traveling in the region, so I can write about that! First post: Egypt


Over winter break, my family came to visit me in Dubai and we took a family trip to Egypt (Cairo and Luxor) for 5 days. It was incredible! I really enjoyed the country. My only complaint was that I didn't go to Egypt after 6th grade history, when my knowledge of ancient Egypt was so much more fresh (my goal now is to take my kids there after they study Egypt). There is so much history!!! I remember studying about the high regard Egyptians place on the afterlife, but seeing it in person made it all the more amazing (and slightly excessive, to be honest). I am pasting our private caravan tour itinerary below, so that I can remember all the cool places we went:

Day 01 – Cairo
Arrival in Cairo international airport, Meet & Assist at the airport and after going through Immigration, Baggage Claim and Customs.
H/D guided visit to one of the Seven Wonders of the World the Pyramids of Giza and the Great Sphinx that large statue which is one of the most famous monuments in the whole world.
Transfer to the Grand Pyramids hotel.
Check in & time for refreshment.
Dinner on board of " Nile Memphis " Nile cruise. Sailing in the Nile for 02hrs.including open buffet dinner, belly dance & folkloric show. - Starts at 1930hrs -
Overnight at the selected hotel in Cairo.

Day 02: Cairo/ Aexandria / Cairo
Breakfast at hotel
Drive to Alexandria through the desert road ( Duration of 03hrs. )
Arrive Alexandria.
Visit the Cata Comb.
Visit the Pompey's Pillar.
Photo-Stop by Qaitbay Fort.
Lunch at " Athenios " sea food restaurant overlooking the sea.
Visit Alexandria library.
Drive back to Cairo.
Overnight at hotel in Cairo.

Day 03: Cairo / Luxor
Breakfast at hotel & check out
Half day guided visit to the Egyptian Museum.
Collection of Tut Ankha Amoun at the Egyptian museum
Guided visit to the Citadel of Salah El Din, Mohamed Ali mosque inside.
Transfer to Cairo airport for departure to Luxor at 1700hrs. ( Duration of 01hr. )
Arrive Luxor, meet, assist & transfer to Ibrotel Luxor hotel.
Dinner in a local restaurant in Luxor.
Overnight at Ibrotel hotel in Luxor.

Day 04: Luxor
Breakfast at hotel
Cross the Nile to the west bank.
Visit The West Bank. the Valley of the Queens, the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut at El Deir El Bahari and the Clossi of Memnon facing the Nile.
Clossi of Memnon
Drive back to the Eastern bank in Luxor.
Lunch in a local restaurant in Luxor.
Time free at leisure for going around in the tourist bazaar

Carriage ride to Sound and Light show at Karnak temple
Overnight at Ibrotel hotel in Luxor

Day 05: Luxor / Cairo
Breakfast at hotel & check out
Visit Luxor & Karnak temples.
Karnak Temple
Time free at leisure.
Transfer to Luxor airport for departure at 1700hrs back to Cairo.
Arrive Cairo, meet, assist & transfer to Khan El Khalili bazaar – Hagglers Paradise
Visit the Imam Hussain tomb and mosque
See the Al Azhar Mosque from outside
Self guided visit to Al Azhar Park
Dinner in a local restaurant
Transfer to Grand Pyramids hotel for overnight.

Day 06: Cairo / Home
Early breakfast at hotel & check out.
Transfer to Cairo international airport for the final departure

As you can see, we had a VERY full schedule. We were pretty tired, but still felt like we got to see the highlights of Egypt. And we had an amazing tour guide in Cairo who did an excellent job explaining all the history to us. Seeing the pyramids and all that the Ancient Egyptians left behind literally thousands of years ago really puts life in perspective for you. And it's so awesome that they were able to leave so much behind for us to see. It made me ask what our generation will leave behind in a few thousand years... skyscrapers? global warming? anything?!

Cairo traffic was unbelievable. I thought India was bad, but Cairo might have been worse. You really can't move during rush hour and driving itself is pretty crazy. The city is incredibly dense-- 20 million out Egypt's population of 80 million live in Cairo. I was fascinated by the styles of women in Egypt. Most young adults were wearing western clothes with a headscarf, which seemed more progressive than the full abayas you see in the UAE and other parts of the Middle East. I actually think I appreciated Egypt more having been in Dubai because it really feels like the Middle East! People actually speak in Arabic. And Egypt has real culture and SO much history-- the very opposite of Dubai and the UAE...

Anyway, bottom line is that I really loved Egypt. Pics are here: Enjoy!