It has been so wonderful spending time with my parents!  Rob and I visited them this past September, however we spent so much time on the go visiting all the sites and taking advantage of the time that there wasn’t a whole lot of extra time for relaxing, and with as much moving as my existence entails, I need some down time.

It just so happened that during my stay, the Volvo Ocean Race teams were in port in Abu Dhabi for their 10-day break.  Mom and I wandered through the village constructed especially for the event, checked out some videos on the race and environmental conservation and she even let me talk her into taking a ride in the sailing simulator!

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A few days later, we even managed to score spots on a catamaran to watch the renowned restart from the water.  Of course the weather that day took a small turn for the worse in the beginning, forcing us to coat-up, but the sun came out for the start of the race.  We watched the five remaining teams battle it out with a triangle start, giving us something to cheer for before they became nothing but specks on the horizon.  We even sailed the same course as them for a bit until we could not keep up anymore.  We had a lot of fun, however at one point the waves crashed over the front of the boat so big that the three of us became instantly drenched, including our nearby bags and cameras.  In the end, our cameras turned out fine but one of my lenses (the cheaper one thank goodness) just barely works only in manual focus mode.  Oh well – c’est la vie.

GO AZZAM GO COAST GUARDS SAILS ON THE HORIZON COMPETING BOATS ABU DHABI SAILORS COAST GUARD ABU DHABI SAIL

Since then, my college roommate, Christina showed up at our door so we’ve been checking out the sites – we did the Dubai Big Bus tour and ascended the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa; watched the sunset, rode camels and dune bashed in the desert; had tea and scones at the Emirates Palace Hotel; and did lots of little things in between.  It’s been very nice to share my stretched-out lifestyle with someone who knew me before it became that way!

LOCAL CAMEL SHEPHERD TENDING THE FALCON UP THE KHALIFA BURJ AL ARAB SUNSET CLOTHES DRYING ALONG THE RIVER SEAGULL FEEDING IN DUBAI BOAT CLEANING IN DUBAI BURJ KHALIFA GRAND MOSQUE HOOKAH BELLY DANCING STATUS UPDATE BARREN DESERTRIDING ALONG THE CORNICHE SUNSET AGAINST CONTRUCTION SAD FACE AVIATORS I SHOOT YOU SHOOT CHOPPER SUNSET BACKGROUND CONSTRUCTION SILOUHETTE THROWING

From the airport tonight we’re headed back to England so Rob and I can rush her through the sites of London and Liverpool – The Beatles, Tower of London, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Piccadilly, etc…it’s gonna be a blur!

AND A LITTLE DUNE BASHING GOODNESS FOR YOU:

The following is the blog post my mother and I worked on for my first visit, published on my parents’ blog, King Travels, describing all the adventures she arranged for us my first time:

“So much to do and see, so little time, but we did manage to cram it all in. We started with a 6am bus ride into Dubai to start the day with a cultural tour in the Bastakiya district. A step back in time to the original “old city” – a glimpse of the way things were. The beautiful neighborhood on the bustling Dubai creek, now restored, includes a heritage village, museums, galleries, restaurants and traditional markets. It was a wonderful place to visit, however the heat is enough to keep anyone from exploring for too long. Only about 115 degrees and very humid that day for the kids first walkabout. One hour walking through it was plenty. Following our walk, we enjoyed a traditional breakfast with a lecture, wonderfully informative. Kayleigh chose to be our model for the traditional Muslim clothing demonstration and donned her first abaya. Spent 3 hours taking in the Dubai Mall. It’s so huge and beautiful it has one of the largest indoor aquariums-amazing. We spent our evening at the Burj Khalifa at 6pm to insure a beautiful sunset atop the tallest building in the world-160 floors, and only a “1” minute elevator ride. OMG breathtaking. Spent an hour just taking it all in, grabbed a frozen yogurt and went outside just in time to watch the Vegas Bellagio – style water fountain show put to music at the base of the tower.

After a much-needed night’s sleep we took the Dubai ferry through the canal out into the Arabian Sea, around Palm Island, past the Atlantis Hotel, and near the Burj Al Arab. The boat trip, not only was wonderfully refreshing, but also provided a new and striking view of the well-known sites that are rarey seen at that angle. We then took the above ground train to the Ibn Battuta Mall, a beautifully themed mall (the world’s largest – themed that is) and small museum, named for and designed to celebrate the travels of the famous Arabian explorer from 1325-1369. Known as one of the greatest travelers of all time, he traveled more than 75,000 miles. And that’s before trains, planes, and buses! Each area of the mall is decorated and themed for a different part of the world that he visited along his travels. We stepped through India, China, Persia, Egypt, Tunisia, and Andalusia. Time for a taxi back home to Mark, dinner and more sleep, for tomorrow we dune bash!

What a great time out in the Desert – we rode camels, and horses, bashed a few dunes, tried our skills at dune surfing and Rob was even pulled behind a Land cruiser…this would never happen back in the states. We watched a falcon hunting demonstration and even got to hold the little hunter. We watched the sun set gracefully over the sandy wakes from atop the tallest dune in the area. As it dropped behind the hills, the sand beneath our feet gently lowered to a barefoot-manageable temperature. We enjoyed a lovely dinner in the oasis-style compound set up in the sea of endless sand. In this tiny spot among the never-ending brown, we had shade, water, electricity, and comfort. How people were able to survive for hundreds of years in the desert began to become clearer in our minds as we took in the incredible experience. To finish the night we shared tea, brewed and concocted over an open fire, and star gazed on the sand into the endless black abyss above. There is absolutely nothing like it.

Late to bed early to rise again, this time heading out to the Mangroves for kayaking. Very hot today, and our guide said we missed the dolphins by one day…huge bummer. That was Rob and my first kayak adventure; I think we did quite well. We had a really great guide from Mexico, who went to college in Vancouver BC. He is very familiar with Bellingham, so it was kinda cool to talk about our neck of the woods. He’s a lawyer who followed is wife here for a teaching job, and now calls the Mangroves “his office” – not a bad way to make a living.

 We spent one full day with my friend Karen who drove us everywhere. We started out with a private tour at the Wildlife Center, a rescue sanctuary for sick, neglected and orphaned exotic and endangered species found here in the UAE. They house over 100 large cats, including 40 cheetahs alone; plus deer (definitely were not made for hot weather), crocodiles, tortoises, goats, and baboons. A beautiful place ran by beautiful people. My question is WHY do people think they can own these amazing creatures?

We had lunch and 24K gold coffee at the Emirates Palace Hotel.  It’s almost out-of-place looking in the city filled with tall buildings. Outside, sheikhs and other royalty have their own special private driveway that passes over the grounds (which we drove under, lost for parking). The entrance, flanked by large ground fountains and beautiful flowers is certainly something worth taking in. It’s a shame it’s so hot you practically have to sprint up the stairs to reach the air-conditioned lobby entrance. This place was over-the-top…to the max. Everywhere you looked, something sparkled, reflected, and/or shined. Karen told us as we began looking around that someone told her “if it looks like gold, it is.” We enjoyed a wonderful lunch, which broke the bank a bit, but was so tasty and delicious! Unfortunately we had to pack it in and leave rather quickly in order to catch our tour of the falcon hospital. They showed us around and even let us watch how they replace the birds’ tail feathers on a live one with molted feathers from others; and how they sharpen and grind down their beaks to make eating easier. They call the treatment a manipedi. They even demonstrated how they eat. It’s so fast my camera couldn’t even catch the action. You can actually hear the bones of their meal break beneath the extreme power of their beak. Gross yet impressive!

We had a lazy day the next day to catch our breath, just visiting a couple malls, but the next day we rushed off in the morning to see the Grand Mosque for their first time. At first the guard wouldn’t let us in with our skirts even though they covered our knees. Luckily his friend told him off and directed us where to get our abiyas and headscarves. We barely caught a tour in time, and it ended up being a group’s private tour, but they happily accepted us to join. The mosque cannot be described with words. Although some that come to mind are: phenomenal, extraordinary, and other synonyms of those words. It’s designed to be what heaven is said to look like. Even the carpet is breathtaking. It’s actually the largest carpet in the world, weighing over 25 tons. We spent the rest of the day being pretty lazy, but the kids made fabulous fondue to have with dinner.

We were lucky to have Kayleigh here for her 24 Birthday! Mark had to work all day so the three of us spent the morning at the beach, nearly the only ones there. It was their first dip into the Arabian Sea, and it’s nearly just as hot as the temperature outside. We left early afternoon to get henna tatoos. She got an amazing one of a peacock on her shoulder blade that draped down her arm. It is as beautiful as she is! We ended up at a restaurant and walked the marina before returning home. 

Their last day was spent packing up, meeting Mark for lunch, dipping in the pool, and enjoying a movie or two. Their flight didn’t leave until 2:30 am so we enjoyed dinner together and waited around for a long time before they caught a cab to the airport. They had an amazing time. It went so fast and was packed with so many fantastic experiences and adventures. Kayleigh hopes to return maybe as soon as January! It would be great to see the difference in the seasons at that time of the year. Mark was sad that he only got one weekend to share with the kids!”

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