Oman, UAE

Things I Learned on the Arabian Peninsula

After a day spent flying from Greece to Jordan, and from Jordan to Dubai, we arrived to a hot and dry night in the desert. We flew down Sheikh Zayed Road in an airport taxi, passing malls, skyscrapers, and mosques on the way. We had heard so many times over that Dubai is just another world city. You only need a few days, we were told, and everything we saw at first assured us we had heard and planned correctly.

Our brand new hotel was only a short walk away from the Mall of the Emirates. And the room? It was by far one of the nicest rooms we’d had on The Trip thus far. A fluffy bed, multitudes of American TV channels, really hot water, and KFC delivery (it was 1 am, everything was closed and we hadn’t eaten dinner). It seemed like we had somehow arrived in New York through a wormhole, as we ate cole slaw on our bed and we watched The Daily Show. Before drifting off to sleep that night, we looked at each other and agreed it was a good thing we were only here for three days.

Tiling on the Sharjah Souq

Three days later, we sat in at our gate at the Dubai airport to catch our flight to Kathmandu. Regardless of how excited we were to get to Nepal to start our trek to Mount Everest, we both were intensely sad to leave the Emirates. Sad to leave a city we had just started to learn. Sad to leave a country with so much left to reveal. Sad to leave a region of the world rife with mysteries and destinations that were just starting to peak our interest. We had learned, over our short stay in the UAE, that Dubai is not what it seems, if you give it a chance to show itself to you.

Give it a chance to teach you something… Like these thinks I learned.

1. Sometimes the mall actually can be more than just a big building filled with pants and McDonalds, with a little creative thinking.

A look at the Arabian sky though the atrium in the Mall of the Emirates

Ski Dubai at the mall of the emirates

Winter in the desert. Inside.

2. The real Arabian Peninsula is only a few kilometers away from the heart of modern Dubai.

A trip out to the dunes and mountains shows a completely different angle on Emirati and Omani lifestyle, as well as a glimpse of  the true natural makeup of the desert.

Sand Dune in the Dubai Emirate

Water and plant life is very scarce when there is only sand

A shop in a village near Hatta covers their window with a sheet to block the intense afternoon desert sun

A shop in a village near Hatta covers their window with a sheet to block the intense afternoon desert sun

The mountains of Oman are dry and imposing, rendering the land difficult to work

The mountains of Oman are dry and imposing, rendering the land difficult to work

 

3. The Empire State Building is not tall. The Burj Kalifa is tall.

The Burj Kalifa

The Burj Kalifa, even photographed from far away, is difficult to frame in one shot due to its ridiculous size.

 

4. Modern Dubai is full of construction and engineering ingenuity.

The Palm Jumeirah, the Dubai skyline, and the interesting design of the Burj Dubai all stand out as modern innovations in city development.

Burj Dubai

The Dubai Skyline, as seen from the outer-most frond of Palm Island.

The Dubai Skyline, as seen from the outer-most frond of Palm Island.

The Dubai Atlantis Hotel lives on the Palm Jumeirah, which didn't exist on earth 20 years ago.

The Dubai Atlantis Hotel lives on the Palm Jumeirah, which didn’t exist on earth 20 years ago.

 

5. On the other side of The Creek, the old souqs of Dubai reveal the culture of the United Arab Emirates, beyond the skyscrapers.

The Dubai Creek

A boat trip across the creek brings you to the old city markets, where vendors sell spices, fabrics, jewelry, and more.

Dubai Spice Souq

Dubai Spice Souq

Dubai Gold Souq

Dubai Gold Souq

Rice on the Dock, being loaded onto boats in The Creek, headed for Iran

Rice, being loaded onto boats in The Creek, headed for Iran

Details in Old Dubai

Mosque in Old Dubai

A Mosque in Old Dubai, more traditional looking than some in the newer part of the city

 

6. Sport is something different in all cultures. In America, we like football and snowboarding. In Dubai, camel racing and dune bashing are popular.

Arriving at Big Red, where locals bring their Land Rovers to ride up and down the massive sand dune.

Arriving at Big Red, where locals bring their Land Rovers to ride up and down the massive sand dune.

ATVing on Big Red

ATVing is also acceptable on Big Red. When you don’t have a Land Rover.

 

sunset at Big Red.

sunset at Big Red.

 

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Have you been to the Arabian Peninsula? Did you find it as mysterious and exciting as I did?

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2 Comments

  • Reply Kongo March 6, 2012 at 6:46 pm

    The Gulf States are some of my favorite places. I love them all, but particularly Oman and the UAE. Dubai is something from another planet. I saw the Three Tenors in Abu Dhabi. Bahrain is wonderful too. Kuwait is a little prissy, actually. I think I understand while the rest of the region doesn’t like them much. Saudi has always felt oppressive to me. Qatar is up and coming. Wonderful pictures you took.

  • Reply Garry Craig Powell March 13, 2012 at 12:22 am

    Great photos and interesting post. I lived in the UAE for eight years. You might be interested in my blog, stoningthedevil.wordpress.com, which is about the people, places and way of life there, all related to my novel-in-stories, Stoning the Devil, which is set in the UAE and coming out in August 2012 (Skylight Press.) Enjoy your travels!

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