We came back to Muscat a second time on the next segment of our cruise, 4 days after our first visit. We elected to just take a long walk down the corniche which is a beautifully tiled sidewalk that goes along the water’s edge. The water was clear and the breeze was nice and cool (considering it was 90 outside). It was a nice relaxful (6 miles) walk to the end and we got some nice pictures of the mountainous country all around this city. We climbed up into one of the towers surrounding the city and found two old cannons aimed outward to protect the city. We walked to the city gates and came back to the down town area. We stopped on the way back at a restaurant (Fast Food Juice Centre) for one of the fruit drinks we saw everyone getting last time we were here. It was refreshing and great after our walk!
Our next stop was in Dubai which is in the United Arab Emirates. This is country that is made up of several small kingdoms (emirates) that banded together. Dubai as a city (also an emirate) is one of the most modern cities that you can imagine with so many exotic looking buildings and hotels. The tallest building in the world is there, the Burj Khalifa, where you can go to the 148th floor observation deck to get an outstanding view of the city. It has a set of fountains outside the building that is much more impressive than what you see at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. Since we had visited this building and city on our last trip to Dubai, we elected to go out in the desert and see a different side of Dubai. We went on an excursion that took us in 4x4’s out into the desert. On our way out of the city we passed the camel market. This market is where you can buy and sell camels. Camels cost between $3,000 and $20,000. They are also housed there in fenced areas. There are supposed to be 1000 camels in this area! They even have a small stadium where they do camel racing although no betting is allowed. There are cash prizes though for the camels who win. Once we got out into the desert we raced around the sand dunes with other 4x4’s seeing how much sand we could throw over our windshield as we made sharp turns and barreled over the sand dune peaks. It was a fun time! We were told that you have to have a special driver’s license to be able to drive out in the desert. Our driver did a great job. We then went to a quiet area where we watched the sun set over the desert. Very beautiful! After sunset we headed to a Bedouin camp to have dinner and ride a camel. The camel ride was short but it is always fun to get on a camel and hold on when it either rises up or sits back down! We have ridden on both a camel and an elephant during this cruise – what will be next? The “Bedouin” meal was very good allowing us to try some good Middle Eastern delicacies. During the meal we were treated to a belly dancer who gave us a nice performance. After this we wandered around to check out some of the shops and eventually headed back to our 4x4 for the ride back to Dubai. It was nice driving back and seeing Dubai’s skyline lit up in the evening. The Burj Kahlifa has a nice light show 3 times every hour. We didn’t get back on to the ship until 10 PM and then went up to the upper deck to get a nice view of the city as our ship departed.
Our next stop was in Abu Dhabi. We had never been to this city before and found it to be very interesting also. We elected to just do this city on our own instead of getting an excursion. We took a taxi to the Sheikh Zayed Mosque which is the 3rd largest mosque in the world (after the ones in Mecca and Madina in Saudi Arabia). It is a beautiful mosque and was designed with the Taj Mahal in mind. We viewed this mosque from all angles and you really had to be standing a long way away from the mosque to be able to get it all in your picture. We had not dressed appropriately to go into the mosque and had dressed comfortably as we planned to just make this a day of picture taking and exploring. We then took a taxi over to the Intercontinental Hotel to use a starting point to do some walking in this city. Like Dubai this is a city of amazing buildings. Some are symmetrical towers like the 5 buildings that make up the Etihad Towers. Other buildings have huge cut outs in them while others have bridges between the towers. Some are built crooked or twisted while others are built with an intentional lean. If you wanted to be an architect, this would be one of the two cities where you would want to work (Dubai being the other city). Imagine your boss saying build me a huge, uniquely styled building and budget is not object. This would be a dream world for an architect! Across the street from the Etihad Towers is the Royal Palace. It is a large building with a huge dome on top of it that looks like it is made of tiles and/or marble. As we went up to an open gate to take a better picture we were stopped by a guard. Since we were both wearing shorts we knew we were not dressed appropriately. We were surprised to be told that Greg could not go any further but Sharon could. We thought this was really strange considering on restrictive Arab countries are with the dress of women (knees and shoulders covered) but they seem to be even more concerned about men’s dress also (at least at the palace). Near the palace was an oil rig that we assume was to remind the city of where it got its wealth. It gave Greg some old memories when he worked on these oil rigs 40 years ago in the Middle East. As we walked to the Marina Mall we stumbled across a new landmark called the Founders Memorial. We read sign stating that it just opened in 2018 and was amazed that we were the only people there. After we took a few pictures of this very unique memorial, we started to head out when we were stopped. As it turned out we were interviewed because they had just opened up the memorial and we were one of the first (if not the first) tourists to visit the memorial. They took a couple dozen pictures of us and did a brief interview of both of us. Maybe we will be on the next promotional Abu Dhabi video! We gave them our contact information in case they put us in any of their promotional literature. Pretty neat! We eventually made it to the Marina Mall which was a beautiful mall with hundreds of stores and restaurants. We stopped at one of the restaurants for a little lunch and something to drink. We ended up drinking one liter of water each! It is amazing how dehydrated you can get walking around in 105 degree temperature. Even though it is that hot and there isn’t a cloud in the sky the weather doesn’t feel that warm because there is a nice sea breeze that is constantly cooling you off. From the mall you got another good view of the Royal Palace and the President’s House behind it. Also next to the mall is a hotel that looks just like Atlantis Paradise Resort in the Bahamas called the Fairmount Marina Residence. From the mall we walked over to a place called Heritage Village. This was somewhat like a museum where you could see various homes (tents) that the desert people (Bedouins) lived in and the boats they built. It also contained many shops that you could purchase the local clothes, scarfs or other items. Since time was getting to be a factor we took a taxi with the last of our local money to the beach side which is called the Corniche Beach. There weren’t many people out on the beach but there were a few. Some areas of the beach were fenced off and were private or you had to at least pay a fee to use that area of the beach. We walked from there to the heart of the World Trade Center where there was a shuttle to take us back to our ship.
We are now on our third cruise heading towards the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean.
Sharon & Greg