Saturday, March 24, 2012

A Laugh for the Arabia Expat





My World Traveler

Last night, our 13 year old daughter flew to Thailand for 9 days with a group of classmates from her school for Spring Break. This is the first time she has ever flown without her father or I, and the first time she has ever been to another country without us. I confess to being slightly stressed about it yesterday, but one couldn't help but get caught up in her excitement about the trip.

My world traveler before heading to the airport.

Seeing her prepare and pack this week, I realize that my baby girl isn't a baby anymore. She's becoming quite a remarkable self sufficient young lady. Beyond that though, I see how being an expat teen is shaping the adult she will be one day. The experiences and opportunities she has now are far different than anything we would have been able to provide for her if we had stayed in the US.

In the next week my little international traveler will not only be a tourist, but also a humanitarian. As part of her school's International Baccalaureate curriculum, she has to perform community and service work each year. While she's in Thailand, she will be helping construct a water tower and a greenhouse for a village school along with pitching in on some other improvement projects. She'll also assist with teaching and playing with the children at the school.

Some last minute instructions from her guide aka her humanities teacher.


The trip isn't all about work though. She's looking forward to riding an elephant and holding a baby tiger cub, which for my animal lover will be an amazing experience I'm sure. She'll also be doing some kayaking, ziplining, and a host of other fun physical activities.

So, for the next week or so I'll be anxiously awaiting her return. I can't wait to hear the stories and see the pictures from her first of many adventures.




Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Camelicious

As if you couldn't tell by some of my past pictures, camels are pretty popular here. They are a mixture of what cattle and horses are in the US and other Western countries. Here you see them hanging out in the desert as you drive along highways outside of the city, loaded into the back of trucks riding down the road, running around race tracks at amazing speeds, giving rides along the beach, or at the camel market(a sketchy place indeed) waiting to be purchased.
"Make sure you get my good side, lady."


Camel's milk, like cow's milk in Western culture is very popular here. It lines the dairy aisle at the grocery store in flavors like date, banana, chocolate, and strawberry bearing labels like Camelicious. It's also used to make very fine chocolates that oddly enough you can buy in the shape of a camel. Today, I read it is also going to offered as ice cream, in flavors like chocolate, date, saffron, and caramel. Click here for more on that.
Got Milk?

Another not so nice place you see the humpbacked creature, is in the meat department. In a package for sale is one thing, but I have seen the rear portion of a camel hanging from a butcher's hook at Carrefour(like Walmart). It's not a good visual when you're trying to shop for food.

Despite our Western minds seeing camels as mostly a cute and quirky zoo animal, we have been a little adventurous with our palates. For me the extent of it is eating the camel's milk chocolate. I'm not exactly a culinary daredevil....SHOCKER!......NOT!

Even camels like to hang out on the beach.
My son on the other hand, I think he would have no problem surviving out in the wild. He has been open to any and every culinary experience that comes his way. Not sure if it's that he wants to get a taste of other cultures, or if he wants to feel like he's a contestant on Fear Factor completing a food challenge. Either way, if it veers from the Western norm, and it will gross his mom out, he'll try it.
The Al Ain Camel Market

As far as camel products go, he has had the chocolate, the milk, and the meat. That's right, he made me stand at that awful counter with the poor camel's hind parts hanging in the background, as he selected his camel steak. Then guess who had to grill it for him? That's right, your's truly. YUCK! GROSS!

I apologize on his behalf to any camel lovers out there.


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Al Ain


Since today is St. Patrick's Day, I think it's only appropriate to tell you about the greenest place in the UAE. Most people that know anything at all about the emirates know only of Dubai, and in some cases Abu Dhabi, thanks to Carrie Bradshaw. Al Ain is the secret garden of the UAE. It is an oasis town that borders Oman within the emirate of Abu Dhabi that most people out of the UAE have never heard of, yet I believe it's a must see for all that visit.

To our family, it's the place my husband called home all the months our family spanned two continents. To Emiratis, it is the birthplace of the father of their country, the late Sheikh Zayed, and a popular place for vacation or summer homes.

Since moving here, Al Ain has become a road trip we take to visit friends that came to the UAE back in 2009 when my husband was a newbie here. It's also home to some of the best pizza in the UAE, and a must have every time we visit. Throw in lots of grass, hot springs, tons of flowers, breathtaking views, a new water adventure park, a great zoo, and those are just some of the reasons Al Ain is a must see.


Al Ain Paradise has been recognized twice by Guinness as being the World's Largest Garden.







Jebel Hafeet



 The front of this place looks questionable, but around back
where we park and go in looks even sketchier.


The first time we pulled up to this place with the kids, they refused to get out of the car. They thought we were joking about actually eating here.

Inside, our little pizza paradise isn't that bad. Just don't  plan
on having a crowd, it only has about 6 or 7 tables.




Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Grand Mosque



I'm BACK! To my loyal followers that have wondered what in world has happened to me, I'm still here. I have  just been mega busy enjoying quality family time with my in-laws. They are back in the US now, so I'm back to blogging.

My in-laws took tons of pictures while they were here, and I told them I would be sharing them with my readers. So, here's a look at one of the first places I took my guests, and a must see if you ever visit Abu Dhabi.

The Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Grand Mosque is a site to behold regardless of what your religious affiliation may be. Its building was initiated by the late leader and founder of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and it is his final resting place. Sadly, he never saw it completed. Sheikh Zayed died November 2, 2004, and the mosque was opened in 2007. Three of his sons oversaw the completion of the mosque including the UAE's current leader, Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

The beauty around and within the mosque does justice to the great leader for which it is named. Sheikh Zayed is known as the "Father of the UAE", and his wisdom, forethought, and generosity has brought the UAE into modern civilization at lightening speed.

The mosque sits prominently between the Mussafah Bridge and the Maqta Bridge as you drive onto the island of Abu Dhabi, and it can be seen for miles. I pass it almost daily, and I'm still taken by it's beauty each time I drive by. At night it is lit in hues of purple, blue, or bright white depending on the phase the moon, with bright white being when the moon is full.

The mosque is open daily for visitors of all faiths from 9am-10pm except during Friday morning worship services. Guided tours are offered free, and without a reservation.