Friday, February 4, 2011
The giraffe cage at the Al Ain Zoo.
One of my goals while in Dubai was to visit the Al Ain zoo. Today, this happened, and so did a lot of other adventures in Al Ain. It all began with a bus trip....
Allie, Nina, Kristin, Steve, Andy and I took taxis to the bus station early in the morning and bought tickets for the Al Ain bus. Two hours later we were in Al Ain.
The city is much quieter, less people around, less traffic, and a less intimidating road system. When we got off at the bus station we were accosted by a million taxi drivers. The level of English is much lower here than in Dubai. We asked to get to the animal souk, the livestock souk, the place with the animals, the camel souk, camel market, but no one understood. Finally we just told them to take us to the zoo because they knew that. At the zoo we asked them some questions and got some maps. They were very helpful. We took taxis to the camel market and wandered around. There were goats, sheep, camels, Arab men, four wheelers pulling carts with various livestock in them, one other group of tourists that we saw, and trucks loading and unloading livestock.
A goat peaking out of his cage at the animal souk in Al Ain.
Allie and I broke off from the group to go look at this one cow. We ran into a baby goat who was so freaking cute. I’m pretty sure the guy put the baby goat out of his cage just so that we could see how adorable he was. Eventually we found everyone else and the camel sections. Camels everywhere. The whole time we were afraid the were going to spit out of the cage and onto us. In the middle of the square there was a truck with 30 guys around it trying to push a camel out of the back of it. I wish I could have been invisible to take some pictures of the people there without being stared at really weird. There were just some great faces.
After the camel market we took a taxi to the Al Ain oasis. The oasis was sweet once we figured out how to get in. There were a bunch of walls separating parts of this really green areas with palms trees, plantain trees, and other plants. There were cement square channels running through all the sectors as an irrigation system. In some of them there was flowing water. We founda palm tree with some dates on it. Kristin got on Andy’s shoulders and tried to shake some down. That didn’t work. Steve climbed up and shook some down. They were actually pretty good. We found another palm tree that was sticking out over the path pretty far. We set up our camera timers and took some hilarious group pictures.
Found the exit and got taxis to the Al Ain airshow. It was out by the airport. Big place, lots of booths set up. Awesome planes around and helicopters that you could see. We saw one show where there were three girls standing on the wings of the plane as it flew around and at one point did a flip in the air. It was crazy. Allie, Steve and I found a race car simulator game that was pretty neat. It was hot outside, which I guess is normal because it's the desert.
The front of the Al Ain Airshow behind the bleachers.
My favorite booth was the one with the paragliding jetpacks. I talked to the guy for a while. Basically the jetpack allows you to steer yourself while you’re paragliding. There were stading single ones and also doubles where you had to pedal to get the paragliding shoot started and then off a cliff and then start the engine. It was awesome.
Two more taxis and then off to the zoo. I was so excited. My whole reason for going to Al Ain was to see the zoo. Mainly becuase back in Rochester I met a guy that lived in the UAE for a while and his one suggestion was, "Oh got to Al Ain zoo if you get a chance. It's pretty cool." And it sure was. The monkies were hilarious. There were a ton of Arabic/muslim families there, a lot of covered faces for the women and white robes on the men. One family was feeding bread and sunflower seeds to the monkies and the monkies were going crazy. Defintely illegal by the zoo rules but no one seemed to care.
Little monkey reading the newspaper....no big deal.
The reptile house was full of different slimy animals but kind of humid and hot inside. My favorite part was the view at the giraffe field. It has a great view with the Jebel Hafeet mountain in the background. My best pictures were there. It was awesome. We went to the birds of prey show. The owls and birds flew really close to the heads of people in the crowd. At one point a bird flew over Steve’s head and I swear it must have grabbed a few of his hairs because it was so close to hitting him. They showed falcons and owls and vultures and random other birds. I got a great picture of the guy playing the game with the falcon and catching it on the string.
The guy at the airshow catching the falcon on a string during their game.
After the birds of prey show and the big cat cages, we needed some food. I asked the really helpful zoo guy for a restaurant suggestion. He told us Al Yahar and drew one of his really detailed very clear maps on how to get there. At Al Yahar we were directed up to the family room to eat. A lady covered the table with plastic. We looked at the menu, ordered some things, asked her what we should order, ordered some of those things, and waited. The food was amazing. The best thing was chicken mandi with salsa, yogurt and mint leaves on it. So good. The date fatath was great. The banana one tasted pretty good too, like mushed bananas with some spice. After dinner everyone felt much more energized.
Getting back to the bus station was quite the quest.Allie swore that her photographic memory remembered where we were and that she could get us to the bus station. I doubted her the whole way but sure enough we turned a corner of a sketchy alley way and there was the bus station. Impressive. We bought our tickets, did a quick bathroom run and got on one of the really nice buses. Then they switched us to a different, smaller, not as nice bus. We all sat towards the back and held on for dear life. Or at least I did. The bus ride was crazy. We whipped around turns, went super fast, and listened to the what sounded like a crowbar hitting Thistle’s seat on every move of the bus. At the end of the day we all made it back to Etisalat safe and sound.
Al Ain was such a great day. One of my favorite adventures so far.
Thursday, February 3, 2011
A man painting a sign at his booth in the Africa pavilion.
Tonight I decided to go to Global Village with Steve, Mike Walsh, Allie, and Kristin. The five of us caught the bus to campus and then took a taxi to Global Village. It’s such a cool place. We hit almost every pavilion. For dinner we went to the Egyptian place that Mike and I ate at last time. I got koshari with meat. It was delicious.
Me Allie and Kristin at dinner.
Koshari with meat. It was great.
I WILL be making this when I get home to America.
During dinner we saw the diving show starting. Everyone ate really quickly, we paid our check, and then we headed over there. Mike and I grabbed the extra bread and the bowl of hummus to eat on the way (waste not want not). The Acapoco Diving show was already in the works. We came at the time where there were a bunch of clowns diving and messing around on the boards. Then they went into a little room below the pool and suddenly emerged as regularly dressed divers. They did flips, stunts, jumping tricks, and one guy even jumped from the highest ledge. After that we headed to some of the other pavilions.
One of the divers jumping off the medium height platform. It was dark so he's a little blurry because he was spinning pretty fast.
Front entrance of one part of the African pavilion. By far the biggest pavilion at Global Village.
In the Africa pavilion I found this awesome soap stone chess set. The board is painted with colors and the pieces are this orangish brown vs. black soap stone hand carved pieces. I asked the lady how much and right off the bat she said 70 AED. Really!?!? Less than 25 bucks for this awesome full sized chess board? I walked around the rest of the pavilion and then just went straight to her booth and bought it. I didn’t even try to bargain. It was so cheap anyways. As she was wrapping up the pieces she apologized that they were dusty. She said it was from the sandstorm. We talked about how crazy that sandstorm was. She said, “Have you ever seen anything like it?!” Turns out she’s originally from Kenya but lives in Italy with her husband. She came to Dubai to try out the Global Village thing but she doesn’t really like it. She said she’s counting down the days until the end of February when she leaves. I told her I was studying here and that I was secretly also counting down the days until I could go home. She laughed. She said she majored in something like economics. She was so nice. We chatted for a little while longer. Then I put the wrapped up pieces in my orange shoulder bag and carried the chess board in my arms.
The chess board that I bought in the African pavillion. (It made it home to America in one piece!!)
I held the chess board all night with both hands. I really really really really didn’t want it to break. At one point I had to go to the bathroom so I entrusted it to Mike Walsh. He didn’t drop it. Success. We went to a bunch of other pavilions. Mike and I constantly commented on the amount of Spongebob parafanalia in EVERY country’s pavilions.
One example of the strange Spongebob invasion of every pavilion.
I saw some drummers called “the workers” from America. We went to the Acapoco diving show again later. This time it was mostly the same stuff except at the end there was the FLAMING TORCH!!!! This guy climbed up the ladder (you could smell the kerosene he was soaked in) lit himself on fire, and then jumped in the pool. When he was on fire you could actually feel the heat. It was impressive.