Home!

Finally made it by 10.30pm. Everyone there to pick us up. Elinor quite hyper from over-tiredness – handing out all the presents she’d bought.

Good to be home!

Advertisements

Long flights…

We’ve made it as far as Sydney airport. Our flight from Abu Dhabi left an hour late, so I was worried that we’d miss our connection in Sydney – but we made it, only to discover that our flight to Canberra is delayed. First it was 15 minutes, then half an hour, and now they are saying an hour late.

We’re both pretty fed up with planes and airports by now…

Last day

Last day of our trip! We’ll head off to the airport in about an hour. I’m typing this on a lounger beside the pool – Elinor and I have been swimming and she is now having a shower while I mind the bags. The temperature has cooled down to 39 degrees, though after an hour in the pool I don’t feel too bad.

After a relatively leasurely morning we caught a Taxi out to the amazing Grand Mosque. Blazing white – sunglasses definitely needed as you walk around the outside.

Elinor had to be kitted out with an “Abra” – an overgarment and head covering. I was OK as I had long trousers and my shoulders covered.

On the pavements outside is was blindingly bright and scorchingly hot – around 42 degrees, so we headed for the shady peristyle which did a good job of blocking the sun and funelling the wind (and exploiting the surrounding pools)- dropping the temperature from murderous down to just suffocating…

We didn’t dare venture out into the furnace of the central courtyard, but did admire the world’s largest marble mosaic…

We took our shoes off then joined a guided tour, which took us inside. Air conditioning! Hurrah! But also gob-smackingly stunning…

Eventually the time came to leave the air-conditioned hall and venture out – hand back Elinor’s abra, and scuttle over to the taxi rank.

Had lunch at the Mall that included the Gold Souk, and bought Lucy her birthday present, under Jo’s instructions. Then caught the taxi over to the enormous Marina Mall so Elinor could do some shopping.

Then finally back here for a swim and a shower.

Flight leaves here around 10pm and is currently listed as being on time. Home this time tomorrow!

(Several hours later) now boarding our flight – goodbye UAE…

Dubai

I’d booked us a day trip to see Dubai, so we had to have an early start before being picked up between 8 and 8.30. Elinor was not happy with this, but managed.

We were the only two people on the tour, so it was a private minibus tour. There was a quite interesting GPS- triggered narration over headphones, while we drove the pre-assigned route.

First stop, the Palm Jumeira – the huge palm-shaped artificial island full of deluxe accommodation. We stopped off at the fancy Atlantis hotel and got Elinor a coffee.

Then over to see the Burj Al Arab – pictures don’t do justice to how huge and remote it is – like a hovering spaceship from a science-fiction movie.

Then a (doubtless sponsored) stop at a luxury shop, where we bravely resisted spending $25,000 on a Persian rug, a brief wander around the outside of a mosque (brief because it was 40 degrees and humid as hell – thankfully the minibus was air-conditioned).

Then we drove along the creek – watching the Dhows being loaded manually with vast supplies, for transport to small towns around the Persian Gulf…

A brief venture out into the heat to look (from a distance) at the grandiose Sheikh’s palace, then we went over to the Dubai Mall – apparently the world’s largest. First order of business was to find our way through the labyrinthine Mall to the entrance for the Burj Khalifa viewing deck. Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest building and we took the lift up to the viewing deck on the 124th floor (it goes up to 160 floors).

Still pretty hazy…

We both did a VR (virtual reality) excursion to the very top – where you put on a VR headset and appear to climb to the peak and then parachute down. Realistic enough to get me pretty scared and unwilling to look down!

Elinor was very grumpy and hungry by this point so we went down, got Chinese food in a food court, then I left her to look at shops for a bit while I ventured out into the oppressive steamy heat to take some pictures…

Back inside the mall were such wonders as an ice-skating rink, and a huge waterfall.

Ventured out into the heat to get back to the minibus for the 90 minute drive back to Abu Dhabi, with lots of views of skyscrapers (and desert) en route…

We headed straight for the pool once we got back, plus the sauna and jacuzzi. The evening heat isn’t too bad if you are in the shady pool. We’ve just had room service for dinner, and it’s time to pack for the last time – this time tomorrow we’ll be at the airport about to fly home.

The desert

Elinor started the day with a lie-in (jet-lag working against her) while I went for a walk to the neighbouring Etihad towers…

Aready at 7am it was incredibly hot and steamy – the camera lens immediately fogged up as soon as I took the lens cap off, having come from the air-conditioned room.

then after a very nice buffet breakfast we went to the pool and the beach.

The pool was pleasant – we spent time chatting under the bridges. The sea was so hot that it wasn’t very refreshing, but nice views.

The changing rooms had saunas, steam rooms, spas and a plunge pool. Elinor survived two minutes in the steam room but I couldn’t cope for more than 30 seconds – the air seemed to dear my lungs. Sauna was nice!

Back to the room for a rest and room-service pizza and salad for lunch. Then at 4pm we were picked up for our desert safari. We shared our LandCruiser with the drive ( from India), a fat middle-aged Germany couple and a fat middle-aged Italian couple, both of whom seemed to be on honeymoons after second marriages.

We stopped at a petrol station for a long while to rendezvous with the other 11 white land-cruisers of our tour group, then off for some dune-bashing.

Sizzling hot – around 40c at this point.

Lots of plunging down steep dune faces, leaning at steep angles and generally being thrown around! Elinor loved it – I was feeling a bit sick before long.

We stopped at a camel farm for selfies with camels…

then arrived at the desert camp. Seemed to be a few square km area of dines studded with the camps of the various tour companies.

Had a camel ride…

Did sand-boarding…

Watched twilight over the dunes…

Elinor had a Henna tattoo…

Sat around a stage, had an excellent arabic BBQ and watched belly dancing…

We were sitting between tables with groups of black people with London accents – one mother was constantly having a go at her 10 year old son. We had star-gazing and he was explaining all the astronomy to her and she was getting exasperated – I introduced myself and said he was correct – he was beaming but I don’t think she was too happy.

Then the long drive back to Abu Dhabi… Where it had cooled down to 34c…

Arrive in Abu Dhabi

We made it! Uneventful 7 hour flight. For the first time on this trip it’s actually dark – everywhere in Europe the sun rose so early and set so late that it was never really dark.

A bit of bother getting cash out of ATMs at the airport – they had a row of five, but the first three didn’t work. Caught a taxi down vast multi-lane highways, ending up passing some enormous skyscrapers then turning into our hotel next-door.

“Oh my god this is so luxurious” said Elinor a minute ago while running the bath…

There is a huge atrium…

…what looks like a lovely swimming pool…

and a beach with an interesting view…

Had dinner at 10pm in the very nice (but rather expensive) hotel buffet, then had a brief wander outside – but it’s still 35 degrees, humid and hazy – feels like you are in a bath outside.

Flying Home, Part 1

And now we’re at Heathrow airport, waiting for our flight to Abu Dhabi.

Up at 5.15 am, said goodbye to Ouma, then Grandad drove us to Heathrow…

Snafu at check-in, apparently our baggage allowance was less than the travel agent had told me, but with some shuffling of stuff into carry-on bags we’re ok.

Got Elinor some breakfast (I’m still stuffed from the bbq last night) – she got an email back about her classes for next week and is freaking out because they’ve put her in the wrong elective (Fashion – who’d want to study that?)

Anyway, she’s contacting people to get that straightened out, while I converted the last of our pounds into Dirhams.

Plane is here, so hopefully everything else will go fine…