A Travellerspoint blog

This blog is published chronologically. Go straight to the most recent post.

PORT ELIZABETH, SOUTH AFRICA

ADDO ELEPHANT PARK

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What a thrill! The Addo Elephant Park is home to about 450 elephants – and most of them seemed to be gathering at their watering hole at about the time we came to see them.

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The park is about an hour’s drive away from the port so we hired a driver/guide to take us through. We stayed in our vehicle and were surrounded at times by these gentle giants.

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Some of the babies were only a few days old but, amazingly, still able to run and keep up with mom.

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Our South African guide, Jeanette Vockerodt – excellent – and she agreed to pose with Lille Hästa!

Posted by Swenigale 05:48

DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA

TALA GAME RESERVE


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Our half-day safari in the Tala Game reserve brought us excitingly close to some of the animals of Africa. We travelled more than an hour away from the port city of Durban and a herd of Kudu were among the first animals we spied upon entering the Reserve.

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These are Gnu, also called Wildebeest.

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No predators are in the Reserve, for obvious reasons, so all the animals peacefully co-exist.

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The group of Rhino had finished a mud bath and were moving on, grazing as they went close to our vehicles.

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Blessbok (“Whiteface” antelope), zebra, ostrich.

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Daytime is sleep time for the Hippo – they are standing on a submerged island. The comical appearance of eyes and ears above water belies the fact that the hippo causes 3 deaths a day in Africa!

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We are keeping a list of animals we have seen in Africa!
By the way, our time is now 8 hours ahead of Eastern time in the US.

Posted by Swenigale 02:11

PICTURES FROM HOME

IN THE GOOD OLD USA!

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In the hustle and bustle of packing and moving and packing again last December, we unfortunately left our travel mascot, Hästa, behind. Yesterday our daughter Liesl sent us this picture captioned, “Home Alone”.

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Our granddaughter Marika in Mör Mör and Opa’s new home – caption this: our house sitter!

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Our grandson Soren, visiting friends with his mom, Ingerlene, in Cincinnati – a 10 hour drive from their home in Missouri.

Posted by Swenigale 03:36

ZANZIBAR, TANZANIA

STONE TOWN


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Ancient Stone Town was once the center of one of the most influential ports on the eastern coast of Africa. It also has an infamous history as the capital of the slave trade in the mid 19th century.

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Inside the Old Fort (built by Omani Arabs around 1700) – the Tinga Tinga paintings sold in this corner are made by 6 artists in one family. The heat and humidity are oppressive this time of year so there aren’t many tourists. We became eagerly sought-after targets!

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The Serenity anchored serenely off shore.

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We sought refuge from the heat and the hawkers at the shoreside Temba Hotel. We decided not to take the transportation option pictured here – these boats come equipped with buckets for bailing!

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This guy is carrying an almond tree. We didn’t buy any almonds, but Zanzibar has long been known as the “isle of spices”, particularly of cloves and cinnamon- we did buy some of those!

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Universal child transport.

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The wooden doors in Stone Town copy a style from India– with intricate carvings and studded with sturdy brass – to keep out the elephants!

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Fishermen still sail their dhow with the type of sail used by their ancestors.

Posted by Swenigale 08:54

MOMBASA, KENYA

THE GATE OF AFRICA


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Mombasa was called “The Gates of Africa” by Winston Churchill back in 1908. He described this ancient port city as “…the outlet of all the countries that lap the Victoria and Albert lakes and the headwaters of the Nile”. The elephant tusk-like ceremonial arch was built for Queen Elizabeth II’s visit in 1952.

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The city lies on a coral island linked by causeways to the mainland. What a mixture of cultures: African, Portuguese, Arab and Indian.

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Some shopping venues are not for the faint of heart.

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…you wouldn’t want to drive here either!

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We walked about on the main street in the morning and then took a bus trip outside of the city in the afternoon. From the bus we caught a glimpse of some school kids outside a “library” (?).

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How about stopping at this roadside café?

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We arrived at Bombolulu and Haller Park. First, a dance demonstration – yes, that’s me demonstrating an African dance with my partner.

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Bombolulu is an entire community for the rehabilitation of the disabled. Part of their support and therapy comes from making and selling their own handicrafts. Website: www.apdkbombolulu.com.

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Children of the disabled live here with their parents.

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The second part of our tour was in Haller Park. We got there at 3pm, just in time to feed the giraffes! Yup, they lick feed out of your hand with those long, fast, salvia-covered tongues!

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Haller Park is a rehabilitated giant limestone quarry. Swiss agronomist Rene Haller planted trees and within 20 years the quarry could produce commercial timber. An entire ecosystem now thrives there and is home to giraffes, giant tortoises, water bucks, eland, oryx, crocodiles, snakes and…..

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….hippos. They don’t forage for food in the daytime, but they came out of the water for piles of feed pellets.

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A Vervet monkey poses watchfully.

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Nursing mama monkeys and babies – they liked having their picture taken as we left Haller Park. Mombasa was our last port before our 7 days at sea as we sail east and north to India.

Posted by Swenigale 23:07

COCHIN, INDIA

QUEEN OF THE ARABIAN SEA


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We have crossed the equator as we sailed from Africa to India, with the last two days on the beautifully calm Arabian Sea and have made land! By the way, the time here is 10 ½ hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time.

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Our first of three ports on the western coast of India is the small town of Cochin in the Indian State of Kerala. We decided a bus tour would be the best introduction to this city of peninsulas and islands.

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Amazing what you can see from a bus window…...

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…or from a walk along the road!

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These dramatic Chinese fishing nets are said to have been introduced here by traders from the Court of Kublai Khan.

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The nets scoop up whatever fish are passing by (no bait is used) – they are easily raised and lowered by the fisherman using weights and leverage.

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Our ship’s escort, “Sir Ed”- so named by our tour guide, Rajan.

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Malayalis people say they grow the best cardamom in the world – so we had to get some to bake Swedish coffee bread this summer! Lille Hästa asked to pose with the sales girls.

Posted by Swenigale 02:28

MARMAGOA, INDIA

GOA

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Goa is one of India’s smallest states, but also one of its richest and best educated. It was a Portuguese colony until 1961, for 450 years! We traveled to Old Goa to tour 3 of their churches which are all UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Within the Basilica of Bom Jesus, and inside the silver casket pictured here are the remains of St. Francis Xavier, who died in 1562.

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Today is the Hindu day of color – pretty tame here in Goa – but in the north of India color is thrown everywhere – just until 12 noon. We first saw this tradition depicted in the movie, “Outsourced”.

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St. Catherine’s Cathedral – the tower contains the “Golden Bell” which rang during the Inquisition to announce the public torture and burning of suspected heretics.

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Water buffalo crossing – taken just outside the Church of St. Cajetan

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For a few minutes it looked as if we would be following this bus onto a ferry! We did not.

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The salt for sale here is harvested from the nearby salty river, in salt pens. Our guide was complaining that now they are required to have iodine in their salt.

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We had refreshments at the residence of a revered Goan family – the 6th generation in their beautiful home. These are their turkeys.

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I may frame this one.

Posted by Swenigale 05:10

MUMBAI (BOMBAY), INDIA

“Middle East Mystique”

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A morning tour of Mumbai (the world’s 2nd largest city by population) was an exciting start to the 4th segment of the World Cruise.

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We peeked into the Taj Mahal Hotel, which is still being reconstructed after the terrorist bombing of a few years ago. It is located along Mumbai’s seaside boulevard across from the Gateway of India arch.

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Beautiful buildings remain from the time of British rule. These Victorian style buildings house the University of Mumbai.

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The government provides schooling for children who beg in the streets with “Doorstop School” buses. We are standing opposite a part of the Victoria Terminus – the train station built during Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee year.

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Inside the Church Street Station – see the “Women’s Car”? We took a train for about 10 minutes to go to the dhobi ghats.

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On the train – check out the spelling.

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The dhobi ghats – each morning, laundry from all over Mumbai is brought here to be soaked, boiled, beaten and thrashed. After being aired, pressed, folded and wrapped the clean bundles are returned from whence they came!.

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Here’s something that is unique to Mumbai. Every day some 4000 members of the Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Association deliver fresh home-cooked food from 100,000 suburban kitchens to offices in the downtown area. Each meal is prepared by a loving wife or mother and packed into a set of stackable aluminum boxes and are transported to their hungry recipients. Tins are rarely, if ever, lost and always find their way home again to be washed up for the next day’s lunch.

Posted by Swenigale 18:23

MUSCAT, OMAN

At the Southeastern edge of the Arabian Peninsula


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We approached Muscat at dawn, eager to visit the Sultanate of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said. One of his seven palaces is here at the shoreline.

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Above the tiny walled city of Muscat are the remains of two late 16th Century Portuguese forts. Oman occupies a strategic location – the northern part is on the Gulf of Oman and the southern part borders the Persian Gulf.

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This was our official entry permit. No free souvenirs- we had to give them back.

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The Zawawi Mosque is Oman’s largest mosque. I am posing here with Paul, our Nigerian guide. Oman is like a “Magic Kingdom” – it is very clean and modern, with a picturesque blend of Arab, Indian, African and European architecture.

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This is the Muttrah Souk (marketplace) – where you can buy just about anything. This man is one of many selling incense, especially frankincense. Oman’s Dhofar region is one of three major frankincense growing areas of southern Arabia and eastern Africa.

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A salesman plopped this hat on Ed, trying to make a sale- it didn’t work.

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A view down to the walled city of Muscat and the Royal Palace.

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The Sultan’s Palace gate. Omani people do not pay taxes and school and healthcare are free. The oil supply which pays for all of this is projected to last another 20 years. Beyond that, perhaps tourism will replace the oil revenues.

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The Sultan’s yacht is moored in the interior harbor (his yacht is the white boat not the small wooden one!).

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We sailed away from the city, past this oddly-shaped symbol of the port, which is in the shape of an incense burner.

Posted by Swenigale 05:15

BANDAR ABBAS, IRAN

Qeshm Island – Part 1


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We received a special greeting as we set foot in Iran. We twenty-one travelers were accompanied on our 12 hour adventure by no fewer than 9 guides, security men and drivers. Our three young Iranian guides were very friendly.

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Qeshm Island has become a major stop on the ecotourism circuit. Its Hara Marine Forests are said to host 1.5 percent of the world’s entire bird population over the course of a year!

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A one hour ferry ride brought us to the island- and a prominent poster reminded us where we were!

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All women are required to dress modestly in Iran, with hair covered (wearing a hijab), and loose-fitting clothing that covers arms and legs. Thankfully, the masks are optional! (We asked these women for their permission to take some pictures.)

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This is Loft village- the hole in the ground is a former cistern- to catch and store the meager annual rainfall..

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Atop most of the houses are these “wind towers”- which catch the winds from over the ocean and provide the houses with air-conditioning.

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We were allowed to go into the home of a local family, quite unplanned, but kindly permitted. Grandpa was enjoying his pipe in one of the rooms.

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All generations live inside the walls which enclose a central courtyard (where we saw their fishing nets, cooking fire, clothesline, cistern, and motorcycle). There were 2 air conditioners- probably welcome additions to the wind tower.

Posted by Swenigale 05:38

BANDAR ABBAS, IRAN - Part 2

Qeshm Island - continued


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In our day-long excursion we took seven different buses and boats! These are the boats we took in the waters of the mangrove forest.

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An unexpected sight, plucked from the water.

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Mangrove leaves were harvested by this man to feed his camels and goats.

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We were wowed by the dramatic canyons and valleys in the Star Valley. Thousands of years ago this was the seabed. Erosion has worked its magic.

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Some of us climbed to the top of the cliffs- wow, what a view!

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The day wasn’t over yet-we went on to see some ancient caves, and had another bus and a night-time ferry ride. We were treated graciously the whole day and we pray that some day the Iranian people will also have the freedom we enjoy.

Posted by Swenigale 05:40

KUWAIT CITY, KUWAIT

Rebuilding a city

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The sun was rising as we sailed in and first glimpsed the skyline of this city that has been rebuilding itself since it was invaded and trashed and looted by Iraq back in 1990. Kuwait City, on the shore of the Persian Gulf, is the political, cultural and economic center of this tiny emirate.

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The 400 foot tall Kuwait Towers – we took the elevator up for a great view of the city. Pretty fancy water tower! Photographs in the lobby show the extensive damage done by “the barbarians” from Iraq.

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The Fish Market was a worthwhile “taste” of the local culture. It’s not just fish there, as you can see.

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Look at those crab legs!

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The Pyramid Mosque – built in the shape of a stepped pyramid.

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These girls are on a field trip to the Scientific Museum.

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In the Sadu House, which displays a collection of Bedouin weaving, Lille Hästa felt right at home on an IKEA Poang!

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Sunset sail away - dreamy.

Posted by Swenigale 03:09

MANAMA, BAHRAIN

Bedouin People who came to stay

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Manama is the capital of Bahrain, with modern buildings, clubs and restaurants. The US Navy has a base here, so there is a lot of Western influence. We took a trip to see old Bahrain, traveling 30 minutes to the city of Arad and the 15th century Arad Fort. Lucky us!-an Arab band was having a dress rehearsal in front of the fort. The man in the horse costume is usually seen during a festival – we were told he throws sweets to children during a Halloween-type celebration.

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In the old city of Muharraq we visited the former residence of the emir’s great-grandfather. Royal family members no longer live in the city since it has become too crowded.

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In the old palace we got a close look at a wind tower. Nice cool breezes come out the bottom.

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In the Souk along the back streets we found the Middle East of old – but our guide, an expatriate from Germany, said she and her friends only shop in the air-conditioned malls.

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There really is snake oil! Apparently it’s really good for your hair, specially if you leave it on all night!

Posted by Swenigale 03:11

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

Building a city

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Our small taste of this wealthiest city in the world started here at the yet to be completed Grand Mosque, the 2nd largest mosque in the world. Sumptuous doesn’t begin to describe this place with all its Italian marble and the semi-precious stone flower inlayed decorations.

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Donning robes and head scarves and taking off your shoes is mandatory.

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This Swarovski crystal chandelier is the largest chandelier in the world….

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….and the Indian carpet is also the largest in the world. More than 40,000 Muslims can worship here.

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Skyscrapers come in all shapes and sizes. Everywhere you look, construction of tall buildings and transportation infrastructure is happening. Abu Dhabi is the capital city of the seven emirates of the UAE and the hypothetical worth of each citizen is 17 million dollars!

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Many stores and attractions are closed during prayers in the afternoon, so we didn’t see much at our stop at “Heritage Village”. They did let the ducks stay out.

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Every business you can think of is here – so why not IKEA?

Posted by Swenigale 02:57

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

Three days to explore Dubai

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We ended the 4th segment and started the 5th segment of the World Cruise here in Dubai. We were docked for 3 days and 2 nights, much longer than we usually have in which to explore a port city. We hit the ground running, using the hop on hop off bus to the max!

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Dubai is now home to the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa (known as “Burj Dubai” until Sheik Khalifa from Abu Dhabi bailed them out recently). The tower was designed by an American architect. This was our first glimpse of it as it caught the sun through the morning haze.

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Sunrise over Dubai.

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We were docked next to the Queen Elizabeth 2 (QE2), which Dubai bought for eventual conversion into a luxury hotel.

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Our official landing card.

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Not your average sign post. It is located in the “World’s largest mall”, the Dubai Mall, which has 1200 stores and a full sized ice skating rink. Dubai is trying to set itself up as the premier vacation destination in the world by having the biggest, tallest, grandest everything!

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The Burj (which means tower) is not yet opened to the public – maybe they’re still washing the windows! It takes 3 months to do them all.

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In case someone doesn’t know who is in charge here, you can’t miss the posters of fearless leader and his prime minister.

Posted by Swenigale 04:05

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