Thursday, August 31, 2006

Braces and Emiraties

I recall telling a colleague at work that another colleague should be in a tooth paste commercial cause she has the perfect teeth. A few weeks later, she comes to the office with braces on her upper set of teeth.

Shocked, we ask her why she would do such a thing and she hesitantly replied ‘ I didn’t like my front teeth’! She told us her doctor was refusing to put the braces on, till she threatened to do it somewhere else.

Later in the day she told me, she put the braces on to loose weight and because its in FASHION! She told me she was going to put another set, with different colors on her lower set of teeth, but these won’t be medical just for fashion.

Why would anyone invent in fashionable braces! I guess young UAE nationals are going to a new extreme for the sake of fashions.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Plate Number 1

Its amazing how much attention you get when your car’s plate number is Number ‘1’. That’s the first thing I noticed when we got picked up by our tour operator in Yemen. As we were on the road, all kinds of people kept pointing their fingers at the plate number and cars were peeping their horn and people were signaling number one with their hands to us.

The driver told, he has tourist taking pictures of the car all the time. I guess I finally understand why people in Dubai pay millions of Dirhams to buy fancy plate numbers.

Yemen: The Land of Plenty that is full of contrast

Just got back from Yemen and all I can say WOW. What a beautiful country and what great hospitable people. The land is full of contrast, located in the middle blazing summer heat of Arabia yet Sana’a was cool, full of weapons yet peaceful, rich in culture yet economically poor, conservative people yet everyone is addicted to qat, delicious food yet severed in lousy ‘restaurants’ and amazing historical site with barely any tourist.

All we ever get to hear from Yemen in the news is negative, even though we are neighbors, my impression of the country was that it is unsafe, yet when I went there, I felt totally safe even thought many people outside of Sana’a carried machine guns. These weapons are a symbol of ‘manhood’ and everyone we met, no matter how poor they were, and when I say poor I mean no electricity or running water in their houses’, invited us to eat at their house.

Everyday, people get killed in America yet we all consider the country safe, you only need one kidnapping in Yemen and we consider the whole country unsafe and a no go area. How bizarre is that?

For anyone thinking of going to Yemen, I would tell them, its an amazing country and a must go but if you are looking to be pampered, then I would say good luck. The Moevenpick Hotel is the only ‘real’ 5 star facility in Sana’a. All other restaurants are hotels around Mareb, Kokaban, Thala, Al-Hajra , Manjah and Wadi Dhaher are basic but you will be dazzled by the countries beauty.

I am definitely heading back there again soon.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Plan C and D

We have to beat the clock so we decide to check out Moscow and see the Kremlin and the Red Square. For a 3rd time, I buy the Lonely Planet book; and after reading it, we decide it’s a great place to check out and the weather is great. So I book the flights and after some research we decide to stay at the Holiday Inn and all that is left is the visa.

Well that’s when you find out that you are dealing with ex-communist country. No one at the embassy or consulate picks the phone, when they do, it’s someone who hardly speaks English. During my search on the internet I find out that we need a ‘travel voucher’ which basically means that we need someone to sponsor us. I needed to know more about it and no one can me you over the phone even worse the Russian Consulate, visa section is open for 2 hours a day only, its location is in Diera, Dubai where its practically impossible to get to and to find parking is another obstacle.

Time is running out and we need to get the ‘travel voucher’ pronto. My travel agent advises me to take and Emirates Airline holiday and I said ‘sure why not’ only to find out the average cost would be around $1,000 a day! This is way beyond my budget and getting the travel voucher through other means would take us some time.

Plan D, where is somewhere close and different, with nice weather with least amount of hassle. Even thought Yemen has been on the list for sometime, due to the heat I would not consider at this time of the year but then I find out that in Sana’a the maximum temperature is 77 F/25 c and minimum is 60F/16c and no visa required. Done deal tickets are bought and hotel is paid for, over the net.

4 days night seem too long and many people are shocked at our decision to go there, but I have not heard anything but praise about it, if you are looking for a cultural experience and rich history.

So let the good time roll, baby.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Plan A and B

Monday the 21st, is holiday so we decided to make the best out of and travel. We took Saturday and Sunday off work and clubbed it with the Thursday and Friday weekend, which gave us 5 days.

We initially wanted to go to Cambodia and see Angkor Wat, this has been on the agenda for some time but things keep coming up. This time we fixed everything up, until it was time pay and then, by luck, I found out it was monsoon season and it was super humid at this time of the year.

So we had to come with plan B. I had to think of somewhere close and interesting, somewhere we had not been before and Athens, Greece was the kind of place that would be perfect for 5 days. It’s close and rich of history and culture. So I get the holy book of travel ‘The Lonely Planet’ and start reading and I run into a paragraph that says its peak tourist season, and it great if you want to on the islands partying and sun bathing, however, Athens’ temperature is around 40 degrees and its humid. That set off an alarm and my friend, who went where 2 years ago, also confirmed that its not pleasant if you are outdoors in Athens in August.

So we had to come with plan C.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Sink Hole becomes the Stink Hole

One of the most magnificent places in Oman and one of the greatest natural spots of our country, is ‘Habitat Al- Najem” or “ Bait Al-Afreet” or as the English speakers called the Sink Hole, in Dhabab is turning into a Stink Hole, if it not regulated properly.

The municipality in its effort to woe tourist to this amazing wonder has built a park around it, sadly even before the park has started, trash is starting to accumulate. I wonder what will happen to this area when the park is fully open.

I hope, they would be wise enough not to let anyone bring food or drinks into the park or they might just be asking to destroy the delicate habitat.