Sunday, May 31, 2015

Oman Adventures: Exploration of Muscat

What an incredible country, what an amazing city.
Oman is very similar to the UAE minus all the glitz and glimmer. The buildings, the architecture, the landscape, all elegantly simple and beautiful. We stayed at the Intercontinental Muscat and I could not recommend it highly enough. The rooms, the service, the pool and beach, and the restaurants were all fantastic.

View from the hotel

Hotel from the sea

We hired a private tour service to escort us around the city and country for two days, since there was four of us, and no one wanted to worry about driving or navigating. Oman Day Tours is the service we used, and they were AMAZING. We did all negotiations and planning by email, and everything that went of perfectly. Our guide was a local Omani, Abudullah for both days, and he was fantastic! He did this as a side job since tourists "tip so good", but he is a government firefighter who works for their search and rescue. It was nice to have him on our side with all of Adam's climbing and jumping antics that he gets into.

First stop was the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. I think I have made it quite clear how captivating I find the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi and this place is just as incredible in a completely different way.

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

After the tour we had about a 90 minute conversation over Arabic coffee and dates with a few men who volunteer at the Mosque to educate visitors and dispel any misconceptions about Islam and Muslims. They were incredible and fascinating, all of them being collegiately educated in the US (one of them CompSci like Adam).

After the Mosque we headed to the Old Muttrah Souk, which really isn't old, as there was a cylcone that took out most of the city in 2007. This was a commercialize rebuild of it, and you could definitely tell it was primarily for the tourists. Most of the things being sold were made in Cambodia and Nepal, and we had already experience those actual markets. We only spent about an hour here, Jay indulged in dishdasha (clothing) and kuma (cap), but otherwise it was unremarkable.

Old Muttrah Souk

Old Muttrah Souk: Traditional Omani Kuma

All of the forts in Muscat are private and used for military functions only, so we did a drive-by to see them, as they are all remnants of the various empires that had come and gone.

Traditional Omani Khanjar

Traditional Omani home common area

Sultan palace

We ended our evening poolside with some fine libations, enjoying each others company and watching the sun bring a wonderful day to a beautiful end.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

UAE Adventures: Uncle Neal & Jay Edition

One of the wonderful thing about living in an exotic locale is that people want to come visit (granted, people still aren't AS excited about the UAE as they were coming to see Hawaii....), and my Uncle Neal and Jay have been planning on coming to visit since THE MOMENT we told them that we told them we were relocating.
They flew into Dubai and recovered for an evening before we joined them, introducing them on their first full day in country, to the tradition of brunch. Opulence and elegance at its finest, we opted for the Waldorf Astoria out on the top-most frond of the infamous "Palm" Island that Dubai built, with a wonderful view of the Burj Al Arab, the sail shaped hotel. Honestly, it is the nicest brunch that we have attended, with a smaller but fantastic array of options, and a small venue that allowed for an intimate occasion.

Me and Uncle Neal

Table of Aweome

Me and Blue Jay

Two of my favorite men

Uncle Neal and Alison

Me and my ginger

The excitement for making their own cotton candy was abundant

Sandwiched in Alison's Peugeot

After walking around the streets of "The Walk" on Jumeirah Beach before decompressing at the hotel for a few hours. With it being their final night in Dubai, we made sure to venture over to the Dubai Mall to walk around the promenade and ensure that they could see the overwhelming size of the Burj Khalifa. Lesson learned: NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER go to any mall in Dubai on a Friday evening. It was more people than I have EVER seen in my life, and we were very quickly DONE. But they got to see the Burj and watch the musical water show of the fountain that mimics the one at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. We gladly retreated back to the hotel as quickly as we came.

Burj Khalifa

Unfortunately, we also tried to go to the Old Souk in Diera to see the Spice Souk and Gold Souk in route to home in Abu Dhabi on Saturday morning....also the WORST DECISION EVER, at least on a weekend. We couldn't even get out of the car. Many people rave about it, and I am sure that it is great, but it is definitely not meant to be visited on a weekend. EVER.
So we left and headed for the calmer scene of Abu Dhabi. We ventured over to Almaz by Momo for a nice Moroccan dinner, and it definitely did not disappoint!

It was restaurant week, so we were spoiled by camel tagine, as well as getting them to try pigeon pastilla, both of which were thoroughly enjoyed. Oh what a wonderful weekend.
Stay tuned, we have some incredible adventures from Oman to share!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Cyprus: Exploration of Wine and Sea

Good Morning Paphos!

One of the best things of renting a car when exploring a new country is being able to go wherever you want, whenever you want. We decided to go get lost in the mountains of central Cyprus, stopping at wineries and quaint little towns along the way. Cyprus is such a beautiful and calming country, I really cannot say enough about it!

Loving this wine country! 

Mountain exploration with a view!


Tsanarides Winery: An absolute must visit if you only have time to check out one winery. We were the only visitors there for a while and had the whole place to ourselves with the owner! It was really interesting listening to him talk about his family's history of wine making and maintaining their plots of vineyards.

Enjoying a beautiful drive through the mountains

Nelion Winery

Exploring the town of Omodos. This is a ridiculously pictureque little town with cobblestone streets that are too narrow for cars, the streets are lined with wine tasting rooms, and little cafes. It is was a little slice of heaven on Earth. Have you ever seen a sky so blue!?!?!?!

In heading back to Paphos, we look the coastal route and enjoyed some other beautiful shades of blue along the way.


Typical Cypriot meal = DELICIOUS

This was definitely one of my most favorite trips since we have moved to the Middle East, though I have absolutely loved everywhere that we have been!