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Parks and Points – Trip to United Arab Emirates resumes


 
Abu Dhabi, UAE - Daughter Wendy's workweek runs from Sunday through Thursday here in Abu Dhabi, so the weekend officially begins for her on Thursday evenings. Last Thursday, then, we set out to visit the Abu Dhabi Louvre Museum, an art and civilization museum established in 2017 as part of a 30-year agreement between Abu Dhabi and the French government. It is the largest museum in the Arabian Peninsula and is considered to be the only universal museum in the Arabian world. The architectural design is by Jean Nouvel who mixed French design and Arabian heritage. The dome is a geometric structure of 7,850 stars arranged in 8 layers resulting in the phenomenon of light shining through the silver dome which is called the "rain of light".  The Museum features a mix of chronologically arranged artwork from the western and Eastern worlds, as well as masterworks loaned from French museums. Our group's favorite exhibition was Gallery 2 which contained the sarcophagus of Princess Henuttawy, with the coffins and mummy's wrapping dating from Egypt, 950-900 BCE. For more information on the Abu Dhabi Louvre and to receive a newsletter, you may contact louvreabudhabi.ae.

Late Friday morning, we set off to enjoy a fabulous brunch at the Abu Dhabi Jumeirah Resort Hotel where we were offered an all-you-can-eat buffet with representative dishes from all over the world (America, China, Thailand, Japan, Syria, Lebanon, the UAE, and etc.). And then we were off in the car for the 2-hour trip to Dubai.

That evening, we found ourselves in the Global Village - a stop reminiscent of visiting a Disneyland theme park or a world's fair exhibition. Every country was represented and it was so crowded that it was impossible for us to see the entire village. We did some shopping in the UAE Pavilion as well as in the Pavilions of the Americas, Syria, and Turkey (where we indulged in an ice cream treat). Afterwards, we spent a comfortable and relaxing night at the 4-star Downtown Dubai Hotel.

First thing Saturday morning, we set off for the most exciting must-see sight of the entire trip: the Burj Khalifa - the tallest building in the world. We took a somewhat circuitous route on our way to accomplishing that goal. En route by car, we passed by the massive Frame - the world's largest picture frame, designed by Mexican-born architect Fernando Donis. Its construction is a glass, steel and reinforced concrete rectangle that looks exactly like a picture frame - except that this one is 500 feet high and 300 feet wide. Set in a city park, the view from one direction is of hotels and high-rises; looking to the north, the view is of Dubai's older neighborhoods. The 47-story-high top section is glass-enclosed with a glass floor walkway, an Observation Deck and a Cafe. (Notes from Smithsonian magazine: June, 2015.)
We eventually arrived at the DuBai Mall - the largest in the world, by floor space. The Mall contains over 1,200 stores plus an ice rink, an Atrium, an Aquarium, and an underwater zoo. It is also home to the Dubai Dino, giving this shopping area the nickname of "The Jurassic Mall". Quite by accident, I'd found a little write-up on this fossil in the guidebook, Dubai Locals’ Guide, by Antonio Araujo (www.55secrets.com), and happened to show it to our waitress when we stopped for lunch at the Mall's Texas Roadhouse restaurant. She knew exactly where it was— just behind the shoe "wing"—so off we headed to track it down.

We found the Dubai Dino after about a ten-minute walk through the Mall, on a lower level mounted in its own exquisite niche behind the "shoe wing"—the 155-million-year-old amphicoelias brontodiplodocus. The skeleton is 25 feet high and eighty feet long and was discovered in 2008 in the Dana Quarry in the state of Wyoming. The Dino had apparently perished as a young adult at about age 25 and was found with almost all of its 360 bones intact - no comparable specimen exists to date. Fortuitously situated right next to this amazing fossil was a beautiful Amber Jewelry Shop called The House of Amber, featuring many pieces which had insects permanently embedded within.  A staff member graciously presented me with a flyer detailing the mythical qualities of this 30 - 50 million-year-old gem. 

After returning to the upper floor, we walked along the edge of the famous Dubai fountains (which were designed by the same team that created the Bellagio fountains in Last Vegas) on our way to the ticket counter for the Burj Kalifa. We opted for the upscale ticket (about $125.00) which entitled us to skip the lines ascending and descending (which saved us a total wait time of at least an hour and a half). We were offered coffee and cookies just before boarding the UP elevator, and were served juices and sweets when we reached the 148th floor. Our ears popped during the 40-mile-per-hour elevator ride up to the Observation Deck in this massive. building which was begun in 2004 and which opened in 2010. Approximately 31,400 metric tons of steel rebar were used in the construction for this tower (which would reach over 1/4 of the way around the world if laid end-to-end. The building was constructed at a cost of 1.5 billion dollars. Our tickets also included a guided tour to the top where we explored the specular 360-degree views from the world's highest observation deck.   We took an elevator down to Level 125's observation deck, and then walked down to Level 124 where we stepped out onto the outdoor terrace which overlooks the Dubai skyline. And was it worth the price? Thrillingly, yes, as long as you didn't mind the "butterflies." An added perk was that we were able to pick out the Frame in the distance; we'd driven by it just hours before. Adventures keep coming our way here in the UAE. We drove back to Abu Dhabi after our tour of the Burj Khalifa, and the next night we visited the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, known for its white marble exterior, its 80 domes, and beautifully landscaped grounds. Named after the UAE's former ruler, president, and founder - His Highness Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, it boasts over 1,000 columns, 24K gold-plated chandeliers, and the world's largest hand-woven Persian rug. It is also home to the world's largest chandelier. (The rug is said to have been woven in place; actually, the rug was delivered to the Mosque in large sections and was meticulously pieced together in place so that it could be completed to encircle the pillars and to allow space for worshippers to precisely place the backs of their heels along one seam while being able to have exactly enough room to bow at the edge of the next seam.) The main Prayer Hall holds 7,000 worshippers. There is a strict dress code. Indeed, I caught the attention of the fashion police when I tried to hold my abeya (required for women, as is a headscarf) aside so that I wouldn't trip over the long hem. Apparently, I had revealed too much of my leg and had to re-configure the method I employed to avoid stepping on the hem and ruining the garment (or falling and breaking my neck!) Wendy had loaned me an abeya, but one would be provided at the entrance if needed. We removed our shoes before entering the Mosque itself and were amazed by the opulence - the minarets, the chandeliers, the gloriously painted and polished floors and the colorful mosaics which contribute to its appearance as a sultan's palace from The Arabian Nights. It is open to Muslims add well as to non-Muslims, although non-Muslims are forbidden to enter during prayer time. Still to come: a Fish BBQ at the Mangrove Corniche Park, and a visit to the Gold Souk.

Arabic language lesson for the week -Min fadlak = please, shukran = thank you, ma salama = goodbye, Jamele = beautiful

The Newtowne Players at the Three Notch Theatre
"A Streetcar Named Desire", by playwright Tennessee Williams, opens on Saturday, January 26 and runs through Sunday, February 11. The drama is directed by Christopher Joyce, memorable in his onstage performance with NTP last Fall as The Monster in Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein. This play is for mature audiences only; no children's tickets will be sold. Set in New Orleans, the story explores the lonely character of Blanche duBois and her relationships with the sister she visits and the sister's husband - Stanley Kowalski. The movie version started Vivien Leigh as Blanche, Kim Hunter as her sister, and an unforgettable Marlon Brando as Stanley. Karl Malden portrayed Blanche's gentleman friend. For more information, and to purchase tickets, you may contact (301)737-5447, or newtowneplayers.org.

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