Dubai Extra!

While in Dubai, I was able to do a few random things that don’t fall into a single category, but are worth mentioning and showing!

1. The Emaar tower by night

2. The ocean side at night

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3. A restaurant in the bridge between two buildings, called the Bridge. The food, as I remember, was not to my liking and the food was expensive in my opinion, but the dining experience was quite unique.

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4. Jet skiing!

5. Wildlife

6. Wall Graffiti! I love how the graffiti makes the objects look so real! I could hardly believe it was a painting even as I was walking by it.

7. Chilli Slush (Virgin) Margarita, with a bit of prop fun.

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The Burj

It was around this time two years ago that I was in Dubai! It was as hot there then as it is here now. Even the light breeze was warm like the air blowing out of a street vent shaft.

There are some beautiful sights to see and exciting things to do in Dubai, and we were determined to explore them! This wasn’t our first time in Dubai, and we had already done some of the other touristy things like desert safaris and shopping at the gold bazaar. One thing we hadn’t been able to do previously was climb to the top of the architectural monument of Dubai: the Burj Khalifa.

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According to the story on the official site, the architecture features a triple-lobed footprint, an abstraction of the Hymenocallis (spider lily) flower. The tower’s construction started in 2004 and by 2007 the building had reached the height of being the world’s tallest building at Level 141, then the world’s tallest freestanding structure at Level 150, and finally the world’s tallest man-made structure at Level 160. The building was completed in 2010. (http://burjkhalifa.ae/en/the-tower/design.aspx).
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Being from North America, I have been to the top of many towers: the CN tower in Toronto, the Calgary tower, and the Sears tower in Chicago. For me, being at the top of a tower has somewhat lost its appeal. However, it is always interesting to see how far the development of a city stretches and the patterns in a city’s development from a high vantage point. From the top of the Burj Khalifa at one end I could see the edge of the city limits beyond which lay vast desert plains and at the other the city ended where the water began.

It’s also intriguing to see the design and overlapping of roadways with little cars that look like toys from way up high.

One of the most interesting developments I saw from the top was a building that was in the shape of a boat! It is not the first development in Dubai to be inspired by a water-faring vessel. The Burj al-Arab hotel that sits just off the shore of Dubai boasts the shape of a sail blowing in the wind. It’ll be interesting to see what this boat structure looks like once it is completed, and also what its function might be!

Boat

There were several quotes around the building, two of which I particularly liked. One was an inspirational quote by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum and the other was a poem written by the Burj itself! (well, on behalf of the Burj seeing as an inanimate object cannot speak or write for itself).

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Abu Dhabi: Sheikh Zayed Mosque

While in Dubai the family decided on a day trip to Abu Dhabi to specifically visit the Sheikh Zayed Mosque. What a sight it was! The walls of the mosque are pure white, glinting blindingly in the desert sun.

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The courtyard was spacious and beautifully decorated with flowers vining throughout the white tiles.

The architecture of the domes and pillars inspired awe and humility. The pools around the mosque gave the feeling of calm and peace. The mosque felt like an oasis in the desert.

While in the mosque, we had to don respectful attire that were provided to us by the mosque’s visitor center. The clothing for women was a black tunic with a hood, which made me feel like a wizard at Hogwarts. The attire for the men was a white tunic. Covering the head was strongly encouraged for both men and women.

Flowery designs were etched into the glass windows around the centre of the mosque, and there were elaborate flower designs within the mosque as well as three majestic chandeliers. The flower-shaped clock in the mosque showed the time according to the prayer times to which Muslims adhere. Shurooq is the only one that is not a prayer time; it is the time of sunrise and it marks the end of the Fajr prayer time. The prayer times are based on the position of the sun, which is why knowing the time of sunrise is part of the clock.

The visit to the Sheikh Zayed was a mesmerizing experience. The beauty of the mosque was unparalleled; a beauty truly worth appreciating in person.

Dubai: Jubilee Games 2016

Dubai was the site for the 2016 Jubilee Games for Ismailis from all over the world. The events were held at Dubai’s World Trade Centre. I found it odd that it had the same name as the ill-fated New York’s World Trade Centre. It was a commercial area, an area of Dubai I hadn’t yet visited. The centre was large enough to accommodate all the Ismaili athletes and spectators who had come to watch the games.

It was a week long affair, with extravagant opening and closing ceremonies. Almost 2000 athletes participated in over 100 games across 50 different sports. 800 international volunteers made the core team of volunteers who were supported by more than a thousand volunteers from around the world!

The different sports included ones that are known around the world: soccer, basketball, badminton, tennis, volleyball, table tennis, cricket, and swimming among others. There were some that are not so common around the world, such as throwball and traditional volleyball. My cousin played in the Canadian throwball team and I was fortunate to capture a slam dunk service (a ten second video)!

A very interesting traditional volleyball game was held between two Canadian teams, a segment of which I was able to post on twitter as well! (30 second video)

The event brought Ismailis from all around the world closer with opportunities to interact and share traditions and knowledge from different parts of the world. Through the spirit of sports, the athletes, volunteers, and spectators were able to form bonds of friendship and camaraderie. The countries/regions that participated in this memorably splendid event included: Afghanistan, Canada, USA, Portugal, Pakistan, India, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, France, United Kingdom, Madagascar, Tajikistan, Bangladesh. (This list is not exhaustive as I may have missed a few nations).

It was truly a demonstration of pluralism at its best!

You can watch the closing ceremonies here to experience the great energy and spirit that filled the halls of the World Trade Centre last year in July!

 

Scuba Diving: Mnemba Atoll, Zanzibar

One of the reasons I went to Zanzibar was to try scuba diving for the first time ever!

After some research, I opted for the Discover Scuba session with Scubafish that operates out of the Azanzi resort on Matemwe beach (http://www.scubafishzanzibar.com).

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The course consisted of a two-hour pool session on one day and a day dive the next day.

The pool session took place in the Azanzi resort pool. Our instructor taught us the main basic techniques that we would need for a successful dive. He started with the signs: thumb up for going up, thumb down for descending, and the A-OK sign to indicate everything is okay. We could additionally point at equipment to indicate issues with the equipment.

We also learned basic breathing skills with the mouthpiece, how to equilibrate underwater, and how to swim underwater using the amount of air breathed in and breathed out. It was a pretty awesome two hours that made me very excited for the actual dive day.

The next day we met at Azanzi resort again and took a bus to a beach that was about half an hour away. Unfortunately I don’t have any underwater pictures but I do have pictures of the suit and the beautiful ocean!

It’s Been a Year

It’s been a year since my last post. ~ side thought: the word been suddenly looks very funny to me; is it the capitalization that makes it look wrong? ~

And it’s been a year since my last series of travels, which I failed to fully document. The last post was about my visit to Zanzibar. There were many travels after that, to which I will dedicated individual posts. In this post I will write a timeline of my last year travels and use it as a reference.

May 2016 – Huntsville, Ontario (Canada)

June 2016 – Cairo (Egypt) and Mwanza (Tanzania)

July 2016 – Zanzibar (Tanzania) and Dubai (UAE); and then back to Mwanza (Tanzania)

September 2016 – Johannesburg and Cape Town (South Africa)

Woah, that was a lot. And here I am wondering where all my money went. On the positive side, there are some awesome blog posts still waiting to be written!

Matemwe Village (Zanzibar)

On our last day at Panga Chumvi we squeezed in a quick walking tour of the Matemwe Village that neighbours the hotel.

Our guide was very friendly and very knowledgeable. He was the same person who had given us a tour of Panga Chumvi. He pointed out a few key sites and characteristics of the village life, and we met some local people (and children!) along the way.

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Village children (very talkative when we were further away, extremely shy when we came closer)

The Village Life:

The village life is a simple life that seems to revolve around palm trees. The leaves of the tree are dried and weaved into baskets. The bark is used as firewood. The coconut is used for nutrition and the shells are used to cover heated vessels to retain the heat.

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Our guide displaying a handwoven basket

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Coconut!

The houses are made from bricks and cement with thatched roofs. There are smaller houses for chickens and ducks that have aluminium roofing and wooden walls. It used to be a village tradition that when boys came of age they would a house like the smaller ones of their own and spend the nights there for a prescribed amount of days. Our guide went through that custom when he came of age.

Apparently there’s a popular recycling company that has a branch in Matemwe Village. It’s called Zencor. I didn’t get a chance to meet anyone who could tell me more about the company, but I did get a picture of the branch office.

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Non-profit School:

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The new Tamani Foundation campus

Our guide took us into a building that turned out to be a non-profit private school. The person who started the school walked in right after us. We had a brief discussion with him.

He started the school five years ago after seeing that his business was doing well and he had a desire to give back to the Tanzanian community. This building that we’d entered was a new campus.

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Their non-profit is called Tamani Foundation and they rely on volunteer teachers, both local and visiting foreigners.

The first campus had been attached to their house (which in turn was attached to a resort that they owned on the beach side). We visited the initial campus and the home on the way back, especially because they had started a home composting initiative.

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First campus

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Home compost bin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Public School:

We also passed the area’s public school. Students were dressed in their school uniform and seemed busy studying.

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Public school

Work at the beach:

We took the beach way back to the resort. It was then that I realised that there are A LOT more resorts in the area. We saw a few interesting things on the way back. One was white crabs that were completely camouflaged with the white sand! Another were the cool fishing boats on the water.  And the last were the groups of people (mostly women) in the water who were busy collecting algae and catching sea creatures for delicious meals.