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Lara’s Travel Diary

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Location: United Arab Emirates

MapThis is gonna be a very long one...sit back and enjoy

I had the most amazing 2 weeks of my life! I'm in love! The world revolved around me for 2 weeks - and as far as I'm concerned, it's about time someone realised that's how it should be!! (so modest I am)
The reunion with mum at Dubai airport was very sweet - tears and laughter and kisses and hugs and people looking on, smiling (you can imagine how I carried on). I knew I missed her, but didn't realise how much til I saw her.
Meeting my family (I have 3 cousins there) was like a dream. I've met Roger before many years ago and he's just as amazing as ever. He's one of the most intriguing people I know, not to mention sweet as pie, extremely intelligent, generous...
His brother Rony is just a sweetheart, he's my angel. He's also a bit (a LOT) crazy (like me!), very funny, gentlemanly, has a very cute accent (I gave him heaps for his pronunciation), kind, real smart...
Shadi is hilarious! He always made me laugh, he's just lovable. A true gentleman, he took great care of me - he's absolutely adorable! (even if he did pick on my accent - for 'eva')
Joyce (family friend) is so beautiful, and gorgeous and all things nice. We got along so well, she's so familiar (cause she reminds me of Sham so much), I know we'll be friends for a long time to come...

So how did I spend my days....hhmmm...like an absolute princess! (to say the least)

Highlights:
* A safari in the desert! It was AWESOME! Rony, Shadi and I headed out with a group of other 4 wheelers for a couple of hours of 4 wheel driving over the sand dunes...it was magical and exhilarating and all things amazing...a whole heap of nothing for as far as the eye could see...We had a pit stop for a while where I tried to climb the sand dunes - it was too funny. Rony was holding my hand and a 7 year old's hand at the same time helping us both up, me giggling the whole way, struggling.
After the drive, we spent the evening at a campsite place type thingy (see photos) where I got to do all sorts of wonderful things! I rode a camel, held a falcon, got a beautiful henna tattoo, ate beautiful food, smoked crappy shisha, got a souvenir of sand in a bottle with my name (a surprise from Rony). Rony saw a camel spider - but didn't tell me til the end of the night cause he knew I'd freak out (I'm very grateful to him cause they are HUUUGGEEE! I dare you to google them). That day was so much more than I could have ever imagined in a million years - it was by far one of the most amazing days of my life.
* I got to see the boys’ offices/factory and saw Roger in action (CEO of the year for Quality in 2007 thank you very much) - he exudes power while at the same time being the most soft-spoken person - he's truly awe-inspiring. They've done so well with their businesses, they work SO hard and SO much, I'm so proud of them! Love rush!
* I got a tattoo (dad's not too happy about that), mum was cool with it (I should leave her more often - mum HATES tattoos). I mentioned it in passing in front of Rony - and he went out of his way to make sure it happened. Mind you it's illegal to get it done in Dubai - it's not what you know, it's who you know! I was a lot braver than I gave myself credit for. So I feel like a bit of a rebel, and I feel so cool too! Great souvenir...oh by the way, I got a sun in yellow/orange/red on my back between my shoulders...and it won't be my last (sorry dad!)
* The heat! My god it was sensational to feel the heat again after such a LONG time of being COLD! I went to the beach in the middle of the night and it was 35C!!! HEAVEN!!!!! Average temperature was 35-45C...I LOVE IT!
* Shopping - cheap as! I'm not a huge shopper, but I know I'd never get tired of shopping there (I came back with an extra suitcase of stuff). Also - the indoor ski resort is in Emirates Mall - of course?! (see photos)
* Spent a few days in Ras Al Kheimah - my days consisted of swimming, sunbaking, shisha and snacking...4 of my favorite 's' words.
* MUM'S COOKING!! Everyday. I LOVE YOU MUM!!!!!
* I had a really nice day with Roger, he took me for a sight seeing drive, and we also went to Souk Madinat (see photos) where we had a gorgeous view of Burj Al Arab (the 7 star hotel) and had a delicious Japanese lunch.
* Dreamland Waterpark (in Umm Al Quwain) - highlight of that day was sitting in the bar pool drinking a Long Island Iced Tea
* We went to Abu Dhabi for a night - Rony was there for work so he organised for us to go, and he booked us into the Sheraton (my first time in a 5 star hotel, another first)
* I rode my first motorbike (or quad) - only the fastest in the world! I rode it by myself - told you I was cool! (Oh wait, you already knew that)


Observations:
- Mosques aplenty (of course), beautiful buildings and at prayer time you could hear the prayer chants echo over loudspeakers for a distance
- Lizards everywhere!!! So exciting!!
- Sand sand sand...lots and lots of sand
- Extravagant, extraordinary, eccentric buildings everywhere! I've never seen anything like it (and probably never will again)
- The dudes you see dressed all in white are natives (I’m sure they’d appreciate being called ‘dudes’) – apparently only 20% of the population is native – and all rich…but hey, everyone is rich there! An over abundance of money, the most common phrases I heard were ‘this is the most expensive this’, or ‘most prestigious that’, or ‘the biggest this’ – very surreal.

I'm so overwhelmed with the whole 2 weeks...

I really felt truly special while I was there. I’m immensely grateful for having been able to finally meet my family while at the same time sad it took so long. I look forward to going back and spending more than 2 weeks with them (NOT enough), and also looking forward to going to Lebanon and meeting all my other amazing family. I’m so proud of my culture, and I’m sure I’ll be seeing things with new eyes after Lebanon.

Am I not the luckiest girl in the whole universe?!?! I do believe I am!!

(p.s. other updates:
1. I’ve started as manager at the hostel – eek!
2. I’m going to be bridesmaid at my aunt’s wedding in Lebanon – eek!
3. I’m going to Lebanon for 2 months to see dad (YYYYAAAAAAYYYYYYYY!!!!!) at the start of September…can’t think of anything else!)

Essay finished! Phew!