Saturday, 7 November 2015

Dubai & Abu Dhabi

I first visited Dubai in 2005, when a stopover there en route from Reunion was the easiest way to travel to the Maldives. I didn't like the city much then, but this time after ten days in Oman I had more of a chance to explore and I liked it somewhat better.

cityscape, with Burj Khalifa dominating the skyline

Burj Khalifa with the sun setting behind

close up of the Burj Khalifa

Atlantis Hotel on The Palm artificial island

Tall buildings near Sheikh Zayed Road.
The tallest in this photo is Al Yaqoub Tower (328m),
to the right is the Maze Tower, to the left is Up Tower 

 The Burj Al Arab hotel at Jumeirah Beach bills itself as "the most luxurious hotel in the world".

Burj Al Arab hotel, Jumeirah Beach, Dubai

Dubai Marina

Cayan Tower was opened in 2013 and at 306 metres is the ninth-tallest residential building in the world. 
Cayan Tower, 73 stories

Hoopoe bird

inside the Mall of the Emirates, which has 560 shops

Ski Dubai is a 'ski resort' covering 22,500 square meters and with 3,000 square metres of snow, located inside the enormous shopping centre of Mall of the Emirates.

Ski Dubai, located inside the Mall of the Emirates

sunset over the desert

After two days in Dubai we headed along Sheikh Zayed Road (the longest road in the Emirates at 558.4km) to Abu Dubai.

Looking down Sheikh Zayed Road

Abu Dubai is the largest and wealthiest emirate of the United Arab Emirates and is about 140km from Dubai.

sign at Ferrari World, Yas Island 

view of downtown Abu Dhabi

Heritage Village, Abu Dhabi

View from Emirates Hotel.
The copper building to the right is the Millennium Bab al Qasr hotel.
The buildings to the left are Etihad Towers & the Regent Emirates Pearl.

Emirates Palace luxury hotel, Abu Dhabi

Sheikh Zayed Mosque

You might also like:

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Diving in Oman

One of the reasons for our recent trip to Oman was to go scuba diving, as we'd heard good things about the the diving there. We dived at two locations: the Damaniyat Islands and at Qantab.

The former are about 18 km/an hour's boat ride north of Muscat, the capital, and we did two dives each day on two consecutive days there. The area is a protected nature reserve composed of 9 islands and covering about 100 hectares. 

sea star

me, surrounded by teeming fish

crown-of-thorns - deadly for the coral reef


honeycomb moray eel

large nudibranch

a zebra shark 


large mating cuttlefish 



swimming moray eel

another nudibranch


After leaving Muscat we headed to Qantab on the north-east coast, where we did another day's diving, this time with Extra Divers. The diving was pleasant, but the visibility was not as good, and we saw fewer things.



snake eel

moray eel

What was most surprising about the diving in Oman was the tremendous temperature difference between the air/land temperature and the sea. Air temperatures were low to mid 30s°C, but the water temperature was up to 10° or 12°C cooler!

You may also like:

Monday, 26 October 2015

Oman: inland

We headed inland to the historic town of Nizwa, our base for the next few days, making a brief incursion into Wahiba (aka Sharqiya) Sands, a desert region covering 12,500 square kilometres.

Wahiba Sands

The next day we headed into the Al Hajar Mountains, which separate the low coastal plain of Oman from the high desert plateau and are home to Jebel Shams, the highest mountain of the country at 3009m.

if you look closely you can see the old abandoned houses
in the Hajar mountain range

in the Hajar mountain range

Jebel Shams has two summits: North (3009m) and South (2997m). The North Summit is occupied by a military base and is a restricted area.

Jebel Shams, Oman's highest mountain (3009m)

Alongside Jebel Shams is Wadi Ghul, Oman's spectacularly deep answer to the Grand Canyon.

Wadi Ghul

goat standing near the edge of Wadi Ghul

goat in a tree

On our way back we headed to Misfat, a picturesque mountain village.


traditional irrigation system ('aflaj') in Misfat

in this photo you can see the old and new villages of Misfat

Misfat is unusual in that the date trees are planted on terraces.

terraced date palms

Misfat as the sun starts to set

The next day we visited Bahla Fort, one of four historic fortresses situated at the foot of the Djebel Akhdar highlands in Oman.

Bahla Fort

The Fort has been on the UNESCO World Heritage list since 1987. The ruins of the fort are a remarkable example of this type of fortification, and attest to the power of the Banu Nebhan, the dominant tribe in the area from the 12th to the end of the 15th century.
Bahla Fort

The walls and towers are made of unbaked brick and the foundations are of stone. 

Bahla Fort

Bahla Fort

Bahla Fort

Bahla Fort is also home to lots of bats

We then headed to the plateau of Jebel Akhdar, at 2000m above sea level.

Jebel Akhdar

In the village of Al Ayn they grow roses and make rosewater.

Al Ayn

In the village of Ar Rus, which only has 13 houses, we were very hospitably offered dates and qahwa (local coffee).

Ar Rus

feral donkey (one of many in Oman)

sunset at Jebel Akdar

To return to the coast and Muscat, we took the mountain road via Hatt and Wadi Bani Awf. 

mountain road via Hatt and Wadi Bani Awf

This is a spectacular if somewhat hair-raising drive and we were the only people driving our own car - all the other tourists we saw had drivers!

mountain road via Hatt and Wadi Bani Awf

The mountain part of the drive is only about 70km long, but it can take several hours to drive, and a 4WD is essential.

mountain road via Hatt and Wadi Bani Awf

Nakhal Fort

You may also like: