Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would be moving to a foreign country to live, let alone a country in the Middle East. Over the 2009 Christmas and New Year’s holidays, my husband Roger and I discussed what we wanted the next part of our life to be like. He thought that before retiring, he would like to do one more airport project but only if he could find something very interesting. I half-jokingly agreed that would be fine but could he try for an exotic location? As usual, Roger came through and soon we were headed to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. This blog is a recap of our "leap-of- faith" wanderings around the Middle East and beyond. We joyfully share these expat experiences.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

2012 Top Adventures In and Around Dubai

Living in Dubai is a never ending adventure and Roger and I are keeping our promise to each other to spend as much time as we can exploring unique experiences in this region of the world. It takes a lot of hard work to keep this promise but someone has to do it!

2012 was an eclectic mix of adventures and here are our 2012 Top Adventures In and Around Dubai.  Even after 2.5  years we are still on the "hunt" for great cultural experiences. With the abundance of things to see and do in this area of the world, we do not lack for opportunities. We are happy to share our top adventures with you and hope you might enjoy them too.

Number 1
Abu Dhabi
Elaine & Jon Krupnick with Roger & Katie Foster
at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
If you visit anywhere in the UAE and can only see one thing it MUST be a visit to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Its pristine beauty, workmanship and majesty rival the Taj Mahal which I saw last Spring.

And don’t cheat yourself; make sure you go when a tour is offered which is most enlightening. The Guides are so well informed. They proudly explain the fascinating details about the building of the Mosque, its fixtures, the Islamic religious practices and take any questions you may have.

A visit to the Mosque is required of all our visitors!

Katie & Paty at the Taj Mahal
This was the ultimate elegant journey of the year and a wonderful present from my loving husband. My sister Paty Barr and I were joined by friends Jani Diedam and Kathryn Brandt and together visited New Delhi, Udaipur, Jaipur, the Ranthanborne Tiger Reserve and Agra. 

On our adventure we were be greeted by saluting elephants, survived a death defying rickshaw ride through Dehli’s Chandi Chowk bazaar, prayed at an Easter dawn service with the Protestant congregation of a small village church, hunted for tigers (photography only), rested in the Maharana s private palace courtyard, learned appreciation for the ancient art of Indian miniature painting, marveled at the beauty of India’s rural countryside, luxuriated our weary selves at the incomparable Oberoi Hotels, were rendered speechless at the majesty of the Taj Mahal and shopped. . . shopped . . . and shopped. Treated like royalty, it was total paradise! All of this was possible thanks to the flawless . . . and I mean flawless, tour preparations made by Vivek at Elegant Journeys.

Madinat Zayed, Western Region of Abu Dhabi
Last two weeks of December
Prize camels on parade on Million Road. 
This was the highlight of the year. Boy, did we enjoy a really wild authentic Arabic experience!

Forget the cheesy touristy desert adventures and go enjoy the desert like a Bedoin! Camel beauty contests, heritage camel races (heritage means real riders – no robots), Saluki dog races, falcon competitions, camel auctions, dates competition, a Heritage Market and an honest to goodness Magic Carpet Ride.

And do not miss the daily 4:30pm Million Road “march” of the winners of the camel beauty contest where camels are bought on the spot for millions of dirhams each. The 2013 schedule may not come out until early December but mark your calendar for this one now!  Keep a lookout for a special blog in a few weeks on this great event.

Number 3
The Emirates Airlines Dubai Rugby Sevens
The Sevens Stadium on Al Ain Road
photo courtesy of

Roger enjoyed this adventure with good friends Mary Beth and Chris Hickey while I was enjoying theatre in New York City with our third grandchild.

Now this was probably a good thing since I know nothing about the game. It was explained to me that a 7-man team has 7 minutes to win. This full-contact sport appears rather raucous to me since the players do not wear much padding and then do that “srcum” thing to restart the game.

Well, Roger loved the games and the whole wild scene. It was raucous not only on the pitch but also in the stands. Lots of beer flowing, loud music and the spectators dressed up in costumes – New Zealand fans were dressed as jack-in-the-boxes and the Spanish fans wore multicolored frizzy wigs in the team’s colors. In addition to the games there was the Rugby Village with headliner entertainment and ethnic foods. Roger described it as, “like a county fair we have in the USA but instead of a rodeo they played rugby.”

Number 4
Muscat, Oman
The Chedi Muscat

In early May, Roger’s love of the open road sets his motor humming again and we take a long weekend road trip to Muscat, Oman. The ride from Dubai to Muscat takes 5 hours (with a short lunch stop) but we were rewarded at the end of the long journey with a relaxing stay at the 5 star Chedi Muscat hotel. 

Everything is perfect! The enchanting entrance could be to a grand Omani palace, the champagne served at the elegant long infinity pool was perfectly chilled, the romantic beachside dinner feast was scrumptious, the sunken terrazzo tub in our suite divine and all this was wrapped in 21 acres of highly manicured lush gardens and numerous water ponds to create an ambiance of natural serenity.

Number 5
Camel Auction 
Al Wathba , Abu Dhabi
The Bidders Box at the Camel Auction
In March, my “Dora Explorer” friend Diane Dolan and I ventured to the Camel Auction in Abu Dhabi. We had a most interesting Emirati experience.

We entered the elegant grandstand where the auction was held and were greeted most profusely by several Emirati men who escorted us to some very fancy chairs. In gracious Arabian hospitality style, we were offered a wide variety of Arabian treats and coffee and made to feel like royalty.

Oh, did I mention we were the only Caucasians and aside from two Emirati women handing out programs, the only women there? Well, we were the only women until two veiled women showed up a midst a great flurry of activity and started bidding BIG on the camels. Never did find out who they were. With everything in Arabic it took a minute to figure out the process. Finally the young man sitting next to me filled us in. The bidding is for the baby camels tethered to their mothers – not both of them – and the cost of the baby camels, driven but their pedigree, go from 10,000 AED ($2800) to millions of dirhams/dollars each.

Dubai British Consulate on Al Seef Road along the Dubai Creek
High Tea in the lush gardens of the British Embassy

There is no classier way to enjoy the gloriously cool Dubai February weather than to have High Tea in the lush gardens of the British Embassy. You are royally treated to jazz, tasty tea and treats while supporting the Seafarer’s Mission’s -The Flying Angel.  

The British are so civilized they even offer “vino” for sale for those like me who aren’t big tea drinks. Oh, and ladies if you go, don’t forget to wear a proper “tea party” hat. Caution – with more than 400 guests there will be NO parking. Best to taxi there.  This year’s tea is February 16 from 3pm – 7pm. Click here to make your reservation.   

Number 7
Sky High Tea
Burj Al Arab, Dubai 
Theatrical pour of excellent bubbly!
High Tea at the Skyview Bar of the iconic Burj Al Arab is the best and most economical way to see what is claimed to be the world’s most luxurious hotel. It bills itself as “shimmering opulence . . . and the ultimate in Arabian hospitality.”

This is not a place where you can stroll through and gawk, you must present proof of a hotel or dinner reservation to the security guard at the gate to gain entrance.

The restaurants are outrageously expensive so High Tea at the Skyview Bar at 450AED ($123) per person is the most economical way to experience the grandeur.  We enjoyed the abounding “glitz” when my sister Paty Barr visited us. It was memorable afternoon perched on the top floor overlooking the Persian Gulf while the theatrical waiters poured our never-ending champagne. To make a reservations +971 4 301 7600 or
Number 8
Al Ain Zoo 
Al Ain Oasis 

One lazy summer weekend we took a road trip to the Al Ain Oasis about an hour’s drive from Dubai. This oasis, also called the Garden City, has been inhabited for more than 4,000 years and is the birthplace Sheikh Zayed the Founding Father of the UAE.

The zoo, one of the Sheikh’s legacies, is home to 4,000 animals. He established the zoo with a vision of creating natural habitats for the animals to roam freely. The Zoo is also well-known as a center for endangered species conservation.

It is a delight – even in the early summer heat – and well worth the ride. The most notable exhibits are the African Mixed Exhibit with the infamous white tigers and rare Nubian giraffes and the Arabian Mixed Exhibit with the indigenous Arabian onyx, sand gazelles and desert antelope. Don’t miss getting up close and personal with the giraffes when they are fed.

Al Nasr Leisureland behind the American Hospital, Dubai
Wendy Mervin, former Bollywood star Kalpana Iyer, Katie,
Sherry Bohlen & Bollywood impersonator Vivek Varma 

A girl’s night out at The Moghul Room introduced us all to Bollywood! What a hoot! We laughed, gasped, frowned and then smiled all in the same minute. We watched in disbelief as talented dancers and “look-a-like” Bollywood impersonators recreated “filmy” numbers of big Bollywood scenes. Just plain campy! 

The dinner buffet of Indian foods was surprisingly tasty too! The show is performed seven nights a week from 9:30pm to 3:30am with no intermission. We arrived at 9pm and left at 12:30pm, when the place was really getting started – to savor the full experience, go as late as possible.  

Number 10
Adopt A Camp Ramadan Care Package Project
Dubai Convention Centre, Dubai
2011 Adopt A Camp volunteers Linda Hoagland,
Jani Diedam, Mary Beth Hickey & John Diedam
This is the second year Roger and I participated in this grand event held during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

The Ramadan Care Package Project involves thousands of generous community volunteers of all nationalities and faiths coming together one evening to assemble 5,000 “care packages” of donated goods for the men living in the labor camps in Dubai. These packages bring joy and a sense of caring to the laborers who toil in the desert heat of Dubai constructing the buildings and roads we all enjoy.  These men have left their homes in neighboring countries coming to Dubai to work in order to send wages home to support their families. 

Adopt A Camp, an all volunteer group, today brings assistance to 43 camps helping more than 32,000 laborers in the Dubai area. If you would like to stay informed about Adopt A Camp activities “Like” them on FB. 

Well, there you have our top adventures for 2012. We are preparing our list for 2013. In consideration are  . . pearl diving . . . Thailand . . .  Vietnam . . . African safari . . . Bani Yas Island . . . desert camping . . . dhow sailing . . . kayaking the mangroves in Abu Dhabi . . off-road trip to the Wadis and the hot springs . . . sword throwing contest in Ras Al Khaimah.

Do you have a favorite adventure we have missed? Please leave a comment and let us know.    


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Mrs. Chatterbox and I are traveling to India and doing the Golden Triangle in March. Can't wait. Thanks for the great pictures.

    1. I know you will enjoy!!! The one thing we missed was going to an Indian wedding . . just ask around they are very receptive to inviting to their wedding. Woulds be an incredible experience.

  3. Fabulous list! I am bookmarking this for further exploration. Thank you so much for sharing!

    1. Thanks - glad you enjoyed. Just posted a questions on your blog.

    2. Just answered your question on my blog. :) I've tried to find an email address for you but there doesn't seem to be one on your About me.

  4. Yes I agree these are hot spots. I am glad to have done most of them

    1. And I am so glad that you did a lot of them with me!! More to come in 2013!

  5. I loved reading about your experiences - and who knew camels could be so expensive. I see them here all the time, "parked" by their owners outside of hotels, or giving rides to tourists. Perhaps Egyptian camels aren't the expensive thoroughbred kind! :-)

    1. I was amazed to discover how important the pedigree of a camel is to its worth. Which is really silly since I know how important it is for the value of a horse. It just goes to show you want you can learn when you explore new cultures.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  8. I would dearly love to go to the Dhafra Festival, but how and where to book accommodation from Canada when one doesn't know the dates or schedule -- "until early December" -- it's like a catch-22. I look forward to your special blog post about it and hope you can give some practical hints!
    Brenda in Toronto

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. Living in the UAE can sometimes be like a "Catch 22." Keep posted. I am working on the Al Dhafra Camel Fest blog now. We are about to book our rooms for the 2013 Festival and will share the information. Thanks for reading my blog.

    1. Haven't seen your blog post on it yet :-( Looks like other plans now interfere (for me) unless the Festival takes place in January 2014 or later ...

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